The Regal Jumping Spider is an Ambush Predator

The groundsel and the goldenrod are at their heyday, and pollinators are swarming to the blossoms.  Yesterday I watched a bunch of pollinators shove each other off the most recent blooms, when I spotted a fuzzy spider moving slightly just out of range.  It was a jumping spider, and my tendency in the past was to move away from spiders, not toward them.  But this one was really sort of cute, and I watched him catch a hoverfly, paralyze it and retreat to a sort of shelter in the leaves.

More research reveals:

If you’re not naturally a spider person, scanning spider field guides can make you a little squirmy, but luckily I found the ID for this one pretty quickly. And a visit to inaturalist confirmed that this is a Regal Jumping Spider, Phidippus regius, native to the Southeastern US.  And I have to say, I was astonished to find that about half of the top hits were about how to keep them as pets!!! I did find out some very interesting things about them:

As you can see from that handy graphic above, there are some fascinating facts about these spiders.  Their eight eyes serve different purposes. (For more about how they work, check out this NYT video.)

They have been known to eat frogs and lizards.

They have iridescent mouthparts called chelicerae, which include fangs and can be displayed to attract females.  For more on how a spider eats, check out this video.

They even do a fancy dance to attract a mate: at second 47 below, you can see his iridescent green chelicerae.

Would you keep one as a pet?

Seriously, I can NOT imagine deliberately keeping a spider as a pet, but if I were going to, this would be the one. There are dozens of websites devoted to helping you create a habitat for them.  I think I am just going to enjoy them outside, in their natural habitat.  Check out how they can cling to the underside of leaves.

I mean, how cute is this guy?!?  Those eyes and the fuzziness are pretty captivating. The second two photos below show him holding onto that hoverfly pretty tightly.  As I moved in for the pics, he moved out of the way so I couldn’t take it from him (or pick him off while he was focused on eating.)

regal jumping spider

When I started photographing yesterday, I was focused on monarchs (stay tuned). The beautiful thing about getting outside to look is that sometimes unexpected gifts show up.  I’ve had so much fun learning about this little wandering spider, and it’s a good reminder to go outside, be still, and wait for nature’s gifts to show themselves.