Goldenrod Crab Spider is a harmless creature that prefers to live in the wild, primarily in the fields. Therefore, many might never have seen it at all, especially since it is precisely by its imperceptibility that this spider is remarkable – it is translucent, and to that is capable of changing color, mimicking the environment, so it is sometimes very difficult to notice it.
Origin of the Species
Arachnids arose more than 400 million years ago – from highly organized organisms that still inhabit our planet, they are one of the oldest. However, there are almost no relict species of spiders, that is, those that would have lived on Earth many millions of years ago and have survived to this day. They change rapidly, and some species are replaced by others, more adapted to the changed conditions – this is one of the secrets of their high vitality. And in those ancient times, it was the arachnids who were the first to get out on the land – the rest were already following him.
Their main distinguishing feature was the cobweb, for which spiders have found many uses over time. How they evolved has not yet been studied in detail, including the origin of the Goldenrod Crab Spider remains obscure. Goldenrod Crab Spiders only use their webs for a cocoon, but this does not mean that they belong to an ancient species – these spiders are believed to be relatively recent.
This species is also known as the Flower Spider. Its scientific description was made by the Swedish naturalist Karl Clerk in 1757, at the same time it was named in Latin – Misumena vatia.
Interesting fact: The scientific name of the species is quite offensive for Goldenrod Crab Spider – the generic name comes from the Greek misoumenus, that is, “hated”, and the specific name comes from the Latin vatius – “bow-legged.”
Appearance and Features
This spider has a large abdomen – it clearly stands out, we can say that for the most part, it consists of this one abdomen, since its cephalothorax is short and flat, it is several times inferior to the abdomen in size and mass. The front legs of the spider are long, with them it grabs prey, while the back pair is used as a support. The middle legs are used only for locomotion and are weaker than the other two pairs. The eyes are arranged in two rows. The sizes of males and females differ so much that one might even think that they belong to different species. The adult male is very small, usually, its length does not exceed 3-4 mm, while the female can be three times as large – from 9 to 11 mm. They also differ in color. The male’s cephalothorax is dark, and the abdomen is pale, its color usually changes from white to yellow, and there are two pronounced dark stripes on it. Interestingly, the color of the legs is also different: the back pairs are the same color as the abdomen, and the front pairs have dark stripes.
In females, the cephalothorax is red-yellow, and the abdomen is brighter than in males, although most often it is also white or yellow. But there may be other colors – green or pink. It depends on where the spider lives – its color mimics the environment so that it stands out less. If the female’s abdomen is white, there are usually red spots or stripes along with it. If you look at these spiders in the sun, you can see that they are translucent – it shines through them. Only the area on the head where the eyes are located is opaque. This feature, together with the ability to color match their surroundings, also helps them stay undetected.
You can meet these spiders only in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet, but in a very vast territory: they live in most of North America, in Europe, in North and Central Eurasia – they are not only in the tropical one. In the north, they are distributed up to the borders of the temperate zone.
In Europe, they live everywhere, including on the islands, except for Iceland – probably these spiders were simply not brought to it. Or the imported specimens did not manage to reproduce: it is cold in Iceland and, although the Goldenrod Crab Spider successfully lives in other areas with a similar climate, it is more difficult for it to take root in such a climate. Just as often Goldenrod Crab Spider can be found in Asia – the most preferable climate for it is between temperate and subtropical, respectively, most of these spiders live in those Asian countries and regions that have such a characteristic.
Presumably, Goldenrod Crab Spiders were not previously found in North America and were brought to it by colonists. However, the climate of this continent suited them perfectly, they have multiplied greatly in just a few centuries so that now they can be found in a vast area from Alaska to the northern states of Mexico. They prefer to live in an open, sunny area, rich in vegetation – mainly in fields and meadows, they are also found on forest edges. Sometimes you can see Goldenrod Crab Spiders in city parks or even in your own garden. They do not like dark or humid places – therefore, they are practically not found in forests and along the banks of water bodies.
The diet of Goldenrod Crab Spider does not differ in great variety and consists almost entirely of insects. It:
All of these are pollinators. This is due to the hunting method most convenient for the Goldenrod Crab Spider: it waits for prey right on the flower, hiding and merging with the background. Most often they choose goldenrod and yarrow, but if they are absent, they can choose others. It is in anticipation of prey that they spend most of their time, not moving, so as not to frighten off. Even when the victim is sitting on a flower, the Goldenrod Crab Spider continues to wait until it sinks into it and starts sucking nectar, and only after this process grabs the victim’s attention does it attack. The spider grabs with strong front legs to prevent it from leaving or doing something else, and bites – its poison is very strong, and it paralyzes even a large insect almost instantly, and soon it dies. This method of hunting allows the spider to kill even larger and stronger insects than itself: its two main weapons are surprise and poison. If the hunt is unsuccessful, then the same wasp is quite capable of dealing with a spider because it is more agile, moreover, it can fly: in front of it, its abdomen will be completely defenseless. Therefore, Goldenrod Crab Spider has to attack for sure and calculate the moment perfectly – otherwise, it will not live long.
