Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 24, 2016
Goldenrod crab spiders can shift their body colors

As spring approaches, there are small wild sunflowers (possibly one-headed sunflowers) that begin to flourish in the fields of Smelter Road, throughout Middle Canyon, and the hills of Settlement Canyon Reservoir. Be warned, however, that there is a species of spider that commonly conceals itself amongst these and other kinds of flowers for camouflage. Sneaky, but harmless and a non-lethal biter, this spider is known as the goldenrod crab spider.

Goldenrod crab spiders are known for hiding on the stamen of flower, deceptively preying on pollinating insects that generally come by to feed on the particular flowers where they hide. They also possess a trickily useful color-transformation capability that enables the goldenrod spider to switch between the colors of white and yellow. They do this in order to match their environment’s common coloration of flowers, while remaining inconspicuous when moving from flower to flower.

For example, males during the mating season must search several flowers in order to find a readily available female. Though they still use camouflage to avoid being noticed, male goldenrod crab spiders usually lose one or several of their legs due to watchful predators or other males defending their flowers.

Known to color-match daisies, sunflowers, and goldenrods, this spider will devour insects comparable to its own size and will sit patiently until prey lands within its grasp. Goldenrod crab spiders will opportunistically devour species of wasps, flies, moths, bees, and butterflies. Once a nectar or pollen-eating insect approaches the occupied flower, the unseen spider then ambushes, bites, paralyzes, and fatally sucks the insect dry of its body fluids.

Taylor Lindsay is a writer and photographer of wildlife creatures big and small. She can be contacted at CritterChatter@live.com

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