I found this wonderful specimen outside my balcony this morning and having captured it on camera I decided later in the day to see what is was.
I have now discovered that it is a Writing or Agriope (ORB) Spider and the following excerpt from Wikipedia will tell you more:
“The average orb web is practically invisible, and it is easy to blunder into one and end up covered with a sticky web. The very easily visible pattern of banded silk made by Argiope is pure white, and some species make an “X” form, or a zigzag type of web (often with a hollow centre). The spider then aligns one pair of its legs with each of the four lines in the hollow “X”, making a complete “X” of white lines with a very eye-catching spider coloured bright yellow on a field of black or variegated red white and yellow stripes forming its centre. The white patterns are called stabilimentum and reflect UV light. They have been shown to play a role in attracting prey to the web, and possibly to prevent its destruction by large animals. The centres of their large webs are often just under 1 metre above the ground, so they are too low for anything much larger than a rabbit to walk under. The overtness of the spider and its web thus has been speculated to prevent larger creatures from accidentally destroying the web and possibly crushing the spider underfoot.
Like almost all other spiders, Argiope are harmless to humans. Like most garden spiders they eat insects, and they are capable of consuming prey up to twice their size. They might bite if grabbed, but other than for defense they do not attack large animals. Their venom is not regarded as a serious medical problem for humans; it often contains a library of polyamine toxins with potential as therapeutic medicinal agents. Some studies suggest that the stabilimenta may actually lead predators to the spider. As Argiope sit in the centre of their web during the day, they have developed several responses to predators, such as dropping off the web, retreating to the periphery of the web, or even rapidly pumping the web in bursts of up to 30 seconds.
Clever little bugger isn’t she? – oh yes it is a she as the males are much smaller than the female, and unassumingly marked. When it is time to mate, he spins a companion web alongside the female’s. So as there is no other sign of a partner I assume she is not yet mating but…….I will be WWW (Watching this Wonderful Web)!