Big jumping spider in cherry tree

2014 May 31

On July 4, 2013, Sandy found this fairly huge jumping spider on one of our cherry trees. It was just about half an inch long, which for the local jumping spiders is kind of a monster.

Here it is next to a dime, for scale.

It’s tempting to think that it would be identifiable to species by the body markings, but I gather that spiders are a lot like, say, domestic dogs as far as coloration: they vary all over the place even within a single species. It probably doesn’t help that, since they lack wings (and therefore don’t generally travel very far over their lifetimes), it is really easy for them to develop highly localized varieties with their own unique coloration.

This is another of the ones with green iridescent chelicerae, making it most likely a member of the genus Phidippus.

Here it is “saluting” with one pedipalp, so that we can see the chelicerae better:

In the past, I’d assumed that only the males have the iridescent chelicerae, but looking into it further this is apparently wrong. Both sexes have colored chelicerae, although the males tend to have them a bit bigger and more brightly colored. The males tend to be a bit smaller, and when mature have enlarged pedipalps. Since this one is pretty big and doesn’t have enlarged pedipalps, I’m fairly confident that she’s a female.

I’m really not competent to narrow it down to species, I’m afraid. Not only do none of these look quite like mine, but when I look at the ones that are grouped together as being the same species, I’m not so sure I’m seeing much resemblance between individuals in a given species

Anyway, sometimes people are concerned about the bigger jumping spiders biting them. And in fact, Sam tells me that one bit her on the finger once while she was downstate visiting grandparents. But, she also tells me that it didn’t hurt all that much (not nearly as much as a bee sting, she says)[1], so they aren’t anything to worry excessively about.

[1] This is not too surprising: spider venom is adapted for quickly killing small insects with a minimum of fuss so that they can be eaten, and any pain it causes is purely incidental to its purpose. Honey bee venom, on the other hand, is adapted for driving larger animals away from the hive, and causing excruciating pain is its entire point. So bee venom is basically “liquid pain”, while spider venom is “injectable death”.

3 Responses
  1. May 31, 2014

    The spider looks so forlorn in the corner next to the dime!

  2. May 31, 2014

    First, please keep in mind that a cornered jumping spider is the most dangerous kind.

    Second, it looks to be reading something in two of the photos. What is it? Out here, our jumping spiders go for short poems and brief anecdotes. You can’t get them to stick to anything longer than that. When it comes to literature, they have a tendency to …

    wait for it

    jump around.

  3. Christiana Huss permalink
    February 11, 2021

    Hi! The image of the spider next to a dime is a great photo! I am currently doing a school project creating a video about jumping spiders. This video may be shown to middle school classes. I need a good photo representing the size of jumping spiders. Could I use this image for my video? I will give credit at the end of the video to all image providers.

    Thank you!

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