Green Lynx Spider
By Doug Moore
Around the Proctor Trailhead, the verdant greens of summer have mostly faded into the tan, ochre, and gold of fall. Here and there, seemingly random tangles of cobwebs bind together the tops of dried grass stalks or nearly leafless mimosa branches. Shimmering in the sunlight, these small spider webs appear nothing more than a random, lifeless mess, but a closer look reveals treasure. These are the nursery webs of the Green Lynx Spider; at the heart of each snarl is a pearly silk egg sac guarded ferociously by a vigilant mama spider willing to take on all comers!
The Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans, is our largest member of a family of day-light active hunting spiders related to wolf and fishing spiders. They are a beautiful green color, as if cut from translucent jade, with cream and rose markings along the abdomen. Their long legs are covered with prominent black spines and a matte of white hairs surrounds the peculiar hexagonal arrangement of their eight eyes. Females are larger than males and have more prominent abdomen.
Possessing relatively keen eyesight, these agile spiders are nomadic hunters, running quickly over low vegetation and jumping with precision. Lynx spiders actively hunt and ambush prey, spinning only a silk “dragline” for safety against falling wherever they go, rather than building a web. They are often seen poised motionless in a ready, prey-catching posture around flowers awaiting pollinators. Often locally abundant and effectively camouflaged amongst the foliage, Green Lynx Spiders are major predators of insects, readily catching beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, honey bees, wasps, - even bumble bees twice their size.
Here in Madera Canyon, lynx spiders produce one generation of young per year. Going through eight molts, these spiders require some 280 to 300 days to reach maturity in June and July; the new adults mate in July and August. Some 21 to 28 days after mating, females construct an egg sac suspended in a maze of silk - the nursery web - and lay an average of 200 eggs inside. Females remain in the nursery web and defend eggs and young with great vigor! The eggs hatch in 11 to 16 days, but the helpless spiderlings remain in the sac until after their first molt in about one and one-half weeks. After this molt, the female helps the young emerge by tearing open the egg sac. Her babies then congregate in the nursery web for some time after emerging, taking full advantage of motherly protection. Like many of our canyon arthropods, adult lynx spiders do not seem to live through the first hard freeze, but the spiderlings amazingly over-winter.
Those that survive the elements and predation go on to perpetuate the species for another generation in the Madera Canyon cycle of life.