|University of Kentucky Department of Entomology|
Mystery Bug Answers
Mystery Picture #57
The Garden Spider (Areneus sp.)gets its name because people often find its large web in their backyard fruit and vegetable gardens. These spiders usually build their webs a few feet off of the ground between plants to catch insects that fly past. Garden spiders weave a distinct "zigzag" shape in the center of their webs. Another common name is the Writing Spider probably because someone thought the thickened web strands looked like some kind of writing.
The yellow and black garden spider is one of the largest spiders in our area, sometimes close to 2 inches in length (and that's not including the legs!). Despite their formidable appearance, garden spiders are not considered dangerous (although people can develop allergic reactions to the bite of this spider, as with all biting and stinging insects and spiders).
For more on the garden spider, click to the Web of Species page on garden spiders at: http://www.wellesley.edu/Activities/homepage/web/Species/aspidergarden.html
The Robber Fly is an expert hunter that can snatch bees and other small insects right out of the air. It can also give you a nasty bite. If you were to portray the robber fly as a cartoon character, you might draw it wearing a mask and waving a gun! (Note: This was a hint to help you guess its name!)
Robber flies are voracious predatory insects. Most species rest on leaves and branches in bright sunlight, waiting for small insects to fly past, which they capture on the wing. Robber flies have been known to bite people as well.
Robber flies are often quite large, over an inch in length, with long, insect-snatching legs. Their large eyes help them to look all around for prey. There are many robber fly species in our area. Some are black and hairy, like the one pictured, while others are orange and nearly bare.
Robber flies are common summer insects, and are found in weedy areas that receive lots of sunlight.
There is a great "fan page" for robber flies with tons of information at: http://www.geller-grimm.de/asilidae.htm
This page is maintained by Pat Dillon, Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky. Please send questions or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org