Misumena vatia (Goldenrod Crab Spider)

Female Misumena vatia (Goldenrod Crab Spider) on Oxeye Daisy, with Bombus spp prey

While it’s always a happy occurrence for me to find Misumena vatia on a flower, it is much less so for visiting pollinators. These ambushing spiders often capture prey larger than they are, because all they need to do is grasp it with their long, strong, front 2 pairs of legs (which are much longer than the rear pairs), bite it to inject fast acting venom, and hold on till the struggles are over. 

Female Goldenrod Crab Spider on Daucus carota

Goldenrod Crab Spiders exhibit significant sexual dimorphism. The females are much larger (6-9mm), and have a different pattern than the males (3-4mm). And the females, but not the males, can actually change color from white to yellow and back again, to blend in with the flower they have chosen as their ambush site! There is still research being done to establish exactly how this is accomplished, but it appears to involve secretion of yellow pigments when the visual cues indicate that is the background color. That process can take 10-25 days. But they can excrete those pigments and become mostly white again in 4-6 days.

Male Misumena vatia

While the fact of this chameleon like change is well documented, and the process is being studied, the reasons for it remain a mystery. It had always been assumed that it gave the spider an advantage in securing prey, or avoiding predation. And some studies seem to bear that out. But others, conducted after it was discovered that bees see UV light, but non-UV reflecting spiders perch on UV reflecting flowers, showed no correlation between camouflaged spiders and non-camouflaged spiders and their rates of prey securement or predation avoidance. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating phenomenon!

Not a welcome sight when all you want is a little nectar!Female Misumena vatia

Goldenrod crab spider • Misumena vatia



Size- Females 6-9mm; male 3-4mm

Habitat- Usually in open areas

Range- Region wide 

Eats- Bees, flies, Lepidoptera and other pollinators 

Season- Adults are found from May to October in our region. 

Misumena vatia
Goldenrod Crab Spider
Misumena vatia

4 thoughts on “Misumena vatia (Goldenrod Crab Spider)”

  1. June 1st, 2023 I found a goldenrod crab spider on a carnation. I`m in Washington state close to the Pacific Ocean. Are these rare?

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