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Crab spider on Texas thistle

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Spider on Texas Thistle Flower Head 2349

What would spring be if I didn’t show you at least one Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum)? This one carries the bonus of a tiny crab spider in the genus Mecaphesa.

Today’s photograph is from the Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos on April 27.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2016 at 5:07 AM

Crab spider on flowering elbowbush

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Crab Spider on Flowering Elbowbush 6921

One of the earliest native plants to bloom in central Texas each year is the elbowbush, Forestiera pubescens. Here’s a crab spider on one at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on February 3, 2013.

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I’m away from home. You’re welcome to leave comments, but please understand if I’m slow in responding.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2015 at 5:41 AM

Crab spider on rain-lily

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Mecaphesa Crab Spider on Rain-Lily 7558

Click for larger size and greater clarity, especially in the spider’s small hairs.

When I went walking on April 11th I found plenty of spiders, including this pale green one on the tips of two tepals of a rain-lily, Cooperia pedunculata. Thanks to Joe Lapp for telling me that this crab spider is in the genus Mecaphesa.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 28, 2013 at 6:15 AM

First spider for 2016

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Crab Spider on Prairie Verbena 6199

Along with the handful of bluebonnets I saw in Cedar Park on February 25th I also photographed a ring of prairie verbena flowers, Glandularia bipinnatifida, that a crab spider had claimed as its domain. The arachnophiles (or at least not arachnophobes) among you may click the excerpt below for a closer look.

Crab Spider on Prairie Verbena 6199 Detail

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 8, 2016 at 5:14 AM

Spider on skeleton plant flower head

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Crab Spider on Sketleton Plant Flower 7550

Click for greater clarity and size.

While walking along the Smith Memorial Trail in northwest Austin on June 28th, I knelt to photograph the flower head of a Texas skeleton plant, Lygodesmia texana, and there I spied a spider. It shied away and tried to hide between two rays but then hied to a better side for me, as you see. It’s curious how the spider’s abdomen and a few of the creature’s smaller features picked up some of the purple from the floral rays ablaze with light.

It’s been almost two years since I showed any pictures of this species of wildflower, so if you aren’t familiar with it you’re welcome to look back at abstract views showing the base of a flower head and a close-up from above of a flower head’s center; that second image will show you the structures that cast the shadows visible at the bottom of today’s photograph.

Those of you interested in photography as a craft will find that points 1, 3, 6, and especially 12 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2013 at 6:19 AM

Wet sunflower with dark clouds

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Six years ago today I took some pictures of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) against dark clouds after a rain. Until recently I assumed I’d shown one of those photographs here in 2014, but a search proved that somehow I never did. Today’s post makes up for my negligence. What I unfortunately can’t make up for is the loss of the property where I photographed this sunflower and many other native plants for a couple of years before a Wendy’s and a Holiday Inn Express finally occupied that land.

Given this picture’s small size, you may have trouble recognizing a crab spider at about the 9 o’clock position on the sunflower. If you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 3 and 8 in About My Techniques apply to today’s image.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Surprise on a ten-petal anemone

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I inaugurated the new wildflower season here with a post showing a ten-petal anemone (Anemone berlandieri) that I photographed on January 28th. As each fertilized flower matures, a lengthening seed column develops in the center, and eventually the sepals fall off. That was on its way to happening to the anemone in today’s picture from February 18th. When I moved in to make my portrait, I discovered that a crab spider had gotten there first. Those of you inclined to pareidolia may well see a face in the upside-down spider’s abdomen.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 28, 2019 at 4:40 AM

Details, details

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In a comment an hour ago on this morning’s post about a Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes magnicamporum), Dianne requested a closeup. Okay, I’m easy. Here’s a zoomed-in look at a picture I took yesterday of one of these orchids alone. Actually not alone, as I discovered when I looked at the enlargement: in the upper left corner of the picture you’ll find a crab spider whose body probably wasn’t more than one-eighth of an inch (3mm) long.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2017 at 11:40 AM

Another little creature on a flower

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Acmaeodera Beetle on Skeleton Plant Flower 2395

Not far in space or time from where I photographed the crab spider on a Texas thistle at the Purgatory Creek Natural Area in San Marcos on April 27th, I saw Acmaeodera beetles on flowers of the skeleton-plants (Lygodesmia texana) that were out in goodly numbers (both the beetles and the skeleton-plants).

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Freeloading

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Dark Fly, Dead Bee, Dead Spider on Tatalencho 8237

When I was happily photographing tatalencho (Gymnosperma glutinosum) at Wild Basin on October 27th I came across this little drama that I had trouble understanding. Most conspicuous was the dead bee whose head-down posture on the flower stalk made it look like an airplane that had nose-dived into a crash-landing. We have to assume the bee had met its demise thanks to the spider that now too was upside down and immobile, and that I took to be dead as well. Standing on the bee’s upraised rump was by far the tiniest of the creatures in this arthropodal ménage à trois, a dark insect that appeared to be biting or sucking the tip of one of the spider’s upraised legs.

I e-mailed for help, which came quickly. From entomologist Alex Wild at the University of Texas I learned that the dark little insect is “a freeloader fly (probably Milichiidae or Chloropidae, hard to tell from the photo), taking advantage of the spider’s kill. As Joe [Lapp] said, this is a fairly common phenomenon, but since the flies are so small it is often overlooked.”

I also heard back from local expert Val Bugh: “The spider is not dead, it’s busy eating and crab spiders prefer to remain still, especially when their prey blocks them from view. The black fly, commonly called a freeloader fly (family Milichiidae) is actually just standing on the bee’s butt — it only looks like its face is touching the spider’s leg because of the angle. Really, the mouth of the fly goes down and it is probably waiting to scavenge some droplets while the spider feeds (or it is wondering whether or not it needs to leave because there is a big, scary camera pointing at it). Usually, spiders and other predators just ignore these little flies, which might walk all over both the predator and its victim.”

Joe Lapp added some more: “I think I’ve only ever seen this once on the prey of a spider other than a crab spider. I think crab spiders are preferential because they don’t masticate their prey like most do. Instead, they inject digestive fluids into holes and slurp out the yummy insides. That leaves opportunity for flies to go to town unharmed. I wonder if the venom or enzymes also assist the flies. In my mind, the wild thing is that these flies show up before the prey begins decaying.”

So there you have the explanation for this curious sight.

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I’m away for a few days. You’re welcome to leave comments, but it may take me a while to answer.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2015 at 5:06 AM

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