Home | Arachnids | Jumping Spiders – Captive Care, New Species and a Surprise (They Watch Videos!)

Jumping Spiders – Captive Care, New Species and a Surprise (They Watch Videos!)

Phidippus audaxHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  As a bug-hunting child, I was once startled to come upon a housefly that appeared to be walking on its hind legs.  Closer inspection revealed that the unfortunate insect was being carried in a head-up position by a Jumping Spider.  I was aware that a variety of these brilliantly-colored little beasts inhabited my Bronx neighborhood, and became interested in how they managed to capture such elusive prey without a web. I began reading and collecting, and was soon fascinated by their keen eyesight and cat-like stalking techniques.  They would follow my finger, leap on a feathers pulled by a string, and even display to a mirrors. 

I’ve recently learned that biologists are showing videos to Jumping Spiders in an attempt to learn more about their remarkable eyes (which allow for forward, backward, an sideways vision simultaneously), and that a new ant-mimicking Jumping Spider with enormous fangs has turned up in Borneo.  I’ll highlight this new information below, and review their natural history and captive care. 

A 360 Degree Field of Vision

Animals that are on the menus of other creatures generally have eyes set well back and to the sides of their heads.  This arrangement gives mice, deer and others a wide field of vision, with the only bind spots being well to their rear.  Predators, such as foxes and hawks, usually have forward-facing eyes, to allow for accurate focusing on prey.

Jumping Spiders, which are both predator and prey, take vision a step further.  Research recently published in the journal Royal Society Biology Letters establishes that their eye placement and function allows for a field of vision that is very close to 360 degrees.  In effect, Jumping Spiders can see directly behind their bodies, to all sides, and forwards – simultaneously!  In lab experiments, the spiders watched both videos and people’s actions with apparent interest (I’m not sure how much they understood, but then again I miss a lot as well!).   As most spiders see very little in the way of detail, these advanced abilities are quite surprising. 

A Unique Visual System

University of Massachusetts researchers discovered that the retinas of the 2 principal eyes are shaped like boomerangs.  These retinas rest in tubes located within the spiders’ heads.  By moving these tubes, Jumping Spiders can scan a very wide area about the body.  This method of visualizing the environment has not been previously recorded.  The principal eyes also see color and detect ultraviolet light.  Ultraviolet light enhances the spiders’ colors, and plays a role in species recognition and courtship. 

Six secondary eyes, located on the sides and rear of the head, detect motion and detail, and also allow the spiders to see objects directly behind the body. 

Future Research

Researchers hope that further study will reveal how Jumping Spider brains process visual images, knowledge that may offer insights into the workings of our own eyes and brains. 

Natural History

The Jumping Spider family, Salticidae, is the spider world’s largest.  Nearly 5,000 species have been described, and many more, no doubt, await discovery.  Jumping Spiders may be found in habitats ranging from rainforests and deserts to cities and seashores.  I’ve collected several species, each varying in color and size, within NYC.

Hunting Techniques

Jumping Spider with preyI’ve always been fascinated by those Jumping Spiders known as “ant mimics”. Their bodies have an insect-like “waist”, and they move about with jerky steps, in imitation of their favorite food. Some even hold the front pair of legs upright, so that they seem to bear antennae! Thus disguised, they are able to approach ants without being attacked.  I imagine the spiders also gain some protection from predators by being associated with ant colonies. Please see this article for photos of an amazing, huge-jawed ant mimic recently discovered in Borneo.

In addition to stalking their prey with cat-like stealth, Jumping Spiders utilize other hunting styles.  Several have been observed to take detours when moving in on a potential meal. Amazingly, these detours sometimes place the spiders in positions where they cannot see the insect being stalked.  Whether “planning” or memory comes into play is not yet known.

Several Jumping Spiders specialize in capturing web-building spiders, inducing their prey into striking range by vibrating webs in imitation of a trapped insect. Some even rappel into webs on silk strands! 

