Crab Spider Tent

A crab spider and silk webbing at our family last weekend.

A few of us took a short trip out to our family prairie last weekend.  My daughter was back from college for the weekend and wanted to see what was happening in the prairie, so we did a little canoeing (tight circles in the small pond), hiking, and exploring.  Later, I found myself photographing dotted gayfeather seeds, and while I was looking for more of those plants, I stumbled upon a grass leaf that was bent funny with some kind of white silk holding it in that position.  I had actually walked past the grass leaf before my brain finally registered the fact that I should go back and examine it.

Looking more closely, I could see enough of the creature inside to identify it as a crab spider.  It had been raining quite a bit during the previous couple weeks, so my first thought was that the crab spider had made itself a little rain shelter.  (Crab spiders don’t make webs, but like all spiders, do make silk and use it for various purposes.).  However, my better guess was that it was a nest and that it might contain a bunch of spider eggs.  I photographed it for a few minutes, taking lots of photos, since the breeze was making it hard to keep the spider in focus.

A tiny spiderling, accidentally photographed.

Later, when I was looking through images at home, I was culling all the photos of the spider that weren’t in focus (dang that wind) when I happened to spot something that confirmed my guess.  Right above an unfocused crab spider face, a tiny spiderling appeared – just in one photo, not in any others.  Apparently, this was indeed a crab spider nest, and at least one egg had already hatched.  

The crab spider eventually shifted around and showed its face.

Crab spiders aren’t the only group of spiders that take care of their kids.  Frequent readers of this blog will, of course, remember a previous post of mine showing a mother wolf spider carrying her brood around on her body, and even if you don’t, you may have heard that wolf spiders lug both their egg sacs and newly hatched babies around with them.  Wolf spiders aren’t alone, though, and we’re still learning more about how well various spider species care for their young.  If you’re interested, you can read more in this nice blog post from Biome Ecology.  Otherwise, you can just join me in wishing this particular crab spider’s brood good luck as they disperse and try to find safe places to overwinter.

7 thoughts on “Crab Spider Tent

  1. shoreacres October 16, 2018 / 2:35 pm

    That’s as sweet and touching as finding a clutch of baby alligators napping on their mother’s back.

  2. Joanne October 16, 2018 / 3:34 pm

    Fascinating look at the world of spiders. Thanks for posting.

  3. troutlily57 October 16, 2018 / 3:47 pm

    The female green lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans) that live around my house stick close to their spiderlings for several days, then disappear. I had assumed that they were simply finishing their life cycle since this typically happens in fall when the weather is changing. But maybe matriphagy is happening instead. Very interesting post – thank you.

  4. James McGee October 16, 2018 / 9:57 pm

    Neat spider observation. I thought you might be getting photos of the last pollinators of the season for a post. I have been seeing a lot of pollinators on my New England asters. I think my New England asters are blooming later than most because I cut them back in early summer so they stay shorter and branch out. I haven’t got around to taking any pictures otherwise I’d share them. Part of my laziness about getting out the camera is I didn’t want to steal your spotlight if you were working on a post already.

  5. Patrick October 17, 2018 / 2:53 pm

    Interesting that the spiders are being born so late in the season. Does anyone know how well they overwinter, or are these likely to be doomed like late-migrating monarchs caught by a winter storm?

  6. Ellen Rathbone October 18, 2018 / 8:43 am

    This is delightful! Nature is just full of these wonderful little vignettes, which most of us miss in our haste to reach a destination. What a great find – thank you for sharing (I will be keeping an eye peeled for these little tents next time I’m out in our prairie patch).

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