Generally, urbanization has a negative effect on arthropods in the natural environment, as arthropods cannot adapt to the radical landscape alterations caused by urbanization. This is especially true when it comes to web-building spider species, as these spiders have adapted to exploit the natural environment in order to build webs that can effectively catch insect prey. However, in rare cases, arthropods can thrive in urban landscapes. For example, the invasive Argentine ant requires high-moisture conditions in order to survive, but they have proliferated enormously in dry areas due to urban and residential irrigation systems. Without this common aspect of urban landscapes, Argentine ants would not have been able to spread to as many areas in the southern US as they have. Another arthropod species that has benefited from urban landscapes is the spider species officially known as Nephila clavipes, or the golden-silk orbweaver, as it is more commonly known. These spiders are alarmingly large and highly venomous, and unfortunately, they are perfectly adapted to living among humans and exploiting urban and residential environments. Golden-silk orbweavers are commonly spotted within and around homes in Georgia and other Gulf Coast states.
Female golden-silk orbweavers grow to the extremely large size of 3 inches in body length, not counting legs, and urban dwelling spiders of this species are even larger than their counterparts in the natural environment. This size difference indicates that urban golden-silk orbweavers locate food sources with greater success than those in the natural environment. In the natural environment, these spiders tend to build large webs at high up locations in order to capture large flying insects. Coincidentally, this web location is particularly beneficial in residential areas where golden-silk orbweavers build webs near the eaves and gutters of houses were flying insect pests congregate around porch lights. This spider species also has the unique ability to alter its body temperature in order to tolerate extreme temperatures, which is ideal for spiders in urban areas where city heat can be fatal. These spiders are often spotted in gardens and in webs both within and on structures. They are not aggressive toward humans but they are known for possessing potent neurotoxic venom that is similar to black widow venom. Serious medical symptoms have resulted from golden-silk spider bites, but such incidents are uncommon. These spiders and their webs can become a nuisance within and around homes in some cases.
Have you ever spotted a golden-silk orbweaver within or around a home?