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Desert Diaries

Insects and Arachnids/Crab Spiders


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Imagine yourself as a beautiful butterfly, flitting gracefully from flower to flower. Suddenly, one of the flowers grabs you! Too late! You realize that the flower is really an artfully camouflaged spider. Crab spiders are known for their impeccable mimicry of flowers. Some look like a single flower, while others might just sit on a real flower, blending in with its colors. Either way, they can be deadly to the unsuspecting insect that doesn't notice the deception.

Some crab spiders have red spots on them, despite the fact that the red doesn't blend in well with "their" flowers. Predators, such as birds, soon learn that such marks signify a nasty taste, and they treat the spots as a warning. The conspicuous color seemingly results in the spiders breaking cover, but they actually remain well hidden from their prey—the poor insects can't see red! It's amazing how well some animals can adapt, even to the inconsistencies in their environment!pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

crab spider and butterfly

A well camouflaged crab spider has captured a butterfly. Photograph by Kodi R. Jeffery. Having trouble spotting it?—Go to the bottom of the page.



The "Web Resources" section below gives a good idea of the ability of various of these spiders to blend in. Since many of the species stake out flowers in order to catch pollinators, they sometimes are called "Flower Spiders". ahh



Web Resources

Texas A&M. Excellent photograph.

Crab spider emphasized