A Bright Face in the Garden: Banded Argiope

Sep 11, 2017

We have bright faces in our Vacaville, Calif., pollinator garden.

The bright faces are usually that of assorted bees and butterflies nectaring on members of the sunflower family: Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) and blanketflowers (Gaillardia).

But we did not expect to see this bright face: a banded garden spider, Argiope trifasciata. Bright face? Argiope is Latin for “with bright face”  while trifasciata is Latin for “three-banded.”

The Argiope trifasciata spider is found throughout much of the United States and Canada. It's also in Central and South America, Australia, the Mediterranean region, Africa, Sri Lanka, the South Pacific Islands, and China, according to Spiders of North America, which informs us that scientists have identified a combined total of 4000 spider species in the United States and Canada.

Argiope trifasciata is just one of them, but what a beautiful spider it is. Clever and cunning, too.

It had crafted a web inches from the ground between a showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, and bluebeard (Caryopteris clandonensis) amid patches of Mexican sunflower patch and African blue basil.

Exactly where the bees are.

It snared two of them one morning and wrapped them for later consumption.

Meanwhile, an opportunistic and hungry freeloader fly, family Milichiidae and maybe genus Desmometopa, figured the spider ought to share its prey. It stopped to feed on the wrapped bee.

So, in actuality, there were two bright faces in the garden--the banded garden spider and the freeloader fly.

The faces of the wrapped honey bees--not so much.