While common to Louisiana, they are rarely seen. Probably because they dig tunnels in the ground lined with silk. The front door is made of silk, soil and other things from around the entrance site. This acts as a fantastic camouflage. The door is hinged with stretchy silk, and its underside has holes so that the spider can spring out at just the right moment. This also allows it to hold the door tightly closed if a predator attempts to enter the burrow. The silk ‘tripwires’ around the entrance of their dens, signal that unsuspecting prey has come along and accidentally touch the silk. These distant relatives of the tarantula are about an inch long, shiny, black, fast, non-venomous and eat other bugs. Special Thanks to the Facebook group Louisiana Insects and Arachnids for the ‘id’.
Warmer temperatures instigate the hatching of thousands of baby spiders into the forests of Palmetto Island State Park each spring. By mid summer, those that have grown into adults line the vegetation along the park’s trails. The largest and seemingly most common of these is the Golden Silk Spider, commonly known as the Banana Spider by locals. Golden Silk Spiders are infamous for their large size and immense, sticky golden webs. Their webs can be found stretched up to several feet across both the walking and the canoe trails. Golden Silk Spiders can be identified by their orange and black coloration and thick tufts of black hair on their legs.
A second spider commonly seen along the trails is the Basilica Orb Weaver. This spider weaves a dome shaped web amid mid story vegetation which in the park most consists of dwarf palmettos. Its striking orange and green body is smaller than the Golden Silk Spider and somewhat reflective in the sunlight. The most amazing feat of this spider however is its eggs sacs which are hung in a line sometimes referred to as a “string of pearls”. Look closely next time you are on the hiking trails and you will certainly find a “string of pearls.”
A third spider found in the park is the Black and Yellow Argiope. Sometimes referred to as garden spiders, they are most commonly found on park buildings and stretched between the vegetation surrounding the ponds. Females boast a large black and yellow abdomen and can grow to 1.5 inches in length. The female builds an orb shaped web and the male weaves a thick zigzag into the center. When it is time to lay eggs the female constructs a large papery sac up to an inch wide that may contain up to 1000 spiderlings. Many times the egg sac of this species can be found lying along the trail after its occupants have evacuated in the spring.
Be careful where you put your hands and your flip flopped feet, these caterpillars deliver a nasty sting. If you are stung, you should first wash the area with soap and water and allow it to air dry. The spines of the caterpillar may be imbedded into your skin. Try using some duct tape or scotch tape to remove the spines. The spines will continue to inject toxins into you if you don’t get them out. Try to soothe the stinging and itching, apply rubbing alcohol, ammonia or an ice pack.
One very common spider found in most every garden is the Orchard orb-weaver. The Orchard weaver spider is a large genus of spiders (Leucauge) found throughout the eastern United States. It is a small spider (>1inch with legs extended) with an abdomen longer than wide. The colors of the Orchard spiders around Palmetto Island are light and dark green with two red orange triangles on the underside of the abdomen (not an hourglass). It will also often have red spots on the upper side of the abdomen. These spiders may also have green, yellow, and white markings on their bodies. Though they appear similar to Black and Brown Widow Spiders, the orchard weaver itself is not poisonous. The spider builds small spiral orb webs often situated among the branches of shrubs. The web is usually slanted instead of being straight up and down in shrubs. Females hang in the webs waiting for an insect meal.