In several of our prairies right now, poppy mallows are among the most prolific flowers. Purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) and pale pink poppy mallow (Callirhoe alcoides) are not only great tongue twisters, but also pretty flowers and important food sources for pollinators. Earlier this week, I watched a monarch moving from flower to flower in a big patch of pale pink poppy mallow, but I didn’t manage to get a picture of it. Yesterday, I paused to photograph a poppy mallow blossom and noticed something funny about the underside of the flower…
Those of you who have followed the blog for a while know of my affinity for crab spiders. They’re just so stinking cute, and once you start looking for them, they are everywhere, especially on flowers.
This particular long-legged friend and his relatives were on several kinds of flowers in our prairies this week, including pale pink poppy mallow (above) and yarrow (below).
At our family prairie, I found a different crab spider (below) hanging out on yarrow with its long front legs cocked and ready to spring shut on unsuspecting prey.
As I photographed the spider, a fly landed on the flower and started feeding on pollen and moving about the flower.
It got closer and closer to the spider, so I just kept shooting. A few moments later, it turned its back on the spider…
…and the spider GRABBED it. The fly buzzed loudly and drug the spider around a little, but was no match for the strong grip and venomous bite.
For a few seconds, the spider stood vertically, holding tight to the fly. Then as the fly’s struggles subsided, the crab spider repositioned itself to start feeding.
Apparently, the spot right behind the head is the best place to puncture a fly if you want to suck out its liquefied insides. A little tip for all you fly sucker wannabes out there…
Seeing the number of flowers with crab spiders, and the ease with which this crab spider caught its prey is a reminder of how dangerous it is to be a pollinator. Every flower is a potential source of nutritious food, but a fair number of them also host lurking crab spiders, waiting to snag careless insects. As someone who spends a lot of time trying to photograph pollinators, I’m keenly aware of how quickly they move from flower to flower. Of course they do – the longer they stick around each flower, the better chance something will catch and eat them!