Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

September 19, 2009

Along Came a Spider

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:53 pm

Goldenrod crab spiders are well near impossible to see when in their proper place. When nestled in amongst the bright yellow flowers of a Goldenrod flower they become deadly masters of disguise able to grab visiting insects with impunity.  When outside of their flowery element, however, the creatures enjoy no cryptic benefits. It was easy to spot the individual pictured above because it was creeping across an expanse of subtle brown bricks. It looked more like a neon yellow lemon-drop than a hidden stealth killer. I’m not sure how this beast ended up climbing that wall, but the chance encounter provided a nice opportunity to appreciate her eight-legged glory.

This spider has a lovely bottom, you must admit. Those red markings give that ample bottom the appearance of a somewhat contorted happy face balloon (see below). The smooth body skin and lack of “hair” add to her slightly beguiling charms (once you get past those eight eyes, that is).

This beauty has rear legs which are significantly shorter than those in the front. The elongated first pair of legs are held open like the jaws of a trap until some unsuspecting prey ventures near enough to be ensnared in a deadly embrace. This physical feature makes them look very crab-like indeed. The fact that they tend to walk sideways and backwards only enhances this crabby image. There are hundreds of crab spider species and all share this distinctive appearance. It is also interesting to note that this eight-eyed creature actually has and un-equal set of eyes to match that un-equal legging set-up. One set of eyes actually points backward for the most part. This set is placed on the end of two short stalks located on top of the head. It would be tempting to suggest this rear-facing pair serves as hindsight when the crab spider goes into reverse, but I can’t back that statement up (pun intended).

These spiders do not make webs or wrap their victims in silk – they simply suck their victims dry, drop the empty carcass, and wait for the next meal to come flying in. They do utilize silk to lay down a safety line as they wander about.  As the blooms fade, the spider must change flower heads on a regular basis in order to keep up with the freshest flowers. Should they lose their grip and start to fall off the plant, their safety lines keep them from completely dropping to the ground.

Goldenrod spiders can change colors if they have to. If they venture into a patch of white mountain mint or aster, they can switch from yellow to white in order to blend in, although it takes around six days to do so. It takes over 10 days to switch from white back to yellow, so you could hardly call them quick change artists.  This brick walking example will never be able to match her new found background no matter how hard she tries.  If she was embarrassed at her predicament, she showed no signs of it. As I left her, she snapped into hunting mode and stood motionless with her arms open wide for prey (see below). Far from being crabby, she was obviously a cheerful optimist.

1 Comment »

  1. Wow, what a stunning spider!

    Comment by Monica the Garden Faerie — September 20, 2009 @ 8:09 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress