Living in the midst of urban greenery can have its own advantages. My dining room opens onto our kitchen garden, lush with luxuriant foliage. One fine day, as I sat down to a hearty breakfast, a familiar little critter dropped in for a bite. As I looked on amazed, there on my dining chair, sat a Green Crab Spider (Family Thomisidae, Oxytate sp. )
I decided, immediately to immortalize it for posterity, using my trusty macro lens and ring flash setup, when it realized that it had been spotted after all, superlative camouflaging abilities not withstanding. What followed immediately after, was a photographer’s version of a game of cat and mouse. Or, as in this case, photographer and spider, in which I tried capturing an agile hunter with feline grace and reflexes, which in turn tried escaping from a crazy person with a monstrous camera rig.
As we continued our dalliance, the spider proceeded to jump on to a table mat. On realizing that I was still in pursuit, it tried eluding me by grabbing on to a plastic straw and holding on, for dear life. This was a God send as I managed to get some excellent shots from several different angles. The spider’s next stop was the hand holding that straw – mine. This is when I finally realized that the spider must’ve been stressed beyond itself. Having wandered into my dining room must have been nightmarish enough, without the added stress of a having a hairy giant hell bent on aiming strange machinery at it. So without further ado, I dropped my tiny green visitor on a grass blade near the kitchen window and bid it adieu.
Members of the genus Oxytate, previously known as Dieta, are long and slender spiders. Their coloration varies from pale cream to a translucent green, sometimes freckled with lighter spots. The female’s flattened, elongated form and emerald green coloration afford it excellent camouflage amid blades of grasses and other similar foliage. Oxytate species tend to rest on grass with anterior legs outstretched forward, with the hind legs held tightly along the body. The extremely long fore legs enable them grab to grab insects like bees, butterflies and beetles that are either collecting pollen or feeding on nectar. The second pair of legs are usually longer, larger and stronger than all the other pairs.
Crab spiders (family Thomsidae) are so named, owing to their propensity to look and move like miniature crabs and like their namesake, have enlarged fore legs. This is a large family of spiders with around 160 genera and about 2000 known species. Spiders of this family don’t build webs, preferring to ambush prey amongst Inflorescence, plant foliage, on tree bark and even on the ground. Certain species are even capable of changing color to match that of the flower they are on.
Most crab spiders are common and occur in fairly high numbers on vegetation, and like all species of spiders, offer a more natural way to control insect pests. Their presence should be encouraged and preferable over chemical pesticides. Although the spiders may be incapable of controlling major pest outbreaks by themselves, their role in a complex predatory community may be important enough to regulate pest species at low densities early in the season or in between peaks of insect pest activity.