Saturday, June 14, 2008

The spider that came for supper...

Bold jumping spider
Phidippus audax

James and I were finishing supper at the table, talking, discussing, trying to sort out the week's events. All the sudden, he stopped and pointed across the table. "Look!" he exclaimed.

There she perched, atop the wooden chair's back, intently staring at James, like she was absorbing everything we were saying.

"She wants to help us figure out everything!" I said, laughing. Then I ran for my camera.

Bold jumping spiders (Phidippus audax) are my absolute favorite spiders. I've loved them since childhood. In fact, they triggered my lifelong interest in spiders. Don't they just LOOK intelligent with their big round eyes and fuzzy face? All of the spider species, jumping spiders have the best eyesight. That's because they hunt their prey; they actually stalk insects sometimes like a cat. They have four pairs of eyes. Two pairs are located on the sides of their head. Next time you're behind one, wave and see what happens. Most likely the rear eyes will catch the movement. Then the spider will swivel around and focus its big primary eyes on you. Like I tell kids, jumping spiders–like moms–have "eyes in the back of their head" so they don't miss a thing!

Look closely, and you'll see metallic green or blue below their big eyes. Some folks mistake the markings for more eyes. But actually, they're part of the spider's "chelicerae" (jaws).

And, yes, this jumping spider is a female. I know the secret to telling the difference. :-)

Sunday, June 15, 2008–UPDATE–She's still on the dining table and chair today. Guess she's waiting around to see what we talk about tonight....

Monday, June 16, 2008–UPDATE–Our jumping spider friend returned for breakfast this morn. We sat down, and she showed up, crawling down the side of the table where I sat. She went under my elbows, then headed over for James. She seems to prefer James, for some reason.....

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