All that glitters is not gold.
The gold coin flowers (Asteriscus maritimus) planted in our yard attract a goodly number of leafcutter bees and hover flies (aka flower flies and syrphid flies).
But if you look closely, gold coins attract something else--arachnids.
This little crab spider (below) blends in so well that at first glance, it's not easy to spot.
And that's the key. Perfectly camouflaged, it awaits prey.
A golden opportunity...
It was not a good day for a flower fly.
A flower fly, aka syrphid fly, dropped down in a patch of pink roses at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis today to sip nectar.
It was a pink-rose kind of day.
Not for the flower fly, though. A crab spider, lying in wait, pounced.
The battle ended quickly, but the syrphid-fly feast was not to be. Not today. The predator dropped its prey.
You can see lots of predator-prey action at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
It's open from dawn to dusk. Admission is free for all--including predators and their prey.
We can learn a lot from insects, especially when a predator ambushes its prey.
An ambush, as defined by Wikipedia "is a long-established military tactic in which the aggressors (the ambushing force) use concealment to attack a passing enemy."
The crab spider is a perfect example of an insect that conceals itself in a flower and waits for an unsuspecting visitor.
The crab spider doesn't build a web to trap its prey. No, too much wasted energy. It capitalizes on concealment, the element of surprise, and the quick assault and rapid kill.
And then, a leisurely meal.
Crab spiders or Thomisidae family (order Araneae) resemble crabs in that they can move sideways or backward.
You rarely notice them.
Neither do their prey--until it's too late.
The crab spider didn't go away hungry.
Camouflaged in the petals of a sedum, the cunning predator waits patiently for its prey.
An unsuspecting blowfly lands inches from the crab spider, unaware of its presence, and crawls toward it.
Wham! The crab spider snatches the blowfly and bites it, paralyzing it with its venom.
I'm just glad it wasn't a honey bee.
Like a crab, the crab spider can move sideways and backwards as it stalks and ambushes its prey. It grabs the unsuspecting insect with its powerful front legs, bites it, and paralyzes it.
Dinner is served.
However, this particular spider seemed to be perusing a menu. Hmm, a blow fly, a hover fly, a sweat bee or a honey bee? It watched honey bees glide onto the sedum and sip nectar. It was touch-and-go; the spider would crawl to a bee, touch it, and the bee would buzz off.
"It must not have been hungry--otherwise the bee would have been toast," Kimsey said.
We watched the spider for half an hour. The predator and the prey.
This time the prey won. Every single bee escaped. No toast today.