Oh, they're big. And if their size doesn't get your attention, their beautiful webs will. The female Argiope appensa, referred to here as the Hawaiian or yellow garden spider (though not native), can get close to three inches in length, though the males are commonly less than an inch, and mostly brown in color. Look for the pentagon-shaped abdomen and darker cephalothorax, eight eyes, and banded legs. They are known to be master web-casters, spinning orb webs made of sticky capture silk. Like other members of their genus, these spiders also weave in a zig-zag stabilimentum, a decorative pattern of non-capture silk, though the function of this pattern is a matter of debate. It may be a way of luring in prey, due to the UV reflectiveness of the silk; others believe it to be a defense mechanism, warning birds and others critters not to crash into their web. Either way, it is striking, and another key to identification, though it may not always be present. While all spiders have some venom used to stun their prey, these garden spiders have so little as to be considered non-venomous. So instead of getting that broom and knocking down this amazing feat of engineering, admire the craftsmanship and let them catch the cockroaches.
Even arachnophobes have to appreciate this endemic, non-venomous, eight-legged and tiny wonder: the Happy-face spider, Theridion grallator, or as it is known in Hawaii, nananana makakiʻi. It makes its home on four of the MHI: Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi and the Big Island, and nowhere else in the world. The smiling face sits atop a translucent yellow body, though some lack markings altogether. Interestingly, the patterns on their backs vary from spider to spider, and from island to island. Hanging out on the undersides of leaves, they are protected when it rains and are camouflaged when it's sunny, as light streams through the leaves from above, casting a yellow-green hue. If you are interested in looking for them, you can inspect both native and non-native plants that have dome-shaped leaves that are not hairy, and unlikely to wave about in winds and rain. These spiders hunt at night, when their bird predators sleep. Using the vibrations of the leaf to locate insects, they sneak up upon them and ensnare them. Rare among spiders, they exhibit the social behavior of tending to their young, bringing tenderized catches to them for up to a month. They stay just one short year on this earth, reminding us: don't worry, be happy.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.