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Epeira Fasciata, the weaver spider

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Nature
 · 12 Jun 2024
Epeira Fasciata, the weaver spider
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One of the largest spiders in Italy has a unique characteristic: it is a master at repairing its web, with skills that would make a tailor envious. Known as the banded garden spider (argiope bruennichi), this beautiful arachnid features striking yellow and black horizontal stripes resembling a wasp. It can reach up to 5 centimeters in length with its legs, while the female's body alone can be up to 1.5 centimeters. As is common with spiders, the males are much smaller, less than a third of the size of the females, making them vulnerable if they don't quickly escape after mating. Despite its formidable appearance, the banded garden spider is not dangerous to humans. It is non-aggressive and, even if it bites, the venom causes only minor redness and less itching than a mosquito bite. These spiders are commonly found in the Italian countryside.

The banded garden spider's unique trait, which makes it a true living fossil, is its ability to repair its web. This remarkable behavior remains a mystery. When its web is damaged by leaves, insects, wind, or other factors, the spider mends it using thicker threads, creating a visibly distinct repaired section known scientifically as the "stabilimentum."

In the past, entomologists humorously attributed the thicker web to a sort of "signature" by the spider. However, it is now believed that this behavior may be an ancestral memory, a type of thicker silk used by primitive spiders over three hundred million years ago to construct burrows. The banded garden spider may retain this ancient memory in its web repairs. While the true reason remains uncertain, we can appreciate this fascinating and beneficial creature.

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