yellow garden spider toronto

Toronto has an unofficial spider and it looks downright terrifying

It may be the dead of winter, but the eggs of a terrifying-looking creature are lurking in a frozen-over garden near you, ready to hatch into swarms of venomous arachnids when the spring thaw arrives in a few months.

According to a guide on spiders in Toronto published by the city, our unofficial spider may have a menacing appearance, and it also may be a highly-evolved killing machine, but the Yellow garden spider is nothing humans need to worry about.

Also known as Argiope aurantia, these brightly-coloured, massive spiders can be found all over southern Canada, including Toronto, commonly found lurking in orb-shaped webs in green, sunny areas among shrubs, flowers, and tall plants.

Their size of up to 28 mm in length (females are much larger than males) combined with iridescent black bodies and bright yellow markings might send some into an arachnophobic panic, but despite their intimidating appearance, they pose no danger to humans.

In fact, they're even pretty helpful, feeding on garden pests that they trap in massive webs that can span up to 60 centimetres in diameter.

That doesn't mean they aren't near-perfect predators, though, striking fatal blows to other insects by injecting venom with their fangs, or trapping potentially harmful insects like wasps in silk before delivering the coup de grâce bite, then vomiting an enzyme that liquefies its meal. Truly terrifying stuff.

You can usually distinguish their webs from other spiders pretty easily, either through their orb shape, their stabilimentum — a zig-zag silk pattern running across the centre of the web — or most likely the massive upside-down spider lurking in the centre.

And it's pretty much always a female you'll see, as the much smaller males typically become a meal for their larger counterparts in a grim conclusion to their alien mating ritual that occurs once a year.

The females may seem like the lucky ones, but they too die off when winter arrives, leaving their next generation of creepy-crawlies protected in layers of silk and wrapped in a ball to emerge as spiderlings in the spring.

Lead photo by gamagapix

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