Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bold Jumper

Yesterday, while catching up on some reading, I glanced over and saw the furtive shape of a spider sneaking across a window pane. Upon investigation, I saw that it was a Bold Jumper, Phidippus audax, one of our most charismatic and interesting spider species. Needless to say, I captured the tiny beast, and took it outside today for some photo ops before releasing it.

The Bold Jumper climbs to the rim of my capture jar, and investigates its surroundings. One should never kill these, even when they enter the home as they'll certainly do from time to time. If you really object to their presence, just brush the spider into a jar, take it outside, and let it go. These are beneficial and valuable predators, and an important part of our ecological web. Besides, if you do kill one, your karma may be to return as a food item for a jumper - a fate you'll not want to suffer.

Once liberated on my front porch, the jumper turned to check me out. This is how they get their name - jumping spiders in general are very inquisitive and seemingly without fear. They typically turn to follow movements, and often will jump onto an outstretched finger, or nearby camera lens. They aren't attacking - a bite by one of these 1/3rd inch long spiders would be very unusual and you would have to really provoke it. Probably wouldn't do much harm, either, but like nearly all spiders, jumpers have venom, so it's best to avoid their fangs. Bold Jumpers have beautiful emerald-green or bluish-green fang bases, which can be seen in the above photo.

Without a good look, Bold Jumpers look mostly black, but they typically have three conspicuous light dots on the upper surface of their abdomen. If you see one of these, toy with it a bit until it turns into the light, and you can admire the sheen from the brilliantly colored fang bases.

Jumping spiders are incredibly entertaining, and would probably make good pets. They can move with incredible rapidity, and are capable of amazing leaps. Their eyesight is fantastic, and jumpers hunt prey visually, stalking victims. It is said that jumpers can locate prey, remember its position, stalk from behind obstructions to get closer, and leap with deadly accuracy, sight unseen. They do hedge their bets, and attach a silken belay line before leaping. If they come up short of the target, the line catches the spider and it quickly hustles back to its original spot. You can see the attached belay line in the above photo.

What big eyes our spider has, and so many! The ever-curious jumper watches me watching it. Spiders get a decidedly bad rap, and that's a shame. For the most part, they are completely harmless and extremely beneficial animals. Killing something like a Bold Jumper just because it made its way into a house is no way to go, especially as long as it is your guest, it'll be ridding your abode of far less desirable pests.


Vickster said...

They seem like the 'teddy bears' of the spider world. Kinda cute - for spiders, that is.

Dave Lewis said...

I really need to get over my fear of day...

Cathy said...

Oh how I love these little fellas and Yes! I had one jump onto my camera lens. I was delighted.

Anonymous said...

In high school, some friends and I watched a bold jumper jump out from under some siding, and catch a moth flying around a nearby light. we were amazed. as a dare, i tried to eat the spider. It bit my tounge, i spit it out, and it quickly escaped into the grass. This bold and amazing little spider defeated something a thousand times its size, and i have respected and studied it ever since