You can't get any more Halloween than a bold (daring) jumping spider with orange spots!
This common North American spider was hanging out yesterday on our showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, trying to look like a spectator instead of a predator.
The orange spots indicate it's a juvenile Phidippus audax. As it matures, those spots will turn white. It can jump 10 to 15 times its body length, deploying its silk "lifeline" when it's jumping for prey or evading predators, according to Wikipedia. It hunts only in the daytime.
Yesterday, resplendent in its iridescent chelicerae (mouthparts or "fangs"), the eight-eyed, eight-legged dark hairy spider crawled around the broad leaves of the milkweed, sharing its home with assorted lady beetles, aphids, wasps and an occasional butterfly (Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries and skippers).
It soaked up some sun and then apparently decided that the telephoto camera lens represented a clear and present danger, too bold and too daring.
Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you go hungry.
Take the case of the huge jumping spider (a female Phidippus audax or bold jumping spider, as identified by Wade Spencer of the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology) hanging out in our Spanish lavender. Hey, pretend I'm not here! It stealthily crawls up and down the stems, blending into the shadows. It summits the flowers, looking for bees. Where are the bees? Where is my dinner?
The predator and the prey. The hunter and the hunted. The jumping spider, with four pairs of eyes. The honey bee with five eyes (two large compound eyes and three smaller ocelli eyes). The jumping spider's bite is venom. The honey bee's sting is venom.
If they meet, it will be deadly. The spider will shoot venom in the bee, paralyzing it.
Meanwhile, the honey bees are buzzing from flower to flower, some oblivious to the dark shadow lurking near them. No ambush today.
Sometimes you go hungry.
Who's that knocking on our front door?
Actually, we didn't hear it knock. It appeared out of nowhere and climbed up to our doorbell.
We gingerly placed the jumping spider, Phidippus audax, in a vial to transport it to our backyard bee garden.
Phidippus audax, aka P.A., was not all that happy in that vial. As soon as we opened the lid, out he scrambled.
Several mornings later, we saw P.A. sleeping on a lavender stem next to four male bumble bees (Bombus californicus).
This particular jumping spider is commonly called the "daring jumping spider" or the "bold jumping spider." It can reportedly jump 10 to 50 times its own body length. Its iridescent metallic green chelicerae is a sight to see.
"Like other jumping spiders, due to their large, forward-facing eyes, they have very good stereoscopic vision," says Wikipedia. "This aids them when stalking prey, and allows some visual communication with others of their species, such as courting 'dances.'"
"This spider is regularly found in grasslands and fields, but can also be recurrently seen on exterior walls, fences and in gardens," Wikipedia points out. "Most jumping spiders tend to prefer flat, vertical surfaces which allow the spiders to spot and hunt down wandering insects easily.
Will P.A. stalk our sleeping bumble bees? Maybe we need to do a bed count every morning...