Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Green Lynx Spider and Her Babies

October is a good time to find a mother Green Lynx Spider caring for her babies.

Green Lynx Spiders are a found across most of the United States.  In size they are a little smaller than a quarter and the male is slightly smaller than the female. Green Lynx Spiders spend much of their time in shrubs and bushes where they hunt for insects.  They are not web builders, but are ambush predators that hide in the leaves wait for insects to land near by.  The Green Lynx Spider then "pounces" on its prey a little like a cat would (a lynx is a species of wild cat similar to a bobcat).  The spider uses long spines on its legs to help hold the captured insect until it can consume its prey. These spiders have been seen actually leaping into the air to catch an insect flying near the bush or shrub.  Green Lynx Spiders have been used in cotton fields and soybean fields to help control crop damaging insects, though they will capture and eat honeybees as well.  Green Lynx Spiders are reluctant to bite when handled.  Though the bite can be painful, it is not venomous and quite harmless to humans.

In early October I noticed a group of leaves in an ornamental shrub (Winterberry Holly) behind the lab that were knitted together with silk.  If you look closely, you can see a tan-colored sphere under a leaf on the upper right side of the bush.

A leg or two of the mother spider is visible under the spherical egg sac as she protects her precious brood.

The mother's legs are quite long.  Her legs are pale green and covered with numerous black spots and long, slender spines.

She sheltered her egg sac from direct sunlight by placing it under the leaves on hot sunny days.

Most days when I looked for her she had the egg sac clutched close to her.  The Green Lynx Spider can lay from 25 to 600 eggs in her egg sac.

One day I found her on the other side of the leaf from her egg sac, but she quickly rushed to it and latched on to protect it.

Late in October the cluster of now dried up leaves where the Green Lynx spider and her egg sac had been were missing from the top of the shrub.  I found the leaves on the ground under the bush and worried something had happened to them.  As I started to head back to the lab, I noticed another cluster of greener leaves still attached to the shrub.  When I looked closer, there was mother spider with her egg sac.
The mother spider tacked together this new cluster of leaves to provide shelter from the ever colder weather of late October.

On warm days she would move her egg sac out in the open to warm the embryos.  When the mother spider built the egg sac back in the late summer it would have been light green, but now in late October its color has faded to a light tan.
The mother has a slender green abdomen with reddish brown chevron shaped markings.
The mother spider guards her egg sac.  She actively tears open small portions of the egg sac as the baby spiders develop to help them emerge when they are ready for the outside world.
Here is the mother spider with her treasured egg sac of developing spider embryos. 
If you look closely, you can see the mother's eight eyes in a light colored cluster on top of her green head.  She has an arc of four eyes across the top with two larger eyes below and two smaller eyes close together beneath the large eyes.

A good picture of Green Lynx Spider eyes can be seen here:

This is a great place to look at all the arrangements of spider eyes.  The Lynx spider is about 3/4 of the way down the page.  Most spiders have eight eyes, but some have six.

Every few days I would check on the mother spider hoping to see her babies.  I began to wonder if they had already hatched or that the eggs had failed.  There had already been one frost and I did not know how that would affect the brood of babies.
The mother spider was quite calm and let me pull the leaves back to look more closely.  Spiders are not humans, but it is warming to me to see how protective she is of her offspring.  What I want to say is that she is a "loving" mother.  OK, I'm a little weird!
Finally!  Late in October I found the mother with her babies.  The babies are already growing.  You can see one of the shed skins of one of the babies near the back of the mother spider.

The mother spider seemed many days to be an acrobat as she hangs around tending to her little ones.

The mother spider and her young spiderlings dangle like ornaments on their silken threads.

A few days later in early November the cluster of leaves has gotten very brown and dried from the cold late autumn nights.  The baby Green Lynx Spiders are active, but I cannot find the mother.  I looked all around the shrub and on the ground but did not find her.  I know from reading that Green Lynx Spiders only live for one year. I don't know if a bird perhaps made a meal of her or if she left the shrub on her own.

I let one of the spiderlings crawl onto my hand.  It looks a bit different than its mother.  Its abdomen is orange and yellow.  The black spots and spines are already apparent on its legs.

I returned the spiderling to one of the berries on the bush where its mother had made her egg sac.  I hope it survives the winter.  I will be looking for it in the Spring.
Some of the information in this post came from these sources.
Peggy made me do this!