Ohio’s Natural Enemies: Jumping Spiders

ENT-74
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Date: 
01/13/2016
Mary Griffith, Ohio State University Extension
Mary M. Gardiner, Department of Entomology

Jumping spiders, in the order Araneae and family Salticidae, are among the most prevalent spiders in home gardens in Ohio. With over 70 species in 32 genera of jumping spiders in Ohio, this family displays wide diversity in appearance, including size and color. This fact sheet discusses the interesting life history of these species and highlights a few species of jumping spiders to watch for in Ohio gardens.

With excellent vision unparalleled by other arthropods, and quick, precise, leaping abilities, jumping spiders are active and skilled hunters. Jumping spiders are generalist predators capable of feeding on a wide diversity of arthropods. Their diets and food preferences are highly dictated by the food sources available to them. Jumping spiders may feed on small, soft-bodied insects such as aphids and scales, but they also feed on larger insects such as grasshoppers and cockroaches. They may even feed on other spiders. In home landscapes where insect pests are widely available as prey, jumping spiders may provide valuable pest management services as natural enemies, suppressing pest populations through feeding.

In the absence of prey, jumping spiders also feed on pollen and nectar. Gardeners can promote jumping spider populations by growing a diversity of flower plants, providing the spiders with protein and sugar sources during times of low prey availability.

Identification

Salticidae is the largest family of spiders, including over 5,000 described species. Currently 79 species in 32 genera have been documented in Ohio. Like all spiders, jumping spiders have segmented bodies consisting of a prosoma (cephalothorax) and opisthosoma (abdomen), as well as four pairs of legs and one pair of pedipalps, which serve as sensory organs that assist with prey capture and feeding.

Jumping spiders are somewhat stocky spiders with flattened bodies and square-shaped prosomata. They have short, stout legs, with longer pairs of legs in front (for grasping prey), and two shorter pairs in back, utilized for jumping.

Jumping spiders are easily distinguished from other spiders by their eye pattern (Figure 1), with one very large pair at the front and center of the cephalothorax and three pairs of smaller lateral eyes allowing for very wide peripheral vision. Jumping spiders can also see color, which is unusual for spiders. Jumping spiders’ large eyes and panoramic eye arrangement allow them to observe other organisms including prey, predators and mates at distances of up to 12 inches. These spiders’ uniquely fine vision influences their habits, including hunting and courtship.

Males of many species exhibit different color patterns than females. Typically, males have tufts of brightly colored hair on their abdomens, legs or chelicerae, which they use to attract females during their courtship dances (Figure 2). Females are often less ornate, typically exhibiting in neutral tones.

Figure 1. Jumping spiders’ unique eye arrangement allows them almost panoramic vision. Figure 2. Male salticids perform elaborate courtship dances to entice females, displaying their ornate appendages.

Feeding and Hunting

Jumping spiders do not rely on webs to capture prey. They hunt during the daytime, utilizing their excellent vision to identify and stalk prey from a distance. Jumping spiders are capable of launching distances up to 29 times their body length. Unlike other jumping arthropods that utilize large leg muscles, these spiders employ a hydraulic system as a jumping mechanism. Changes in blood pressure produce the “jump.” After slowly stalking unsuspecting prey from a distance (Figure 3), jumping spiders pounce with great velocity, controlling their paths with great precision through the release of a silk “dragline” that follows the spider as it hurls towards its victim. Jumpers grasp prey with their two front legs (Figure 4), and bite prey to inject paralyzing venom. Although jumping spiders can be very small (1-22 mm in length), their hunting abilities and use of venom allow them to consume large arthropods such as grasshoppers, moths and other spiders. In the absence of prey, jumping spiders feed on pollen and nectar (Figure 5).

Figure 3. A cardinal jumper, Phidippus cardinalis, stalks an unsuspecting grasshopper. Figure 4. Jumping spiders’ hunting skills and venom allow them to feed on prey many times their own size. Shown here, a jumping spider (Phidippus sp) grasps prey with palps. Figure 5. A female Habronattus decorus watches a male’s attempts to allure her with courtship displays. 

Life Cycle

Like all spiders, jumping spiders undergo gradual metamorphosis. Adults lay eggs, which hatch into spiderlings and molt several times to mature. While jumping spiders do not use silk to trap prey, they use silk to construct nests used as shelter from inclement weather, and to guard against predators as they molt. Once mature, male jumping spiders attract mates through visual displays and elaborate courtship dances in which they display their ornate features through a series of postures and motions. Courtship dances may include bobbing, twitching, zigzagging, swaying, pulsating abdomens and other behaviors. Males may be seen waving legs or bowing to raise their abdomen, depending on the pattern of their coloration. Females watch the courtship attempts from a distance (Figure 6). Eventually, the male will approach the female and touch her with his palps. If she does not respond with aggression, he will climb onto her back and inseminate her indirectly, depositing sperm with his pedipalp.

If a male encounters a nest holding a female (Figure 7), he may touch the nest with his legs and vibrate or probe the nest to get her attention. If the female within the nest is an immature stage, he may enter the nest and cohabitate until she reaches maturity and is ready to mate.

Figure 6. A female Habronattus decorus watches a male’s attempts to allure her with courtship displays.  Figure 7. A female jumping spider (Phidippus sp) retreats to a nest constructed of spider silk for protection for predators and inclement weather.
Refer​ences

Bradley, R. 2015. The Provisional List of Ohio Spiders. osumarion.osu.edu/SpiderWeb/provisional_spider_list.pdf.
Gardiner, M.M. 2015. Good Garden Bugs. Quarry Books. Beverly, Massachusetts. 176 pages.
Jackson, R.R. 1977. An analysis of alternative mating tactics of the jumping spider Phidippus johnsoni (Araneae, Salticidae). Journal of Arachnology: 185-230.
Parry, D.A. and Brown, R.H.J. 1959. The jumping mechanism of salticid spiders. Journal of Experimental Biology 36(4): 654-664.
Peckham, G.W. 1909. Revision of the Attidae of North America.
Robinson, M.H. 1982. Courtship and mating behavior in spiders. Annual Review of Entomology 27: 1-20.

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