Il-brimba kbira tal-widien, as it is known in Maltese, is an impressive spider with a strikingly coloured abdomen. The females, which are much larger than the males, have a body length of around 25mm, a flattened underside and a large posterior. The abdomen is striped with alternating black and yellow lines. It is not smooth but has a jagged appearance and has deep furrows. This trait is what gives this spider the name of lobata. Its long legs, which reach around 40mm in length, are also banded pale yellow and black. The males, measuring only 7mm in body length, are very similar to the female – although their abdomen does not have the characteristic lobes.

As all spiders do, this specimen possesses glands within its abdomen capable of secreting a fluid which hardens and forms silky threads. These filaments are spun into beautiful webs. Webs act as nets to capture prey, as a mode of transport and to safeguard them from falling. The large webs of the Lobed Argiope are spherical, slightly inclined and have a prominent zig-zag web decoration. It is thought that this particular web pattern plays the dual role of attracting prey and possibly even preventing its destruction by larger animals.

The Lobed Argiope, Argiope lobata, is the largest spider on our islands and is frequently found in our valleys and other vegetated areas.

The Lobed Agriope poisons its prey, which are mainly insects, before eating them. However, like for most other spiders, this venom is non-toxic to us humans. This spider forms part of Malta’s species diversity, and we should not harm or collect it; instead we should allow the Lobed Argiope to play its important role in the natural cycle of life.

More information may be obtained by e-mail: nature.requests@mepa.org.mt.

The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. Malta, together with many other countries around the globe, is carrying out a number of initiatives to celebrate life on earth and the value of biodiversity for our lives. We are all invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: Biodiversity.