Misumena vatia
(Golden-rod Crab Spider)

Taxonomic Hierarchy

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Suborder: Araneomorphae
  • Family: Thomisidae
  • Genus: Misumena
  • Species: Misumena vatia

Common Name (AASMore information icon)

Golden-rod Crab Spider

Other Common Names

Flower Crab Spider, Yellow Crab Spider, White Crab Spider, Smooth Crab Spider

Author

Carl Alexander Clerck, 1757

Pronunciation

miz-YOU-men-uh VAY-tee-uh

Identification Traits

Disclaimer: The following table provides a quick overview of the spider's basic attributes. The physical traits are greatly generalized in order to aid in the identification and sorting of spider species using our search feature. This information is not exhaustive, and keep in mind that traits such as color, markings, and overall size and shape can vary widely within a species due to variables such as the spider's age, gender, diet, hydration level, climate, and habitat. Though experienced arachnologists and hobbyists can often classify spiders rather accurately based on their unique markings and general appearance, it's important to know that scientifically accurate spider identification relies on detailed taxonomic keys and microscopic examinations of a spider's reproductive organs.

Female iconFemale Male iconMale
Body size More information icon 6mm - 11mm 2.5mm - 4mm
Eye count 8
Primary Colors
Identifying Traits Smooth or shiny appearance, Unique pattern, Patternless, Lengthwise stripe(s), Striped or banded legs, Legs solid color


Additional Remarks

  • This spider has crab-like leg posture and gait.
  • The front pair of legs are much longer and stronger than the short rear pairs.
  • In females the abdomen is widest at the posterior (back) end, appearing as a rounded triangle shape from above; it is also somewhat flattened in a side view.
  • Adult males of this species are only about 1/4 to 1/3 the size of the adult females.
  • In females, the area in between the eyes is usually a bright color like yellow, orange, or red.
  • Goldenrod flowers and milkweed are well-known habitats for this species.
  • Because they live and hunt on flowers, the majority of their diet includes pollinators (e.g. bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, moths, syrphid flies, etc). Males often eat flower pollen to fuel themselves during their quest for mates.
  • Primarily daytime feeders, but they’re also known to feed late into the night on warm days when insect activity is high, which suggests they are not solely dependent on their vision for capturing prey.
  • This species usually only has one egg sac (brood) in their lifetime. The female will fold over the tip of a leaf and web it together, then deposit her eggs inside the “pocket.” She guards the eggs until her death.
  • This is one of the few spiders in North America that are capable of actively changing their body color from yellow to white, or vice versa, depending on the flower they are perched on. They do this by transferring a liquid pigmented material to the cuticle. The color change can take anywhere from one to twenty days to complete, it is not instantaneous.
  • The “Goldenrod crab spider” is one of the most well-known and studied species in the world. At least one book, “Predator upon a Flower: Life History and Fitness in a Crab Spider” by Douglass Morse (2007), contains the entire account of almost anything you could ever want to know about the species. Numerous other research papers have been written on such subjects as their ability to change color, their nesting techniques, their vision, their choice of feeding spots, and many other things.
  • Related field guide errata: note that in the book “Spiders of the Carolinas” by L.L. Gaddy (2009), there is an image of a male Misumenoides formosipes on page 163 that is labeled incorrectly as a male Misumena vatia. Also in that same book, on the next page, is an image of an immature male Misumena vatia incorrectly labeled as a female Misumenoides formosipes. Additionally, in the book “Spiders of the Eastern United States” by Howell & Jenkins (2004), on page 289, although both images are labeled as Misumena vatia, the top image is actually a female in the genus Mecaphesa (note all the prominent spines on carapace and abdomen) and the bottom image is an adult male Misumenoides formosipes. (If you have this book and are looking at it presently, the adjacent page 288 shows a female species of Xysticus, not a Bassaniana versicolor as it is labeled. There are some additional errors in these books and others, too.)

Featured Pictures

Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Dorsal Enlarge picture icon
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Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Female - Eyes Enlarge picture icon
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Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Female - Dorsal Enlarge picture icon
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Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Female - Dorsal Enlarge picture icon
  • Check iconFamily Check iconGenus Check iconSpecies
  • Submitted Calendar iconJun 24, 2016
  • Photographed Picture iconJul 14, 2013
  • Copyright icon Vincent Lucas
  • SpiderID
    spiderid (Submitted by)
  • Sex icon
    Female
  • Location iconBlue Mountain Overlook, Deer Park, Olympic National Park, Washington, United States
  • Comment icon0 Comments
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Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Female - Dorsal Enlarge picture icon
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Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Female - Dorsal Enlarge picture icon
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Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Female - Dorsal,Eyes Enlarge picture icon
  • Check iconFamily Check iconGenus Check iconSpecies
  • Submitted Calendar iconJun 24, 2016
  • Photographed Picture iconJun 29, 2011
  • Copyright icon skinheaddave at ProjectNoah.org
  • SpiderID
    spiderid (Submitted by)
  • Sex icon
    Female
  • Comment icon0 Comments
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Picture of Misumena vatia (Golden-rod Crab Spider) - Female - Dorsal Enlarge picture icon
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