Spiders Use Flower Ultraviolet Patterns to Attract Prey

February 25, 2003

Those clever spiders! Some spiders use sticky webs to trap a tasty meal. Other spiders hide in the ground, and then pounce on unsuspecting prey. Scientists have discovered a new way in which some spiders trap their favorite food (honeybees). Australian crab-spiders (Thomisus spectabilis) interfere with the ultraviolet signals on flowers to attract honeybees.

Humans, who cannot see ultraviolet signals, have a difficult time seeing camouflaged Australian crab-spiders on the petals of the white daisy. Honeybees, however, can see ultraviolet light and are attracted to the patterns that spiders make on the flower petals. When given a choice between landing on a flower with or without a spider, honeybees preferred the flower WITH the spider about 80% of the time. Australian crab-spiders apparently create a color pattern that bees find hard to resist. And then...the spider has a tasty meal.

Reference: Heiling, A.M., Herberstein, M.E. and Chittka, L. Crab-spiders manipulate flower signals. Nature, 421:334, 2003.

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