An Odd Behavior

They don’t call skippers “skippers” for nothing; they can “skip” away so fast I don’t see them go.

So, when I went in close to take a picture and the skipper stayed there, I knew something was going on.

My suspicions were correct; it was prey to a crab spider. Crab spiders can change color to match the color of the flower they’re on. They ambush their prey, inject it with venom to immobilize it. They then feed until the victim is sucked dry.

The victim was a male fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus). Their wingspan measures 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches.

 When I went out after supper, the skipper lay on the ground. I twisted the stem of the salvia to see the spider. Females are much bigger than the males.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Therese on September 14, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I have been wondering what kind of insect was on my butterfly bushes and sedum. It turns out to be skippers. Thank you. What an observant eye you have!


    • Skippers are common right now. There’s only 54 species listed for Illinois. That includes records seen only 1 or so times, and one in northern Illinois that aren’t down here. Identifying them is quite a challenge! I’m enjoying more than identifying.


  2. I learn something new again! Didn’t know there were spiders who could change color like that- as if they weren’t scary enough already! Ugh, freaks me out, I’m not even going to google and see if they exist in Holland, if they do I don’t want to know about it!! 😉


    • I don’t worry about them at all. The male’s body is only about an 1/8 inch long. They hide in the flowers. This female didn’t even move when I twisted the stem around 3 times. I usually only see them later in the summer. They are quite fascinating.


      • Fascinating but scaaa-ryy 🙂 Still, very glad you posted pictures and explanation, it’s nice to learn something new!

      • Do you have any idea why you’re so scared of spiders?

      • I’ve no idea why, it’s completely irrational. They are very useful good animals who never did me any wrong. It doesn’t make any sense, but I just am.

      • I get a little jumpy around insects that sting, like bumblebees and honey bees. I guess my biggest fear has been with a certain kind of tick that moved into our area and I used to be allergic to their bite. It’s taken years and years to not be allergic to them. I still have a fear of getting into a nest. We only have 2 poisonous spiders. I wouldn’t know one of them if I saw it. The other is the black widow, that I blogged earlier. I’d never even seen one of them until my son gave me one in a jar. My thoughts on the spiders today is that their mouth parts are too small to bite us.

      • As a child I was bitten by European cave spiders, they are big but don’t have enough venom to be seriously dangerous to humans. It did hurt, but not too bad.. As with most things, the fright was worse.

      • I got stung by a bumblebee on my ankle when I was young. It swole up quite a bit. I’m still leary of bumblebees, even though I’ve never been stung by them again … knock on wood.

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