While walking through a meadow near Clayton, Michigan the other day I came across this impressive banded argiope (Araneae: Araneidae: Argiope trifasciata). Also known as banded garden orbweavers, these large and brightly-colored spiders are widespread throughout the United States.
At about one inch in length this individual was a female. As with other spiders the males are much smaller. The photo above shows the dorsal view, and the ventral view is below:
As with other orb weavers, banded argiopes spin broad, round webs between foliage in order to capture flying insects. Females are much more likely to be found on webs, waiting for males and capturing the prey necessary to fuel egg production. Males spend most of their time on the move, trying to find receptive females. Despite their somewhat ghastly appearance, these spiders aren’t harmful to people and provide some benefit since some of their prey are pestiferous insects.