Friday, December 9, 2011

Spider with a Yellow Star Face on its Back - Argiope Appensa

Update 10/2/12: This spider is also called the Banana Spider because it is yellow and black, kind of like a banana.  (For some reason I always confused banana spiders and cane spiders, but no more...cane spiders are shaggy and hairy like mini tarantulas and they move fast... banana spiders stay put in one location.)

After searching around on the internet, I finally managed to identify this spider that showed up a few weeks ago on the corner of our jungalow. We don't see this spider all year long, but it seems to be more common in the cooler fall and winter weather (Maui winter that is).  This spider is big, as far as spiders go.  It's bigger than an inch across, and looks intimidating, but apparently is harmless.

Aha, now we know your name: Argiope Appensa.

The difficult part was taking a good photo of the star shape on its back.  The yellow was so bright that the only way I could get a clear photo was to focus my camera on something bright like the glare of the sun on the car, and then carefully move the camera back to the spider and snap it.

While I did search around on the site, which has a spider identification section, I couldn't tell if the argiope in their photos was the same as the one at home. But after typing in argiope appensa, I saw several great photos that clearly depict the spider with the yellow star on its back. I want to call it a star face because within the star, it looks like there is a face peering out with two eyes.

DH jokes that the spider is a genetically modified organism advertising for Carls Jr., a burger chain on the mainland. The star face looks similar!

More recently in Kihei near the beach, we also spotted an argiope appensa.

The star shape is not so clear,
but the legs and web show up much better.

We watched two women tourists with huge cameras and lenses take photos of something in the rocks, near the naupaka bushes. They were the ones who spotted it.  Yes, it was the same spider with the star face on its back. "What is it?" they asked. I told them I had no idea.  This encounter spurred me to do some spider identification.

For a great argiope appensa photo taken on the Big Island, click here.  There is another spider, very similar to this, called the St. John's Cross spider (argiope mangal), named for the cross formed by the the legs of the spider.


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