Small Legs, Long Leaps

Unlike the large rear legs of grasshoppers and other notable jumpers, those of Jumping Spiders are smaller than the front legs.  Rather than relying upon muscle strength, Jumping Spiders utilize hydraulic pressure to facilitate their amazing leaps. 

Jumping Spiders in Captivity

Jumping Spider with preyI cannot understand why so few spider enthusiasts keep these fascinating creatures. Active by day and extremely bold, Jumping Spiders will reveal much about their lifestyles in small, simple enclosures. In contrast to nearly every other spider, they will follow your movements with interest. The colors and mating dances of the males are thrilling to observe, and captive breeding is possible. Please post questions below if you would like detailed information on their care.

Jumping Spiders are not known to be dangerously toxic, but should not be handled as their venoms are not well-studied.  Spiders can be gently nudged into a plastic container via tongs when being collected or transported.

Jumping Spider fans may also be interested in keeping the Giant Crab or Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda venatoria), a species I’ve collected and bred over many years; please see this article for further information.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.  Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

 

Further Reading

Video: Jumping Spider capturing a bee

Swimming, Web-Tossing and other Odd Spider Hunting Techniques

Jumping Spider Natural History and Diversity

Ancient Spider and Prey Preserved in Amber

 

Phidippus audax image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Kilarin
Jumping Spider with prey image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Casliber

Jumping Spider anterior image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by JonRichfield

19 comments

  1. avatar

    Hello, Im just curious as to the care of jumpers in captivity. Can I basically mimic a Tarantula care, mist keep humidity reasonable and good ventilation? Misting occasionaly for water should they need it? Fruitflies and pin heads? What about “communal” tanks?

    Any information would be nice. Thanks.

  2. avatar

    Hi,

    Thanks for your interest; Yes, keep as you describe…normal room temps fine for native species; you can feed various insects collected nearby or crickets, etc. They are esp fond of moths, flies, and interesting to watch them catch these. Can take soft-bodied insects that are nearly as large as spider itself.

    Provide upright bark slabs or similar for climbing; if given lots of space, climbing surfaces, several of same species may co-exist, although losses possible during mating.

    Nepenthes are among my favorite plants….

    Please keep me posted,
    Best, Frank

  3. avatar

    Hello,

    Though I’m not quite fond of spiders(yet!), I caught a bold jumping spider (the ones with the green-ish fangs) and I was wondering how often to feed him. He has a nice home in a container with plenty of ventilation, some twigs to crawl on, dirt, leaves, and I mist it when it gets too dry. On the first day he ate a large fly but he hasn’t been interested in hunting since then, it’s been almost a week. Any tips?

  4. avatar

    Hi Aurora,

    A large fly likely weighs almost as much as the spider; they need very little food, and the meal could easily hold him for several more days. Appetite is largely controlled by temperature; spiders can adjust their metabolisms in accordance with food availability, so don’t worry. Animals about to molt, males in search of a female, and females carrying eggs often go off feed as well. Enjoy and pl let me know if you need anything , best, Frank

  5. avatar

    wondering how to get ahold of some jumping spiders to care for? can you buy them or do you just have to catch them? very new to caring for spiders but I love the little jumpers who I can usually play around with and observe for long periods of time before they get bored?

  6. avatar

    Hi Adam,

    They are not offered for sale very often; but a surprising variety can often be collected. best source for them, and other native inverts, is Hatari Invertebrates in Arizona. I’ve also see one of the larger species, the Regal Jumping Spider, on the Glades Herp (Fla) list from time to time, Enjoy, Best, Frank

  7. avatar

    My fiance tried feeding our jumping spider ants, he put 4 in the container with the spider and the ants attacked and ripped one of its back legs off :( will he be ok? What can I do??

