Posted by: Ross Gardner | July 26, 2011

The Wonders of Camouflage!

Misumena vatia with prey. Copyright 2011 Ross Gardner.

I’ll not be blogging for a couple weeks, so I thought I’d leave you readers with a little beastie that caught my eye at work the other day.  The crab spider, Misumena vatia is something of a favourite of mine, being such an unlikely, rather exotic looking predator among the flowery places.  It is not an uncommon spider, although I only saw the first one in my garden last weekend, and at Meadowfield they are fairly numerous.

Crab spiders do ot spin webs to capture their food, but instead are ambush predators.  There a number of species,  one the most numerous of which is the small brown Xysticus cristatus, which is very common among grassy habitats.  M. vatia comes in two main colour forms: white and yellow.  The colouration provides effective  camouflage against the white or yellow petalled flowers that they wait on, front legs held open, ready to strike on the next nectar or pollen feeding insect to happen along.  I tend to see the white form most often, lurking on the plentiful white-flowered Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) and Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare).

Quite what this one was doing on a mauve Catananche bloom is anyone’s guess.  Its lack of colour co-ordination doesn’t appear to be doing it any harm, however.  As you can see, it has caught not one, but two hoverflies, both of which, incidentally, are the very common, sometimes abundant, Marmalade Fly (Episyrphus balteatus).

So yes, a rather splendid little creature and not always too difficult to see.

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