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.

2 thoughts on “Ambush in the Prairie

  1. jason December 3, 2010 / 12:54 pm

    Nice shot! And I had no idea that some crab spiders could change color, even if only in a limited way. That’s a useful trait–and very cool to know.


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