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Letter: Crab Spider Question – Can Harry Eve Help?

Published on: 5 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 5 Jul, 2016
Crab Spider

A bumble bee is captured by a crab spider imitating an orchid.

From Sarah Sullivan

I photographed a crab spider that has taken on the markings of a common orchid. The mimicking of the orchid had fooled a bumble bee.

How common an occurrence was this? I wonder if Dragon correspondent Harry Eve can help?

The orchids are in great profusion on the old airfield site at Dunsfold.

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Responses to Letter: Crab Spider Question – Can Harry Eve Help?

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    July 5, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Very nice photo and I am happy to help where I can. I normally send my crab spider photos to an expert but, in this case, I am sure that I am safe in saying it is a female Misumena vatia which I believe is our only crab spider capable of gradually changing colour – and only the females can do that. The males look very different.

    It can be white, greenish or yellow but it doesn’t do blue. In this case it is a variety with reddish markings which I think are permanent and they work well on this “common” spotted orchid. When green or white on a blue flower it can resemble the centre and fool its prey that way. When it is yellow on a dandelion it is almost invisible.

    They catch anything they can tackle that lands on the flower – and bumblebees are not unusual prey. The spider relies on stealth and many attempts will fail.

    They are not uncommon in suitable habitat in the south-east – but that is disappearing as developers seek to profit from sites such as Dunsfold Airfield and we make more demands on our countryside for leisure pursuits. We have the same problem in Guildford – planners and their consultants adopting a forced growth agenda and offering up our countryside for profit in preference to using genuine brownfield sites for housing.

    I am sure that all Dragon readers would love to know more about spiders and I recommend the website of the Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme.

    Many thanks Harry. I am sure Sarah will be thankful and impressed with such a prompt and informative response. Ed

  2. Sarah Sullivan Reply

    July 5, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    I would like to thank Harry Eve very much for identifying that the Crab Spider is a female and she can change colour.

    Nature can be truly astounding. I had only gone out to hear the nightingale and stumbled across an amazing wildlife reserve at Dunsfold Airfield that justifies why there are swathes of Special Areas of Conservation, Ancient Woodland and AGLV.

    So much for our greenfields being considered as brownfield and ignoring the statuary designated areas for their own convenience. Few are taking into consideration NPPF 2012 paragraph 118, let alone an appropriate assessment under the Birds or Habitats Directives.

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