The banded argiope or Argiope trifasciata was first recorded on the Maltese islands in 2003. The first specimen was found in Gozo but since then it has been found in Malta and nowadays seems to have established itself firmly on the two islands, although it is nowhere common.

In Europe, the cosmopolitan species was restricted to several archipelagos of the southern Atlantic, including Madeira and the Canary Islands, but in the early 1980s it was recorded in southeastern Spain and later in southern Portugal and the Balearic Islands.

Since then it has continued to expand its range and has now been recorded in Sardinia and Sicily, besides Malta.

In America, where it is widespread throughout most of the continent, it is sometimes called the banded garden spider or the garden spider. In Maltese, it has been named brimba rrigata.

The banded argiope is large and impressive, but it is not the only large spider one can find in the Maltese islands. The most common is the lobed argiope, known in Maltese as brimba kbira tal-widien, which, as the name implies, is found in valleys and in wooded areas including gardens.

Another species known scientifically as Argiope bruennichi is now extinct from the Maltese islands. One of the last individuals of this species was found in Buskett Gardens in 1976.

The scientific name argiope is Latin for “with bright face”.

The argiope family consists of 78 species, and its members can be found on all continents except Antarctica.

The argiopes are well-known for their large webs which are often decorated with a zigzag band of silk called stabilimentum. This feature makes the web more visible, which might reduce the number of insects caught in it, but studies have shown that the stabilimentum also reduces the number of birds flying through the web.

This gives these spiders an advantage over others which do not build visible webs, as they do not have to rebuild a new web every time it is damaged or destroyed.

portelli.paul@gmail.com