northern crab spider

(Mecaphesa asperata)

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List

not listed

NatureServe

NNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

 
northern crab spider
Photo by Alfredo Colon
 
Description

Northern crab spider is a small spider. It occurs in the United States, southern Canada, and Mexico. In the United States it is common to very common in east, less common in the west. It is found on grasses, flowers, and foliage in meadows, fields, roadsides, and gardens. It is one of several spiders called “flower spiders” because it waits in ambush in flowers often for hours at a time.

The female is ¼ (6 to 7 mm) in length and has a legspan of up to ½ (12 mm). It is hairy and there are numerous spines and bristles on the body and legs.

The plate (carapace) covering the front part of the body (cephalothorax) is flat and as long as wide. It is brownish-yellow to pale green with two dull, reddish-brown, longitudinal stripes. The male is much smaller, (3.5 to 4 mm) in length with a legspan of ¼ (6 mm) or more. There are eight eyes arranged in two curved rows of four. All of the eyes are on low raised projections (tubercles). In the front row the outermost eyes, the anterior lateral eyes (ALE), are a little larger than the interior eyes, the anterior median eyes (AME). In the back row the posterior lateral eyes (PLE) are directed sideways and backwards. They are not visible when the spider is viewed from the front. The jaws (chelicerae) are small and have no teeth.

The abdomen is flat, broadly oval, and widest near the rear. It is often yellow with reddish-brown markings, but the background color can change to white or pale green to blend in with the vegetation. On the front half of the abdomen there is a central stripe and two lateral stripes. On the back half, behind the central stripe, there are two rows of closely-spaced spots converging at the rear of the abdomen and forming a capped V shape.

The legs are pale with pinkish or reddish bands on the fifth segment (tibia) and the sixth segment (metatarsus). The front two pairs of legs are thicker and much longer than the others, and are normally held out and forward, like a crab. This is the feature that gives the family Thomisidae its common name. There is a pair of minute claws at the end of the legs but these are not visible without magnification.

 

Size

Female Body Length: ¼ (6 to 7 mm)

Male Body Length: (3.5 to 4 mm)

Legspan: ¼ to ½ (6 to 12 mm)

 

Web

No web

 

Similar Species

 
Habitat

Meadows, fields, roadsides, and gardens

Biology

Season

 

 

Behavior

When the legs are held out to the side, the spider is able to walk forward, backward, or sideways (laterigrade).

When hunting, the spider will sit, often in a flower and often for hours, waiting in ambush for prey.

The female does not build webs, snares, or retreats. To protect its egg sac it will fold over the edge of a leaf and secure it with silk.

 

Life Cycle

The male is tiny compared to the female. To mate without first being eaten, it must first tie up the female with silk. After mating, the female easily breaks the restraints.

 

Food

 

Distribution

Distribution Map

 

Sources

24, 27, 29, 30, 82, 83.

4/27/2024    
     

Occurrence

Common

Taxonomy

Class

Arachnida (arachnids)

Order

Araneae (spiders)

Suborder

Araneomorphae (typical spiders)

Infraorder

Entelegynae

Zoosection

RTA clade

Zoosubsection

Dionycha

Family

Thomisidae (crab spiders)

Tribe

Misumenini

Genus

Mecaphesa

   

Genus
Until recently, almost all species currently in the genus Mecaphesa were placed in the genus Misumenops. In 2008 almost all of the North American Misumenops species were transferred to Mecaphesa.

Higher taxa
A recent molecular phylogenetic study (Benjamin et al., 2008) recovered four well-developed lineages within the family Thomisidae. The lineages are clades, and they do not correspond to any of the previously accepted subfamilies. The subfamily Thomisinae, and all other subfamilies, are eliminated.

A later phylogenetic analysis of the order Araneae (Wheeler et al., 2017) presented a new spider tree of life based on mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. The number and arrangement of the ranks and clades between the Order Aranae and the Family Thomisidae vary depending on the source. The superfamily Thomisoidea is eliminated. Araneomorphae is treated as an suborder by some sources, some rank Opisthothelae as the suborder and Araneomorphae as the infraorder, and some have Araneomorphae as the infraorder and no suborder. Opisthothelae is sometimes treated as an unranked clade, but it is more often omitted entirely. Most treat Entelegynae as an unranked clade, with two more unranked clades above (basal to) the Family Thomisidae. Some or all unranked clades are often omitted from taxonomic trees.

