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Garden Spider Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sara Clarke-Vivier

Sara is a recently graduated PhD in Education with interdisciplinary experience in K-12 education.

Let's check out some webs and learn about the garden spider. In this lesson we will explore the similarities and the differences between American and European garden spiders by learning to identify them by looking at their bodies and their webs.

Garden Spiders Are Everywhere

Look out into the garden in the morning, and you might find a lovely web glistening with dew. Look into the center of that web and you are likely to find a garden spider. Garden spiders are everywhere!

In this lesson, we'll learn about American and European garden spiders. Despite their names, both types of spiders can actually be found in North America. American garden spiders do not, however, live in Europe.

Let's take a closer look at the similarities and differences of these eight-legged creatures.

American Garden Spider

American garden spiders have many names. They're sometimes called the yellow garden spider, the black and yellow garden spider, the golden garden spider, the writing spider, or the corn spider. Each of these names tells you something about what the American garden spider looks like and how it lives.

An American Garden Spider
An American Garden Spider

Many of these names relate to the spider's color. The American garden spider's abdomen, or large back part of the body, is black and yellow in color. The front part of its body is bright white. Male American garden spiders are smaller than females, growing to just over .25 inches, which is just a little bigger than a pencil eraser. Females grow to be between .75-1.1 inches, which means they range in size from about the size of a penny to about the size of a quarter.

The American garden spider's other names tell you something about where and how they live. These spiders like to build their webs on tall plants, like corn, and in other places where they can tightly attach their webs and be protected from wind.

One way you can identify the web of an American garden spider is by looking for the writing in their web. American garden spiders make wide, circular webs with a thick zigzag in the middle. Scientists aren't quite sure what this zigzag is for. Some think that it helps to hide the spider, and others think it warns birds and other large animals that there is a web nearby so that they do not fly through and destroy it.

European Garden Spider

European garden spiders are also known by several different names - diadem spider, cross spider, or orb-weaver spider. European garden spiders are actually from a family of spiders called orb weavers, known for building wheel-shaped webs. If you live in Europe or the Americas, you've probably seen one of these webs in a garden or forest near you.

A European Garden Spider
A European Garden Spider

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