When the victim dies, he injects digestive juices into her, turning her tissues into a soft gruel, easy to digest, and eats this gruel. Since the victim may be larger than the spider, it often eats only part at a time, storing the rest for the future. Devours everything except the chitinous shell.
Features of Temperament and Lifestyle
The Goldenrod Crab Spider spends most of its life either sitting quietly in an ambush or resting from hunting – that is, it moves a little. When hunting, he does not use the web and does not weave at all. His life goes by quietly and calmly, there are rarely any significant events. Even predators hardly bother him, because the color itself suggests that Goldenrod Crab Spider is poisonous – it’s not even about the color, it can be different, but about the intensity. His daily routine is simple: when the sun comes out, he goes hunting. He waits patiently for hours, because one victim is enough for him, and most likely for several days.
After he is satisfied, he simply rests, basking in the sun – the spiders love him. Usually, they are not afraid of anything, crawling to the very top of the plant. This is especially true for females – males are much more fearful. When the sun goes down, the spider also goes to sleep – for this, it goes down and sleeps among the leaves of the plant. This standard routine is interrupted twice a year: during mating, when males in search of a pair can cover considerable – albeit only by their own standards, distances, crawling from flower to flower, and when cold weather sets in when Goldenrod Crab Spiders hibernate.
Interesting fact: In many ways, this spider is interesting for its ability to change color, adjusting to the background. But it is far from being as fast-acting as that of a chameleon – a Goldenrod Crab Spider needs 2-3 weeks to change its color, and it can return to its original color faster, in 5-7 days.
Social Structure and Reproduction
These spiders live exclusively alone, trying to settle at some distance from each other. If they are close, they usually do not make friends, and sometimes a conflict can arise between them – if one of the spiders is larger (usually this happens when a female and a male meet), then he simply tries to catch and eat the smaller ones.
The mating season begins in spring – Goldenrod Crab Spiders is activated when the sun begins to warm up more strongly, that is, in March-April in the subtropics, by early May in the temperate zone. Then the males start looking for females. They do this very carefully – the female is much larger and can simply eat the male even before mating. Therefore, if he notices at least some sign of aggression, he immediately runs away. But if the female calmly lets him in, then she is ready to mate – in this case, the male introduces pedipalps into her genital opening. After completing mating, he should also escape as quickly as possible, since he again risks being eaten – he fulfilled his function and again turns into nothing more than prey for the female. She coils a cocoon to lay eggs in it and attaches it to leaves or flowers using cobwebs – this is the only way Crab Spiders use.
Clutches are laid in June-July, after which another 3-4 weeks pass before the spiders appear. All this time, the spider stays nearby and protects the eggs from any encroachments. Small spiders molt for the first time even when they are in the egg, and after emergence, they undergo one or two molts. When it gets colder, they burrow into the litter of the foliage and hibernate until the next spring. But even then they will wake up as not yet adult spiders – Goldenrod Crab Spider reaches maturity only after the second wintering.
Natural Enemies of Goldenrod Crab Spiders
Not too many predators hunt them, mainly those that like to feed on spiders, with a digestive system adapted to their poison, are among them. Among them:
- other spiders.
It is possible to catch the Goldenrod Crab Spider by surprise, and it is quite easy to do this when it is resting, it is unlikely to be able to defend itself against a larger and stronger predator. But it is still difficult to find it, because thanks to its color and translucency, it is practically invisible on the plant.
Most often, young spiders die, still inexperienced and less careful, and not so dangerous – after all, those who want to eat a spider should always remember about its poisonous bite, which can turn a hunter into a victim. On the other hand, he is not very fast and strong, and therefore can be quite easy prey. Spiders also die in case of an unsuccessful hunt, because bees or wasps are quite capable of killing him, like many other victims – Goldenrod Crab Spiders generally tend to hunt animals of rather large sizes in comparison with their own.
The danger threatens them from other spiders, including relatives – cannibalism among them is commonplace. Larger spiders are also threatening. Finally, they can die from poison if the land is cultivated against parasites – but in general, they are quite resistant to poisons and may remain among the few survivors.
Goldenrod Crab Spider does not harm humans – it only bites when attacked and, although poisonous, not enough to harm human health. They are very small and live mostly in wild places. Using stealth, they lie in wait on the flowers of their even large victims.
Interesting fact: There is not enough pleasant spider bite, but it is not dangerous for humans, except that it can cause the usual signs of mild poisoning – an allergic reaction, weakness, nausea. After 3-4 hours, everything should go away, and an antihistamine will help to stop experiencing these symptoms.