14 November 2009

Flower Spider - Diaea species 'Mallee'

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Flower Spider - Diaea sp. 'Mallee'

Flower Spiders belong to the Thomisidae family along with 27 genera and nearly 150 Australian species, and this only represents the described ones, as many like the above await scientific classification. There are a number of white spiders in this group, but those in the genus Diaea can be recognised by the eye arrangement that is shaped like a smiley mouth.

These are ambush spiders that normally wait camouflaged on similar brightly colored flowers for a visiting flying insect in hope of a nectar meal, but end up being a meal themselves. Interestingly, the spiders above were not on a blooming flower - one was under a cluster of bright yellow pop-flowers, whilst the other was on a very odorous plant that had finished flowering, but clearly still attracting flying insects, as this spider was waiting exposed on top of a leaf and possibly hoping it looked like an actual flower, which may represent another hunting technique of these spiders.

I have denoted this species as 'Mallee" simply because that is where I found them, although each was on a sandy inclusion with a number of heathland species. The first was encountered at 45 km (28 miles) north of Esperance, whilst the other was 110 km (68 miles) NW of Esperance and were discovered during October/November. Maybe arachnid enthusiasts can just go looking and find these spiders, but I must rely on accidentally crossing their paths when looking at the vegetation, so for me to encounter two of them within a week or so, I suspect they might be common in these more arid inland locations.