Photo of the Week – August 31, 2012

It seems like a good time to be a crab spider.  The drought has greatly reduced the number of flowers blooming in prairies, forcing pollinators to visit fewer flowers in greater numbers.  Previously, I’ve used the analogy of crocodiles in watering holes to describe crab spiders waiting in ambush on flowers.  To further that analogy, the drought has now dried up all but a few watering holes, and the crocs just have to sit and wait for the increasingly desperate animals to come to water.

A crab spider with the spotted cucumber beetle it just captured.

When I was photographing for my drought post earlier this week, I found this crab spider, which had just captured a spotted cucumber beetle.  The beetle was still struggling against the spider, but the spider was maintaining a tight grip on its head.  I didn’t stick around for the ending, but it assuredly didn’t end well for the beetle. 

If you’re a gardener who has dealt with these beetles on your cucumbers, melons, or other produce, you’re likely not shedding any tears over this photo.  Not only do cucumber beetles feed on the leaves and fruits of garden vegetables, they are also a carrier for bacterial wilt, which can also cause lots of damage.  However, unlike some garden pests, cucumber beetles are native insects who just happen to have found easy pickings in cultivated areas. 

Cucumber beetles are a very common sight on prairie flowers right now.  They are feeding on the pollen, but like most beetles provide very little actual pollination for most of those flowers.  While they’re not pests to the degree they are in gardens, these insects aren’t really doing those flowers much good either.  

On the other hand, they’re providing a good food source for crab spiders!

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
This entry was posted in Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Photo of the Week – August 31, 2012

  1. john says:

    Crab spiders are awesome

  2. Bradley Ryden says:

    There has to be a good life lesson in this. Very good post.

  3. The other day, I took some photos of a crab spider on a tithonia bloom. You are right, that I was not sad when I saw yours capturing a cucumber beetle. Those things are shredding a number of the blooms in our yard. I didn’t know they were native. I don’t know it that makes me think any more highly of them, though.

    Awesome photo!

  4. Wendy says:

    That looks like a well-fed spider, which supports your premise of course.

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