White-backed Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) in Myrtle Beach, SC

A White-backed Garden Spider (or Banded Argiope, Argiope trifasciata) displays a fancy web.

Miss Muffet's Companion?

By Henry H. Mitchell, July 2, 2010.

Today we spotted a White-backed Garden Spider on a Red Tip Photinia shrub in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The spider was lurking in wait for its prey, head-down on its web, which was very showy with its lightning-like silk stabilimentum.

There are various theories as to why various orb-weaver spiders such as this one create silk stabilimenta. (The White-backed Garden Spider usually does not.) Surely their very-noticeable webs are less likely to trap insects than if they had used the basic unobtrusive web design. One possible explanation is that the patterns are there so that birds will not accidentally fly through the web and destroy it.

That possibility makes sense in this case. The web photographed here is only inches in front a Mockingbird nest. At the moment this photograph was taken, the completely-hidden nest contained one baby bird. One could credit the spider with great intelligence: she had built her web in a smelly-bird-nest zone certain to be populated with a great number of insects, and yet had posted flight-safety warnings to divert incoming and outcoming Mockingbirds.

Noting that the birds would therefore enjoy a reduction of pesky insects around their nest, one could also suggest that the relationship between the Mockingbird and the White-backed Garden Spider is symbiotic.

This guide to Myrtle Beach is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.