So here's this crab spider stalking a katydid nymph foraging on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola.
Suddenly a native bee, Melissodes agilis, lands next to the katydid and begins to sip some nectar.
Decisions, decisions! Do I want a juice katydid nymph or a tasty long-horned bee? Do I have a choice in the matter or does it matter if I have a choice?
A moment in time. Time in a moment. The bee, unaware of danger, continues to forage. Then, abruptly, the bee takes flight.
One menu choice remains.
It was a good day for the crab spider.
It was not a good day for the katydid.
It was a tough day for a Tettigoniid on a Tithonia.
When a katydid (Tettigoniid) encountered a crab spider on a Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, in our garden, the katydid didn't last long. The spider administered a venomous bite and it was all over. The small, aggressive predator dragged its large prey beneath the Mexican sunflower to consume its meal. The cycle of life...
Do you know how katydids got their nickname?
The males have stridulating organs on their forewings and produce a shrill sound interpreted as “Katy-did, Katy-didn't."
Well, in this case the crab spider did (survive to live another day) and the katydid didn't.
Oh, the patience of a crab spider.
It lies in wait on the Mexican sunflower, Tithonia rotundifola, in the hot sun.
It scuttles back and forth, extending its legs. It's an ambush predator, ready to inject venom.
But it seems as if all the bees got the memo: "Crab spider! Beware! Don't buzz it! Don't go near it!"
And then a honey bee, seeking a little nectar and pollen, lands right beside it.
It's a moment in time between a predator and its prey.
The bee? It survived to live another day. The crab spider went hungry.
Just a morning in the life of a crab spider lying in wait on a Tithonia rotundifola.
A free, public open house on “Eight-Legged Encounters,” featuring spiders and other arachnids, promises to be one of the biggest events--if not the leggiest!--of the year on the UC Davis campus and beyond.
The event, set from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 25 in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, will officially kick off the 2022 American Arachnological
A "powerhouse" of arachnologists will be participating, said Jason Bond, associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He will be hosting the conference with Lisa Chamberland, postdoctoral research associate, Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
“There will be everything--spider specimens, live arachnids, activities, artwork, etc.," Professor Bond said.
Some 20 exhibits and activities will be set up in the hallway of the Academic Surge Building, said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum's education and outreach coordinator.
Through the NSF grant, awarded in 2013, Hebets seeks to educate the public “about the wonders of biology and the possibility of scientific discovery using a charismatic and engaging group of animals--arachnids. Arachnids (spiders and their relatives) are ubiquitous, thriving in most habitable environments on our planet (including underwater),” Professor Hebets writes on her website at https://hebetslab.unl.edu/
“As a scientist, a mother, and an educator, I often see the disconnect between youth and the world around them; between problem solving skills, observation skills, critical thinking, natural curiosity and the more traditional formal teaching programs experienced by many students,” she writes. “Youth are innately curious and tremendously creative and my aim is to leverage these traits for their own educational advancements in a fun and engaging manner.”
To date, Hebets and her collaborators have developed more than 25 modular activity stations “encompassing arts and crafts, experiments, games, and other hands-on activities." They include classification and taxonomy, spiders and silk, path of predators, and hands-on science.
Also at the open house, plans call for “A Name that Spider" event, coordinated by postdoctoral fellow Lisa Chamberland and PhD students Iris Bright and Emma Jochim of the Bond lab. “We'll have an exhibit at the event with details on the spider,” Bond said. “We'd like to restrict naming suggestions to be youths attending the event, students 18 years and younger."
Another highlight of the American Arachnological
If you dislike spiders, you might want to check out the political scene (probably not!), the almond pollination season (yes, it's coming), or ask Siri "When does spring begin? (Answer: March 20)
Wait, are you still there? Whew! Then you'll want to know about the upcoming gathering of arachnologists--those who engage in the scientific study of arachnids, including spiders, scorpions and tarantulas.
News flash: The University of California, Davis, will be the site of the 2022 American Arachnological Society (AAS) convention. It's set from Sunday, June 26 through Thursday, June 30.
It will be hosted by two UC Davis arachnologists: Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
Formal meeting registration will begin Sunday afternoon, June 26, followed by an evening reception. A local daylong field trip is planned for Thursday, June 30. (Pre-register for the meeting at https://ces.ucdavis.edu/AASM)
"We typically expect somewhere around 125-150," Bond says.
The event is sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation. In collaboration with the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology and the University of Nebraska, “we will also host a pre-meeting, outreach event, ‘Eight-Legged Encounters' for the Davis community and campus,” Bond said. It's tentatively planned for Saturday, June 25. Those interested in attending should contact Bond at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The purpose of the American Arachnological Society, founded in 1972, is “to further the study of arachnids, foster closer cooperation and understanding between amateur and professional arachnologists, and to publish the Journal of Arachnology," according to its website.
Factoid from AAS: "Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs and chelicerae with fangs able to inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all orders of organisms. Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica, and have become established in nearly every habitat with the exceptions of air and sea colonization. As of March 2021, at least 49,200 spider species, and 129 families have been recorded by taxonomists. However, there has been dissension within the scientific community as to how all these families should be classified, as evidenced by the over 20 different classifications that have been proposed since 1900."
Question: "Is it true that the black widow spider always eats her mate?"
Answer: "Nope. Black widow females are no more likely than any other female spider to eat their mates. If the female is ready to mate and if the male sings the right sweet silk song to her, then she will allow him to approach and to mate. If the female is not particularly hungry, she will likely allow the male to leave unscathed after copulation. However, the female black widow, as is common in spiders, is larger than the male. Thus, if she is hungry, she may feed on the male but this is true of many species of spiders."
Meanwhile, if you want to learn the basics about common spiders found in California, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website offers information on black widow spiders, jumping spiders, common house spiders, and tarantulas, among others (including the hobo spider, which is not found in California). A table, illustrated with photos, lists the common spider families in North America, including:
- Agelenidae, funnel weavers or grass spiders
- Araneidae, orb weavers or garden spiders
- Clubionidae (including Corinnidae), sac spiders or twoclawed hunting spiders
- Linyphiidae (=Microphantidae), dwarf spiders
- Lycosidae, wolf spiders
- Oxyopidae, lynx spiders
- Salticidae, jumping spiders
- Theridiidae, cobweb, cobweb weaver, or combfooted spiders
- Thomisidae, crab spiders or flower spiders
If you're like me, you've probably seen--and admired--scores of spiders in your garden. Want to know who's coming to dinner? Here are images of some of my favorites: