This week, if you live pretty much anywhere north of Mexico, a tropical vacation sounds pretty appealing. Well, if you were a Pantropical Jumping Spider, Plexippus paykulli, you would probably be enjoying yourself right now. This species is a world traveler, now dispersed to most tropical and subtropical climates across the globe. Envious?
The Pantropical Jumper is pretty easy to find, too, since it hangs out on the exterior of buildings where it can be quite conspicuous. The only problem might be telling it apart from the Gray Wall Jumper which is often seen on buildings, too. Both species are of similar size. Adult females of the Pantropical Jumper are 10-12 millimeters in body length; males average 9.5 millimeters.
Plexippus paykulli is also sexually dimorphic, meaning that the male gender looks radically different from the female sex. In fact, it would be easy to assume they are two different species. This is typical of many jumping spiders: the males are adorned with colorful scales, or tufts of hair on their legs and/or pedipalps which are used to communicate with the female through elaborate displays, often accompanied by vibrations carried through the substrate (surface on which the spiders are sitting).
Pantropical jumpers don’t sit on the beach sipping fruity drinks. Nope. They actively seek prey by day, including small moths, flies, flying ants, and even other spiders. They have the typical behavior of most jumping spiders in the family Salticidae, running a short distance, pausing, pumping their pedipalps up and down, and turning to face whatever piques their curiosity (or perceived threat).
Mated females of this species spin a small, flat egg sac about nine millimeters in diameter that contains anywhere from 35-60 eggs. A larger silken envelope, 25-35 millimeters around, covers the egg case and serves as a retreat for the female to guard her future offspring. Look for these nurseries under eaves of buildings, in cracks and crevices, or under boards and other objects.
Here in the United States, Plexippus paykulli can be found year-round in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the Gulf Coast states, and south Texas. Outlying populations in New Mexico, and north along the Atlantic seaboard are probably the result of accidental introductions. You are also likely to see this spider in such exotic locales as Hawaii, Hong Kong, India, Greece, and parts of Africa. It is assumed that the species is native to southeast Asia.
The Pantropical Jumping Spider should be considered an asset to any resort, hotel, or motel, for they are literally a mobile pest control service. They are known to hunt mosquitoes and small cockroaches among other pests. I guess you would call that a “working vacation.”
Sources: Bradley, Richard A. 2013. Common Spiders of North America. Berkeley: University of California Press. 271 pp.Edwards, G.B., Jr. 2002. “Jumping Spiders,” Featured Creatures. Division of Plant Industry and University of Florida.
Gaddy, L.L. 2009. Spiders of the Carolinas. Duluth, MN: Kollath+Stensaas Publishing. 208 pp.
”Pantropical Jumper,” iNaturalist.