When I was little, I couldn’t abide spiders. I couldn’t even bear to look at a picture of a spider in a book. Certain (big hairy) spiders still have that effect on me. Still, I’ve learned to appreciate their beauty and complexity.
The common name “Crab Spider” comes from the fact that the spider looks somewhat crab-like, and/or the fact that it can move like a crab – frontwards, backwards, or sideways. There are several species given this common name and they fall into a handful of spider families. One common feature is leg length; the front two pairs are quite a bit longer than the back two.
Crab Spiders don’t make webs, nor do they wrap their prey in silk. Instead, they lay quite still and ambush insects that come too close. Several species are colored so that they can hide on flowers to await pollinators such as bees, flies, and butterflies. With strong venom, they can paralyze prey bigger than they.
Gary Dodson of Ball State University discovered that males of the species Misumenoides formosipes drink flower nectar. He is devising a study to try to find out if nectar gives the males an advantage in fighting or mating success. Fascinating.
Most Crab Spiders live only one summer season, laying eggs which will overwinter.