Last weekend I was enjoying the beautiful weather by preparing a nice BBQ dinner for the family. We had just sat down at the table (out on the deck) when my youngest son pointed out a “spider carrying another spider” (as he put it) on one of the deck posts. It turned out to be a jumping spider that had caught and was feeding on another spider. Naturally I wanted to take some photos, but seeing as we had just sat down to eat—and I am always after my boys to finish their dinner before jumping up to play with something—I opted to eat first and shoot later. So we all had dinner together: the humans ate sockeye salmon, nugget potatoes roasted in herbs and olive oil, Caesar salad, corn and a crisp white wine (yum!); while the arachnid feasted on its hapless cousin (tentatively identified as a philodromid crab spider). I have to admit it was a little torturous because the spider just sat on the post, a few feet away from me, the whole time. It munched while I munched and I expected any moment that it would finish and be on its way un-photographed.
Somewhat surprisingly the spider was still there when we finished eating (it even waited while I did the dishes). Then I was able to grab my camera and start shooting, and even more surprisingly the spider was quite cooperative…
At first, given the size of the spider I assumed it was an adult Salticus scenicus (zebra jumping spider) or Platycryptus californicus, both of which are pretty common in my back yard. But when I got a closer look through my camera lens I could see that it looked quite different from these other two species. It also behaved differently—not nearly as timid.
It turns out that the critter in question was a juvenile Phiddipus, a younger version of the jumping spider I photographed last summer feeding on a huge (compared to the spider) caterpillar (see: Macro big game hunting: a boreal jumping spider feeding on a western tent caterpillar). Apparently these spiders are pretty fierce predators for their size.
I have to admit to being a little bit uncertain about the species however. I identified the spider I photographed last summer as a boreal jumping spider (Phidippus borealis). But the spider I photographed last weekend looks identical to photos of a juvenile female red-backed jumping spider (Phidippus johnsoni) posted on Bugguide (http://bugguide.net/node/view/15740). It turns out that both P. borealis and P. johnsoni range into my area, and to be honest, I’m not so sure I can tell them apart. So do I have P. borealis or P. johnsoni in my yard? Or maybe both? At this point it’s a mystery…
A mystery that 99.99% of people really aren’t going to be concerned about! I’m really starting to sound like a nerd aren’t I? In any case, the photos turned out nice.
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Lens: Zuiko 60mm micro four thirds macro
Settings: manual exposure (F11 @ 1/200 sec)
Lighting: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (1/2 power)