As I stood in my kitchen cooking dinner earlier this evening my eyes were drawn to movement on the window screen above the sink. The pattern of the movement was familiar, and I quickly recognized it as belonging to one of my favorite groups of arachnids, the jumping spiders. When I focused on the spider herself, I found that she was rather large by local jumping spider standards, and a fair bit darker than I am used to seeing as well. Needless to say, she had my full attention, and I was immediately sucked into her world as she patrolled the screen in search of a meal.
I grabbed my camera and took a few photos of her. It was clear that she was aware of my presence, and I think that is one thing that has always fascinated me about these particular spiders. Most spiders seem to react with panic when they realize something large and potentially threatening is nearby. They jump off their webs trailing their safety line behind them or they run as quickly as they can for cover. The jumping spiders I have encountered, including the individual I saw today, always turn to face the unknown. If they see a finger approaching they either back cautiously away or throw caution to the wind and jump on it. Once they have landed, they go about their business as if they are simply walking on another inanimate piece of the earth. They are intriguing little animals and they actually have a lot of personality.
As I was photographing the spider on my window screen, a house fly landed about a foot below her. The spider saw the fly immediately and a tension that looked a lot like excitement gripped her body. Her movement pattern changed, and she closed the distance between her and the fly in a series of short, quick forward bursts. She closed within about a half inch of the fly and then pounced. Her jump was so fast that to my eyes it looked as if she had just teleported a distance that was roughly twice the length of her body. One second she was a half-inch away from the fly, and the next she was directly over it, holding it in her jaws.
The fly struggled weakly for a moment or two, but it was clear that the spider’s venom was quickly taking hold. Once the fly was subdued, the spider climbed upward. She disappeared into the tracks at the top of the window to eat her meal in private. It was now time for my meal as well, so I left her to enjoy hers in peace.