Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Happy Faced Spider

June 11, 2012

I walked out my front door to go somewhere and what did I find? It was a little furry black spider, the jumper variety, you know the type, it carries a low profile, its knees close to the ground with amazingly good running abilities, to say nothing about its ability to jump, ok, make that "spring" outwardly, when making a fast exit, or catching prey mid air (yes, I have seen it).

This particular spider seemed out of place. First off, its size was odd. One thing I have always loved about jumpers is that they are usually quite small, often in striking patterns, including my favorite, the  ones with the black and white zebra patterns. They can move their eyes around independently which gives the impression of having a sparkle in the eye(s). It's those larger upper pair of eyes that I am referring to, the other six or so may do this too, but I don't want to get close enough to see them. These little tyrants are almost comical to watch at times, and when they are hungry and on the prowl, their jumping abilities are unsurpassed, a feat in itself considering any being, that's contantly juggling 8 legs at one time.

This spider was not small like the normal daylight jumpers in my neighborhood. Nor was it a "fancypant" spider. It was beefy, furred in black or very, very dark brown (another thing I didn't want to get close enough to find out). And it was quite shy. As I approached it, it started moving away from me.

When it felt cornered, it reared its front legs to me, showing (her) fangs as a threat when I lifted my lens in her direction.

Upon viewing these images I now know she is a "she."

All of this told me that her vision was very, very, good. I know that this is a trait of ground spiders who don't hang in webs waiting for prey to come to them, instead, they go out looking for it on their own, so they have very good eyesight.

little leg, who does this belong to?

Our happy face spider was a little over 1/2" long and about 3/8" wide. A half inch is a very large size for our local jumpers which usually range about 1/4"-3/8" especially the little black and white ones, that typically live on our light colored walls, and seem to feel comfortable with our comings and goings in their presence.

Our Happy Faced Spider might just have been a traveling marauder, as it seems to have exited our yard. It was around for about 48 hours, but hasn't been seen since. But I think it left a trail of empty exoskeletons in its wake.  I must say, to exist at her scale, it must be a frightening existence when she suddenly shows up at a party. I dare say, she must be a formidable opponent, a real party crasher.

Darth HappyFace

a.k.a. Phidippus audax (daring jumping spider or bold jumping spider)
**Update!  The Happy Faced Spider has returned!  I am not sure whether it is the same one, but in August 2012, one day I stepped out and there was a Happy Faced spider on my wall again! And shy it was,  just like before. I was in the process of departing so I did not get to watch this spider, but it was definitely a Happy Faced Spider. So that makes two visits now. Funny, I always look at every black spot on the wall now whenever I am coming and going.

note: I posted this because I found a blogger that has also seen this same spider species, as have some of her commenters!

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