The ranking on this page follows iNaturalist.

   

Subordinate Taxa

 

   

Synonyms

Misumenops asperatus

   

Common Names

northern crab spider

northern flower crab spider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Carapace

The hard, upper (dorsal), shell-like covering (exoskeleton) of the body or at least the thorax of many arthropods and of turtles and tortoises. On crustaceans, it covers the cephalothorax. On spiders, the top of the cephalothorax made from a series of fused sclerites.

 

Cephalothorax

The front part of a spider’s body, composed of the head region and the thoracic area fused together. Eyes, legs, and antennae are attached to this part.

 

Chelicerae

The pair of stout mouthparts, corresponding to jaws, in arachnids and other arthropods in the subphylum Chelicerata.

 

Tibia

The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.

 

Tubercle

On plants and animals: a small, rounded, raised projection on the surface. On insects and spiders: a low, small, usually rounded, knob-like projection. On slugs: raised areas of skin between grooves covering the body.

 

 

Visitor Photos
 

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Dan W. Andree

Camouflaged Northern Crab Spider on a...

Woolly Milkweed June 27, 2024 Frenchman’s Bluff SNA.

I did another look for this species of milkweed and found it only in two areas of that SNA. I found this one shown in the photo on the western part and counted only 6 with the rounded blooms or whatever they are called (blooming) and 2 plants past the blooming stage. I didn’t find any others in that small area. There are vast areas of the prairie where you could see the plant diversity quite easy especially in the classified real dry type prairie where though the ground was moist from ample rains things seemed sparser and some areas quite shorter than other areas of the prairie.

  woolly milkweed and half-black bumble bee

The previous photo with the half black bumble I sent earlier that was from up on a hilltop a few were growing on the very upper slope almost at the top. However on the top I noticed none throughout.

I sent info to the Reports MN_NHIS as I feel this plant isn’t common and doesn’t have that diverse of area where it grows at least from the area I checked. Others may be different and I make it clear it is just one area I checked.

That Northern Crab Spider is quite camouflaged. It’s a neat little milkweed too.

     
tricolored bumble bee    

Bumble Bee & Northern Crab Spider...

The bumble bee landed on the wild rose blossom and moved around while it fed and the crab spider got spooked and moved away from the bee.

   
     

northern crab spider

  northern crab spider

Northern Crab Spider with its lunch a...

Yellow Jacket Wasp. I was surprised it could kill a wasp. Also it could just pick it up and lift it above its head and carry it up the lead plant.

Strong little spider. Came across these two northern crab spiders at Frenchman’s Bluff SNA recently. I’ve never really been into spiders, but these small crab spider species are really interesting and some are nicely colored and quite cute since they are so small. They spook easy as they often scooted under the flower if I approached to suddenly. Even the one with the wasp. It moved and hid behind the lead plant blossoms. I had too slowly and quietly move around to see what it was and what it was doing. I photographed and filmed them since not much else was going on out there and they were interesting little spiders. … the wild rose blossom wasn’t very big either was the spider.

     
pure green sweat bee   northern crab spider
 

… here is another Northern Crab with its dinner looks like some kind of a damsel fly or similar. That one was at the same area on 7-7-22. It is just a shrunk down 4k frame grab.

Crab Spider and Metallic Green Bee...

This crab spider was trying to sneak up on this small metallic green bee at Frenchman’s Bluff SNA Spring 2024. The bee seen the spider when it got right up to it and flew off.

 

Alfredo Colon

northern crab spider   northern crab spider
     
northern crab spider   northern crab spider
     
northern crab spider   northern crab spider
     
northern crab spider   northern crab spider

Dan Poretti

northern crab spider    

Mike Poeppe

northern crab spider   northern crab spider

Margot Avey

…I shot this picture of blood root and after taking the photo discovered there was some kind of a spider or insect on it with wicked looking legs. Could you tell me what kind it is?

  bloodroot
     

Spider and flower

This photo was taken in St Paul Park, Minnesota by my friend Julie. She has given the okay to send it to you.

Interesting flower and matching spider! We have no idea what kind of spider it is.

  northern crab spider
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
   

 

   

 

 

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slideshow

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Dan W. Andree

"Northern Crab Spider vs Yellow Jacket Wasp" filmed by Dan W Andree
Jun 9, 2023

About

The Northern Crab Spider is quite small maybe 1/4 in. body and maybe 1/2 in length legs. Something like that anyway. Harmless to humans and if I approached one suddenly it would scoot under the flower or plant it was on. So I had to move slow and quietly. I was surprised to see it captured a Yellow Jacket Wasp. Hope you enjoy this.

