Species: Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)

Family: Crab spiders (THOMISIDAE)

Category: Arachnids

Location: One Sighting

A. Arachnids

More extensive information on arachnids can be found in a separate blog post.

B. Crab spiders (THOMISIDAE)

Crab spiders (or 'Flower spiders' or even 'Flower crab spiders') are a family of over 2,000 different species which are found worldwide. They do not spin webs. They are ambush predators with a pair of long and robust front legs. Crab spiders are able to move sideways and backwards, but gain their family name more from their habit of extending their front pair of legs aloft as they advance towards their prey. These small spiders can vary in colour.

C. Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)

The Goldenrod Crab Spider is a small spider that is usually white but can change colour quite dramatically to camouflage itself whilst hunting, matching its own colour to the colour of the surface on which it is seeking its prey. It can also mimic flowers, sometimes splaying its limbs out in a yellow sunburst, at other times lurking in the centre of a flower to resemble a cluster of stamens. These spiders have a poisonous bite and can tackle insects much larger than themselves, including bees, wasps, hoverflies and butterflies. Pollinators are obvious targets as they visit flowers in order to survive.


Goldenrod Crab Spider

This photograph shows a typical pose of the Goldenrod Crab Spider, holding its front pair of legs aloft, possibly in defence against the nearby camera lens, rather than in preparation for ambush.

Goldenrod Crab Spider

This spider's longer, more robust pair of front legs marks it out as a predator. This photograph shows it possibly in a defensive posture, rather than a hunting one, which may explain why its camouflage capabilities had not been activated.

Goldenrod Crab Spider

Unlike most spiders that wrap their prey in silk, the Goldenrod Crab Spider immobilizes its prey with venom, which subdues insects before they are then eaten. These spiders are therefore able to kill insects many times their size - including ones that have their own venom, like the wasp victim photographed here - and ones as large as bumblebees can be taken.

(Photo credit: Stuart MA Ball.)