New Hampshire has its share of large and often colorful spiders that share backyard garden space with humans. The females are typically larger and more colorful than the males, making them easier to spot. Despite common assumptions, most garden spiders stay outside and don't invade homes or buildings. They are adapted to outdoor living.
Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope Aurantia)
The female black and yellow garden spider measures between half an inch to over an inch, excluding the legs. She is also blessed with an intricate color pattern containing white, black, brown, tan and bright yellow, which often looks like a face. Males are tiny, topping out at just over a quarter of an inch. Males also have patterns, but they are more subdued, made of brown, tan and yellow. Legs of the mature female are yellow or reddish brown near the body and black down to the tips. Adult male legs are brown with light black bands.
The webs are large, orb shaped and vertical, built to capture flying or jumping insects, including grasshoppers, which they easily dispatch. To scare away predators, the spider will shake its web, making itself appear larger. One of the largest members of the orb weaver family found in North America, this spider is active during the day and prefers gardens and fields.
Banded Garden Spider (Argiope Trifasciata)
The female banded garden spider's body is up to an inch long, while the males are lucky to reach a quarter of an inch. Both male and female spiders have dark transverse stripes across the abdomen, which in the male, is usually white or silver with gold highlights. In the female the stripes are more pronounced on her white or yellow body.
This garden spider prefers open fields where it can build its orb shaped web near the ground among weeds and other vegetation. The spiders are usually seen sitting in the middle of the vertical web. They're most often found in gardens that have lots of shrubbery that hasn't been trimmed in a while, especially around plants that are planted close together.
Carolina Wolf Spider (Hogna Carolinensis)
The Carolina wolf spider is the largest wolf spider in North America. When it was discovered in 1805, tarantula was included in its species name. Both males and females have varied color patterns of white, black, tan and gray. The body of the female can grow up to nearly 1.5 inches long, while the male can grow up to three-quarters of an inch. The legs are long, thick and appear soft and furry. The males have longer legs in proportion to their body size.
These wolf spiders prefer open fields, pastures and forest glades -- anything with lots of ground cover. They are hunters and don't don't build webs. Instead, they burrow into the ground, line their nest with silk and then cover the entrance with silk and grass. The spider will stay hidden in the burrow and pounce on unsuspecting prey. Wolf spiders also leave the burrow to hunt in nearby vegetation. Large insects and tiny rodents are frequently on the menu.
Bold Jumper (Phidippus Audax)
Female bold jumper spiders have bodies up to three-quarters of an inch long, and the male bodies are over half an inch long, making this species one of the largest jumping spiders in North America. There is also less disparity in size between the sexes. Both male and female have short, thick, hairy legs that are black in color with fuzzy white or gray bands. The body is mostly black, with a red, orange or white triangular patch on the abdomen. Combined with two tiny patches to the rear, the markings look like a face.
Instead of building webs, these hunting spiders wait on flowers or leaves for insects to arrive and then pounce. Bold jumpers prefer areas with vegetation close to the ground to provide cover for their ambushes. They are sometimes found on rocks or logs, or even on the outside walls of buildings.
Six Spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes Triton)
If you have a pond or stream in your garden, you might find the six spotted fishing spider floating along the water's surface. The female's body can reach up to three-quarters of an inch and the males roughly half that. Both males and females have brown and tan bodies with white spots on their abdomens. The name comes from the six black spots on the sternum, the underside of the cephalothorax. The legs on both sexes are long, making these spiders look very large.
The long legs sprawl out as the spider floats on the surface of the water. It either waits quietly at the surface for prey to come within range, or dives beneath the water. The fishing spider often dives to escape predators and can stay underwater for as long as an hour. Minnows and small frogs are often on the menu. These hunting spiders build no prey catching webs, but do build nursery webs among the shoreline foliage to hold their egg sacs.