Sunday, September 9, 2012

Spider Sunday: Apache Jumping Spider

Jumping spiders in the family Salticidae are arguably the most colorful of all spiders, often quite conspicuous despite the fact they are usually rather small in size. Here in North America, the genus Phidippus includes some of our largest jumpers. I have found one bright species to be quite common in recent weeks here in Colorado Springs. Phidippus apacheanus is the Apache Jumping Spider, if I can assume it has that common name.

Just yesterday, September 8, I found two specimens on two separate sunflower plants. They appeared to be basking, but more likely they were waiting for potential prey to come within pouncing range. The male, black on the bottom and legs and bright orange on top, may mimic the velvet ants that also frequent sunflowers. Females have a dark dorsal stripe that runs up the middle of the abdomen.

These are not the largest of our jumping spiders, but still bigger than most salticids. Males range from 5.2-10.6 mm, while females measure 7.1-13.3 millimeters. At least one of the specimens shown here may also be immature, one molt or so away from adulthood. Mature individuals can be found at almost any time of year, though males in particular are most common in autumn.

Despite the western-sounding name, this species ranges over most of the United States save New England and the Pacific coast states. Most records do come from the southern half of the U.S. and into Mexico and Cuba.

The habitat preferences for the Apache Jumper may also explain its abundance in certain regions. It is most often found in grasslands, prairies, plains, and dry fields, up to 6,000 feet or so in elevation. Look for it on shrubs, perennials, cacti, and yucca where it prowls for insect prey. Even wasps can fall victim, like the little crabronid captured by this male on August 27.

Females of Phidippus apacheanus fashion egg sacs in protected niches, such as beneath the bark on oak logs. There they guard the sac and the spiderlings that emerge from it.

This species occurs in areas where other, similar species of Phidippus can also be found, so you can’t always rely on color pattern alone to identify it. The only way to confirm which species a given specimen belongs to is to put it under a microscope and examine its external genitalia. You still might not be able to reach a conclusion if the specimen is immature.

While I am always curious as to exactly what I am taking an image of, I can still delight in the colorful nature and vibrant personalities of jumping spiders. Their alertness is engaging (if not maddening when they dodge to the other side of a stem), and suggests a level of awareness and intelligence that most other arthropods do not possess. Happy spider hunting.

Source: Edwards, G.B. 2004. “Revision of the Jumping Spiders of the Genus Phidippus (Araneae: Salticidae),” Occasional Papers of the Florida State Collection of Arthropods vol. 11. 156 pp. (available for sale here).

13 comments:

  1. Found one here in Colorado Springs. Are these our only red-backed jumpers? Or could it be another type? Can they bite humans? I'll be bookmarking your blog!

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    1. Thank you for following the blog! I believe this is the only jumping spider with a red abdomen *and* cephalothorax. We do have at least one species that has a red abdomen, but black cephalothorax (and maybe there are two species, I'd have to research). Yes, they can bite, but they would rather flee. Unless you pinch one, it is unlikely to bite.

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  2. Thank you for such wonderful information. What does the Apache jumper prefer to eat? I have one in captivity (only after researching that jumpers do quite well in captivity) that I encountered at the first real cold snap this year and then again 2 days later after the first real snow. I decided to give him a little comfort from the cold, as he was not doing so well on the cold concrete where I found him nearly lifeless. My main source of information kozmic dreams site http://kozmicdreams.com/spidercare.htm and her staple food for them is small crickets. This Apache has shown little interest in small crickets, so I was wondering if this particular of the species prefers something special here in Colorado?

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    1. I do not keep spiders in captivity, so I cannot answer this for you. Do try someone with the Mile High Bug Club, or try posing your question to InsectGeeks.com.

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  3. i have always been amazed by spiders. i found your website amazingly helpful and have bookmarked it for future references. i came by one of these today and it was nearly an inch across, and it was taking down a wasp. the battle ensued a couple minutes or so but the spider was successful. i had to look up this spider as i did not know what it was. this has only happened a couple times in the past ten years, and was very exciting for me not to know what species it was as it does not happen very often. thank you for the info! also he was a little more than an inch in length, and about 1/4 inch tall! this one was a BIG guy!

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  4. Are they harmful? I found one in my place of work on some produce it bit me on the thumb no ill effects so far I have been bitten by 3 female black widow before when I nearly died from the bites. just curious

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    1. No jumping spider species are considered to be dangerously venomous to the average, healthy human being; but, everyone's immune system is different, so it is difficult, if not dangerous, to generalize. Hope you are still doing well!

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  5. Hello Eric! Found this page by googling "orange and black jumping spider." Do you suppose this is a variation of the same spider? It had formed a nest in a bunch of grapes. (Bought and ate the grapes north of you, in Parker.) https://instagram.com/p/BX1pZtIlU88/

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    1. Potentially, but there is great variation and overlap in color and pattern among the many species of Phidippus; and between genders, too, and variable by the age of the individual....

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    2. About 2 weeks ago I found a relatively small apacheanus, maybe 7 mm in length. I can't be certain it's apacheanus, but it has the fully stereotypical female pattern.

      I brought her inside and set her up in a really nice little deli cup habitat and have been giving her flies. She seemed happy enough, as she ate well and spun a big home "sac under a leaf.

      But now she doesn't seem to come out of it. Obviously I don't watch her every moment of the day, but I only ever see her in different positions inside her sac.

      I thought she might be laying eggs, but I read that her mating season is the fall. It also seems too early to hibernate, especially since she seems to move around in there.

      I thought I might keep her through the winter and let her out next summer. Unless you think she might be full grown and by keeping her I'll with old her genes from the population, due to their relatively short lifespan.

      What do you think? Release or feed for The winter? Also, I live pretty close to downtown Denver and cherry creek state park. If I release her, should I put her on the porch where I found her, or take her someplace more wild?

      Just looking for input from other spider appreciators.

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    3. Excellent questions, none of which I am expert enough to answer. These days I suggest folks consult the many arachnid (even specifically jumping spiders) groups on Facebook. There are some excellent authorities there.

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