The Bold Jumping Spider
Little Spider, Big Attitude
I'll admit it, I'm a big fan of little spiders, especially little wee hairy ones with big attitudes. That's why I wanted to feature the bold jumping spider Phidippus audax (say it with me, fid-DIP-us Ow-dax) for today's post. The name alone says it all, they're small spiders, about the size of those removable pencil erasers on mechanical pencils (6-13 mm), but they've got attitude enough for a mega-spider.
Bold jumping spiders (also known as bold jumpers and daring jumping spiders) are stout and compact, much like other hunting and jumping spiders. They bodies are black and you can find a yellow or white triangle on the abdomens of adults and orange on the abdomens of juveniles. The legs of adults are banded with silver hairs (orange or yellow for juveniles), and each leg ends with two claws. The males have front legs that are a bit thicker and that have tufts of black and silver hair on the ends ("Better to feel you with, my dear! Bwahahahahaaaa!).
Bold jumping spiders have chelicerae (CH-lis-a-ray) or mouth parts are often metallic blue-green (who can resist those emerald mouth parts!?). Males sport bushy eyebrows over their two forward facing eyes, though they have 8 eyes in total wrapping around their head.
If I were to describe the movement and behavior of bold jumping spiders I'd make the analogy of a spider with Sam Elliott, with his deep voice, bushy eyebrows, and cowboy attitude. They're small but they see well, can detect vibrations across the room, and are quick! They'll get out of the way of humans in a heartbeat, but if they're challenged they'll turn and face you while retreating. You have nothing to fear from these little guys. They're not venomous, and the chances of being bitten by one are really slim. They're day-time hunters and don't build a web, they just run around eating other spiders and insects around your house.
Bold jumping spiders are known to hang out around cotton fields, eating pests, as well as under logs and around homes across most of the US. There are great studies out there showing how they pick and choose their prey, how much time they spend sizing things up and chasing them, and the types of flies, arthropods, and other spiders they like to eat. (After all, one does prefer a varied menu!) There are also studies related to how they use visual cues for mating and finding food (after all they have 8 eyes).
If you see a bold jumping spider around your house, just ignore it and let it be. They are useful house guests and manage pests, and just want to be left alone to run around eating bugs. Try watching one and you'll be impressed with these little spiders with big attitudes. They're one of my favorites!