Crab spider

Just under the petal’s lip sat a small green spider. The fly landed. The petal twitched. The spider’s tidy fangs sank into the fly’s crunchy exoskeleton.

Next day, the spider sat on the same flower, but this time on the upper surface of a petal. The spider held its arms to the sky, keeping utterly still. Even some pokes from a piece of straw did not break its steely immobility. While I watched, no flies came to visit.

Crab spiders add a streak of danger to the cosy relationship between flowers and their pollinators. There are hundreds of species of these spiders (named, of course, for their crabby look while sitting) and in some habitats (e.g., Sewanee’s fall blooming meadows and roadsides) they are quite common. Their sit-and-wait hunting strategy makes them inconspicuous, but close attention (or the movements of unfortunate flies) will reveal their presence.

How many poems feature thorns and roses? Crab spiders seem so much more interesting. Not just the prick of a thorn, but the dying fall of a poisoned bite. And all the fly wanted was to touch its feet to a flower, to sip a drop of nectar. OK, that’s a pretty overworked theme. How about the flower’s perspective? A display of beauty, a straightforward offering of pollen, yet here come the Arachnid riff-raff, ready to knife the honest customers.

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