Garden spider

A black and yellow garden spider clings to the center of its web.

Every now and then we see black and yellow garden spiders, well, in the garden! About the size of a penny up to a quarter, they are alarming when first seen. They are completely harmless and even beneficial as they help control garden pests. They spin an amazing sticky, circular web up to two feet across that catches grasshoppers, aphids, flies, moths, crickets and bees, among other insects. They make a clear zigzag pattern of silk in the center of their web and lie in wait normally in a head-down position, as in the photo, for their prey to fly into it. Once an insect gets stuck in the sticky silk portion of the web the spider creates an undulating motion that helps further trap its prey. The prey is then paralyzed when the spider injects it with venom. The spider then spins a silk sac around the dead insect to feed on it later while it continues to hunt. Predators of the spider include birds, wasps, lizards, and shrews. Black and yellow garden spiders live about a year and are very commonly found in gardens throughout the United States and Canada.

Nature notes

Did you know freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled groups of animals on the planet, with 70% of the world's mussel species declining. In Wisconsin, 24 of the 50 native mussel species are endangered, threatened or listed as species of concern, according to Wisconsin DNR Conservation Biologist Lisie Kitchel, who works with native mussels. Mussels are important because they filter the water removing pollutants and contaminants while providing food for a host of wildlife. Lisie is encouraging paddlers, anglers, and other water lovers to take a few minutes to help photograph and report the native mussels they see while on the water. For more information, contact her at: or take a look at this clever video, “Show us your mussels” that will show you what you can do to help. We all want to enjoy our fresh, clean Wisconsin waters and mussels help make that happen.

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