Crab Spider and Poppy Mallow

I have a hard time walking past purple poppy mallow when I’ve got my camera in hand.  I have plenty of photos of the flower already, and I’m not sure there are many angles I haven’t explored (see last week’s post).  But it’s so darn attractive!

This week I began noticing how many of the flowers had crab spiders lurking around on them.  Although some crab spider species can change colors from white to yellow and back, that ability doesn’t do much to help spiders sitting on bright magenta flowers…  Regardless, there they were – maybe one per 10 flowers I looked at. 

Crab spider on purple poppy mallow. Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

The day I photographed this one, the light was a nice bright overcast (light diffuse clouds), but the spider kept moving to the opposite side of the flower every time I got the tripod set up.  (Fortunately, no one besides the bald eagle across the creek was around to watch me.)  Finally, I got the shot by waving my hand around the other side of the flower so the spider would scoot away from my hand (and into the frame of the photo).  I only got a shot or two squeezed off before it figured out my ruse and went INSIDE the flower where I didn’t have any chance of photographing it…

If you’re interested, you can read more about crab spiders in my NEBRASKAland magazine article here: CrabSpider-July2009 and about spiders in general in another article here:Spiders-AugSept2010.


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.
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7 Responses to Crab Spider and Poppy Mallow

  1. Rifqi says:

    Very patient to set up a tripod, I shoot all my bugs hand held. How big are those spiders? Is this at 1:1?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      They’re about 1/2 inch from leg tip to leg tip. It’s pretty close to 1:1… Shot with a 100mm Macro lens about as close as I could get.

      Tripod was necessary here – it was a little breezy and it was all I could do to figure out how to get it sharp WITH the tripod, let alone worrying about my camera moving too!

  2. Nellie says:

    That was so smart, but it makes me feel so stupid! I have had the same problem and didn’t think of your solution.

  3. Michael Scullin says:

    I’m a sucker for spiders and good light. A little dew or mist helps. Shots like this seem to me to have much easier on film, but I haven’t used film for several years now and Kodachrome extinct for what seems like decades. Nice composition, and both a patient photographer and a patient spider.

  4. James C. Trager says:

    Seeing this yesterday, I was inspired finally to get out to my back yard prairie garden and plant the Callirhoe I bought at last month’s native plant sale! (Arriving rain also inspired this.)

  5. “There they were – maybe one per 10 flowers I looked at.” And often there’s spider silk on the other nine!


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