|Image: by Stonebird|
Orb Weaver spiders are quite common. There are hundreds of different species out there. One site I read said there are about 180 in North America and over 3,500 world-wide.
This particular variety is found in Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas. They are relatively large spiders, with a body size reaching 1 in or more. Despite their appearance, they are quite timid. Their defense against things larger than they are (including humans) is to run and hide.
They do have venom, which they use to immobilize their prey. And if handled, they may bite. However, their bite is mild.
As with most Orb Weavers, their webs are amazing works of art. A circular web attached to several "spokes" radiating from the center. The spokes are non-sticky, which the spider uses to move around freely on her web. They are effectively her walkways. The circular strands are the real machine behind the web. These are the sticky bug catchers that do all the dirty work of entangling unsuspecting prey.
Antelope Island is an ideal location for these colorful spiders, due to all the web attaching structures (buildings, grasses, sage brush) as well as the abundance of insects they prey upon. And yes, there is an abundance of insects.