  8. avatar

    Hi Jennifer,

    Ants are tough customers, especially in groups! Spiders eat some species, but best to avoid. The spider should be fine; the leg may grow back during the next molt.
    Best, Frank

  9. avatar

    Our regal has been acting sick. She has a nice spider / sm. critter cage and she used to stay up in the corner but the last few days can’t make it to her corner and falls when she gets about half way there. She has been tucking her legs so i dont think she is going to molt and we keep water in her cage. Weve had her going on 3 months and im worried about her. What can we do to help her feel better? We completely cleaned her cage tonight top to bottom and lined the bottom with soil and rocks and instead of a real stick i put a fake one in because i was not sure if the twigs i had n before could have caused her to feel ill. She has a cave stone too with shredded paper towels to have a dark place to go. I don’t know what else to do. Plz help our Charlotte.

  10. avatar

    Hi Leah,

    If the trouble is related to a molt, higher humidity may help…try spraying heavily, and cover most of the air vents with plastic. Unfortunately, we know little about their health problems. Related species live for 12-18 months, but I’m not sure about this species; I’ve written to an arachnologist friend for further info and will get back to you as soon as he responds,

    Best, Frank

  11. avatar

    Hello Leah,

    Just heard back from arachnologist…Regal Jumping Spiders live for 1 year on average; that span might be extended a bit in captivity; if the spider was acquired as an adult, it may be nearing the end of it’s life cycle. You can breed this species…please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  12. avatar

    Hi Frank! Great article.

    I’m interested in any insight you could share on the breeding of jumpers, particularly the care of young spiderlings. Thanks!

  13. avatar

    Hi Patty,

    Thanks for the kind words. Males often vary greatly from females in color, so a good field guide would be useful. You can usually keep several together if they are provided with plenty of room, lots of climbing surfaces..bark slabs, etc., plants; losses possible when mating or if rearing young together, but less so than with most other spiders. Hatchlings can be fed fruit flies, pinhead or 10 day old crickets…aphids, if available, are an excellent food source. Please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  14. avatar

    I have this regal jumping spider (named steve). he has been living in our room. how would you suggest i feed him.(my room is literally his cage. he enjoys climbing the walls.) we also have a cat that likes eating bugs so we have to watch the kitty.

  15. avatar

    Hello Courtney,

    Easiest way might be to buy small crickets at a pet store; placing a cricket in the frig for 5 min will slow it down, assuring the spider will catch it quickly if placed nearby. Use a feeding tongs or long tweezers if you are putting it near the spider, as they react to movement…not sure if it could break your skin, but this is a possibility. Waxworms if avail at store are easier to use, as they move little and can be stored in frig indefinitely. P keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  16. avatar

    I’m interested in keeping jumpers but I’m not sure the best type of enclosure for them. I don’t want their prey to get out and I’m having a hard time finding enclosures with small enough vents or henge openings for feeding. Any suggestions?

  17. avatar

    Hello Elizabeth,

    You can buy plastic insect screening in small rolls at a hardware store/home depo and attach this to the inside of the cover that comes with a standard plastic terrarium..use silicone or even duct tape, just make sure take in firmly attached so spider does not get stuck.

    Or you can use cheesecloth or any type of thin material, i.e. a piece of an old cotton shirt etc to form the first layer…hold on via rubber band. Mason jars, large jars designed to hold snacks, or globe-shaped goldfish bowls (these are ideal) are also fine..cut some material or insect screening for the cover and secure with a rubber band. Enjoy, Frank

  18. avatar

    Hey frank! Just wanted to know where you could possibly get a jumping spider around in Las Vegas. I have had at least 10 different types of jumping spiders but I usually would let them go. The only jumping spider I had the longest was all orange and fuzzy looking… So I named him cheeto… I had him for a good amount of time and then he or she molted and had black legs and an orange body wanted to know if you could tell me what type of jumping spider this is… Being a big fan of exotic animals and bugs/arachnids after cheeto died I asked my parents if they would buy me a truantula which I have… Thanks for any help and good article!

  19. avatar

    Hello Gregory,
    Thanks for the kind words. They do not often appear in the trade…best bet would be to check the classified sections of spider interest sites, such as Arachnoboards; Glades Herp has offered the regal jumping spider on occasion also. ID via color can be difficult, as populations vary, but feel free to send some details…where collected etc and I’ll see what I can do, best, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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