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Misumena vatia

What do they look like?

Flowers spiders have short, wide, flat bodies. The first two pairs of legs are larger than the hind legs and held open so that the crab can easily hold its prey. Females are 6 to 9 mm long, males are smaller: 3 to 4 mm. The female is light colored: its back and legs are white or yellow with darker sides, and reddish markings on its abdomen. The male is darker: reddish brown in color with a white spot above the eyes. These colors are variable, and the spiders can change color to match the flower they hide on. Both sexes have small, venomous fangs.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    3.0 to 9.0 mm
    0.12 to 0.35 in

Where do they live?

This species is found in North America and Europe.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Flower spiders often hides on flowers like trillium, white fleabane, or goldenrod. They also may hunt on the ground or on low structures like fences.

How do they grow?

Females lay eggs. The spiderlings that hatch out look like mini-adults. As they grow they have to shed their skins, but they do not change their general shape.

How long do they live?

These spiders probably don't live more than two years, but we don't know for certain.

How do they behave?

Crab spiders easily walk sideways and backwards as well as forward.

They do not spin webs, and only use their silk to protect their eggs.

Crab Spiders will change their color to match the background it is hiding on, usually a flower. It sits on a flower or on the ground and waits for its prey to pass and uses its front legs to grasp it. It uses its small fangs to inject its prey with venom, which paralyzes its prey. It does not wrap its prey with silk, but instead holds the prey until it sucks all of its bodily fluids dry.

What do they eat?

Flower spiders feed on invertebrates. They hunt on the ground or on plants, and are able to attack insects larger then themselves because of their venom. Some of the insects crab spiders feed on are butterflies, grasshoppers, and especially flies and bees.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats non-insect arthropods

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

The main defense of this species is camouflage. It can bite other invertebrates, but that doesn't help against larger animals. Its fangs are too short and its venom is too weak.

Do they cause problems?

This species has no major negative effect on humans. It occasionally eats honeybees, but is probably not a major enemy of them. The bite of this species is not dangerous to people.

How do they interact with us?

This species sometimes feeds on pest insects such as grasshoppers and flies.

Are they endangered?

This is a common species that is not in need of special protection.

Some more information...

This species is sometimes called "flower spider" and "goldenrod spider". They are the most abundant of flower spiders.


Mohammad Mahmoud (author), Fresno City College, Jerry Kirkhart (editor), Fresno City College.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.


an animal that mainly eats meat

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


animals that have little or no ability to regulate their body temperature, body temperatures fluctuate with the temperature of their environment, often referred to as 'cold-blooded'.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which bodily functions slow down, reducing their energy requirements so that they can live through a season with little food.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).


Anaconda II, 1998. ""A Mother's Duty"" (On-line). Accessed October 30, 2000 at

Comstock, J. 1965. The Spider Book. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates.

Kaston, B., E. Kaston. 1956. How To Know The Spiders. Dubuqe, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company.

Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 1997. "Crab Spider" (On-line). Accessed October 30, 2000 at

Preston-Mafham, R. 1991. The book of spiders and scorpions. New York: Quarto publishing.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Mahmoud, M. 2002. "Misumena vatia" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 16, 2014 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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