Other Videos

Northern Crab Spider catching and disposing of prey (Mecaphesa asperata)
Nature in Motion

About

Oct 26, 2016

This beautiful spider should win an Academy Award.

Arachnida (Arachnids) » Arachnids (Spiders) » Araneomorphae (typical spiders) » Entelegynes » Thomisidae (Crab Spiders) » Mecaphesa » Mecaphesa asperata (Northern Crab Spider)

Music: Pina Colada

 

Camcorder

Visitor Sightings
 

Report a sighting of this arachnid.

 

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Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.

Dan W. Andree
6/27/2024

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Camouflaged Northern Crab Spider on a... Woolly Milkweed June 27, 2024 Frenchman’s Bluff SNA.

I did another look for this species of milkweed and found it only in two areas of that SNA. I found this one shown in the photo on the western part and counted only 6 with the rounded blooms or whatever they are called (blooming) and 2 plants past the blooming stage. I didn’t find any others in that small area. There are vast areas of the prairie where you could see the plant diversity quite easy especially in the classified real dry type prairie where though the ground was moist from ample rains things seemed sparser and some areas quite shorter than other areas of the prairie.

woolly milkweed
 

The previous photo with the half black bumble I sent earlier that was from up on a hilltop a few were growing on the very upper slope almost at the top. However on the top I noticed none throughout.

I sent info to the Reports MN_NHIS as I feel this plant isn’t common and doesn’t have that diverse of area where it grows at least from the area I checked. Others may be different and I make it clear it is just one area I checked.

That Northern Crab Spider is quite camouflaged. It’s a neat little milkweed too.

Dan W. Andree
June 2024

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

The bumble bee landed on the wild rose blossom and moved around while it fed and the crab spider got spooked and moved away from the bee.

tricolored bumble bee

Dan W. Andree
Spring 2024

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

This crab spider was trying to sneak up on this small metallic green bee at Frenchman’s Bluff SNA Spring 2024. The bee seen the spider when it got right up to it and flew off.

pure green sweat bee
Alfredo Colon
8/28/2022

Location: Albany, NY

northern crab spider
Alfredo Colon
8/26/2022

Location: Albany, NY

northern crab spider
Alfredo Colon
8/11/2022

Location: Albany, NY

northern crab spider
Alfredo Colon
8/4/2022

Location: Albany, NY

northern crab spider
Alfredo Colon
8/3/2022

Location: Albany, NY

northern crab spider
Dan Poretti
8/23/2022

Location: Milaca, MN

northern crab spider
Dan W. Andree
7/5/2022

Location: Norman Co. Mn.

… here is another Northern Crab with its dinner looks like some kind of a damsel fly or similar. That one was at the same area on 7-7-22. It is just a shrunk down 4k frame grab.

northern crab spider
Dan W. Andree
Summer 2022

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Yellow Jacket Wasp. I was surprised it could kill a wasp. Also it could just pick it up and lift it above its head and carry it up the lead plant.

Strong little spider. Came across these two northern crab spiders at Frenchman’s Bluff SNA recently. I’ve never really been into spiders, but these small crab spider species are really interesting and some are nicely colored and quite cute since they are so small. They spook easy as they often scooted under the flower if I approached to suddenly. Even the one with the wasp. It moved and hid behind the lead plant blossoms. I had too slowly and quietly move around to see what it was and what it was doing. I photographed and filmed them since not much else was going on out there and they were interesting little spiders. … the wild rose blossom wasn’t very big either was the spider.

northern crab spider
Mike Poeppe
6/16/2022

Location: just west of Houston, MN

northern crab spider
Margot Avey
5/10/2022

Location: Big Willow Park, Minnetonka, Minnesota

I shot this picture of blood root and after taking the photo discovered there was some kind of a spider or insect on it with wicked looking legs. Could you tell me what kind it is?

bloodroot

Margot Avey
7/21/2021

Location: St. Paul Park, Minnesota

This photo was taken in St Paul Park, Minnesota by my friend Julie. She has given the okay to send it to you.

Interesting flower and matching spider! We have no idea what kind of spider it is.

northern crab spider
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Created: 8/16/2021

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