Ambush in the Prairie

Like crocodiles in African water holes, crab spiders sit patiently on prairie flowers, waiting for prey they know will eventually come.  For crab spiders, that prey is most often an unwary pollinator looking for nectar.

A crab spider with a recently caught orange sulphur butterfly. The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies.

Crab spiders are not built for speed and they have poor eyesight – even for a spider.  However, they’re well built for ambush.  Both sets of front legs are extra long, and the spider snaps them shut to catch any insect that happens to come within reach.  In addition to those legs – and a good dose of patience – some species of crab spiders can also change their color to better camouflage themselves.  They’re not quite on the level of chameleons, but over a day or so, those species can change from white to yellow – or vice versa – to match the color of the flower they’re on.

Read more about crab spiders in my NEBRASKAland magazine article here: CrabSpider-July2009 and about spiders in general in another article here:Spiders-AugSept2010.

This entry was posted in General, Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

2 thoughts on “Ambush in the Prairie

  1. Pingback: Why I Care About Prairies and You Should Too | The Prairie Ecologist


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.