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Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi)

AnimaliaArthropodaInsectaAraneaeAraneidaeArgiopeA. bruennichi

The Wasp Spider is can be found in a vast part of Europe including southern England, in north Africa and in Asia. Argiope bruennichi belongs to the orb-web spiders. It lives in long grass and low vegetation where it constructs an orb web just above the ground. The spider can easily be identified by striking yellow and black stripes on female's abdomen and by ringed legs. The cephalothorax is covered with silver coloured hair. Under the abdomen you can see two yellow stripes running lengthways. The males are pale brown.

It feeds on insects like flies, grasshoppers and crickets which are unfortunate enough to get trapped in the web. Contrary to what its name might suggest, the Wasp Spider does not eat wasps at all. Its name just refers to the wasp-like patterns and colours of the body.

A typical feature of Wasp Spider's web is the vertical silky zig-zag band (stabilimentum). The purpose of the zigzag is still unknown although there are some theories attempting to explain why the spider weaves it.

The male reaches 4-6mm and is much smaller than the 11-15mm female. Especially in August the female Wasp Spiders can reach impressive size when the abdomen is packed with the eggs. The male can mate only during a couple of weeks in July without fear of being eaten by the female. Therefore the male usually stays very cautios in vicinity of the female waiting for her to reach sexual maturity which occurs after the final moult. This is when female's jaws (chelicerae) become soft for a while thus being temporarily harmless to the male.

Despite the warning colouration this is not a dangerous species. The Wasp Spider is not poisonous and - as far as it is known - of no threat to humans.

The Wasp Spider originates from the Mediterranean. From 2000 onwards it was seen in northern countries regularly. It is now a rather common species in Holland, and not unusual in Belgium. In Germany it is seen in and near Berlin. First seen in Britain 1940, it remained very rare until the year 2000. The numbers increased rapidly and by now this is a common species in Surrey and Wiltshire.
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