The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bold Jumping Spider

The Bold Jumping Spider. (Photo by Kay Fairweather)

This is the second appearance of the Bold Jumping Spider in this column. The first was on June 18, 2004, when Tom Brownrigg wrote about the one he had found once in his shower. (You can read the archived version online at

On June 11 this year, Leslie Thomas found one in her living room and bold, like the spider, she pounced on it. She brought it over to me and we were so taken by the face-like markings on the abdomen that we thought it was a good topic to save for Halloween. The fact that it is black and hairy only makes it more suitable. Leslie has since found other jumping spiders inside the beehives.

Name. The Bold Jumping Spider is Phidippus audax and is also known as the Daring Jumping Spider. There are more than 5,000 species of jumping spiders worldwide and maybe 300 species in North America where Phidippus is one of the more common genera. They are called jumping spiders because of how they catch their prey. Their eyes are among the best of all invertebrates and they use them to spot prey animals. They then attach a silk thread as a safety line (it’s easier to be bold when you have a safety line) and jump onto the victim.

Would it make you scream? When I first saw the spider with its fourth pair of legs alongside the abdomen I thought they looked like arms held up on either side of its open-mouthed “face” and I couldn’t help thinking of Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream.” I decided to call the spider Ed.

When I checked the images of the painting and the spider side-by-side, I could see that the painting conveys something scream-worthy while my friend Ed looks more like a happy fellow jumping for joy. It is as if the person in the painting is the victim of a very scary trick, while Ed is the recipient of a treat like a bagful of candy or some tasty flies. At the true head-end of the spider there is a pair of bright green chelicerae or jaws which are equipped with fangs designed to deliver poison.

Should you be scared? These spiders are known to bite humans but the bite is typically not severe. It is most likely to happen if you are gardening without gloves and inadvertently threaten one to the point where it feels it has to defend itself. The spider is not going to mistake a person for prey and jump onto it – unless it makes exceptions on Halloween! ∆

Submissions. Please feel free to write up some species you have found in Carlisle in the wild. In the case of the spider, the “wild” includes your shower or your living room. Don’t feel limited.

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito