You never forget your first photo shoot with a jumping spider. I saved Jumping Jack Flash, who’s only about 4 mm and looks like a piece of lint to the naked eye, from a fatal encounter with the mighty monster Hoover. It’s not like I’m a super hero (but I won’t stop you from referring to me as one). I saved him for my own selfish macro-geek desires. I whisked him into a private Dixie cup limo for a short ride to my studio where I could take his portrait before releasing him back to nature. He was not fond of the flash, hence his name, Jumping Jack Flash. I nearly jumped out of my own skin when he jumped out of the frame while I was shooting him. It’s amazing how a mere 4 mm insect can turn a person into such a nervous Nelly!
There are over 5,800 species of the jumping spider ranging 1-25 mm in size. They’re generally recognized for their unique eyes and by far are the cutest of the arachnids. With four pairs of eyes, they have the best vision among the arthropods and use it to court, hunt and navigate. Jumping spiders are found throughout the world. They don’t build orb webs or hang around waiting for a meal. Instead they use their unique ability to jump up to 50 times the length of their body. Even jumping 8 times the length of its body, as one slow-motion video of a jumping spider portrayed, is like a human being jumping the length of a school bus, without a running start. Yet, they have extremely weak back leg muscles. To jump, they increase the blood pressure in their legs which causes them to propel through the air. Prior to jumping, they attach a silk thread as a safety anchor to climb quickly back to its perch if needed.
Insects with excellent vision, such as the jumping spider, often do an elaborate courtship dance to attract mates. If you need entertainment, check out Internet videos of jumping spiders courting a mate. It’s better than watching a basket full of kittens.
Jumping spiders live for about a year. They are carnivorous, eating other insects, but some feed on pollen and nectar. These tiny spiders are capable of ambushing and killing insects much bigger than themselves, such as a honeybee innocently gathering nectar.
At first, I didn’t know if Jack was a he or she, but after reading about the size of the pedipalps of males and female jumping spiders, I am guessing that Jack is male. The males have bigger pedipalps than females, which are located in front of their fangs. The pedipalps are used for grabbing prey and mating. Once they catch their prey, they inject their venom and consume it right away.
Jack wasn’t very happy being confined at first. You would think the little fella would be grateful for the rescue. Instead he was sarcastic: “Thanks for saving me,” he said. “Being stuck in the belly of the monster Hoover would have really sucked.” Great. A jumping spider with a punny attitude. With that, he continued to run around in circles trying to escape his Dixie cup prison.
When he finally settled in and gave up on an escape, and accepted defeat, I took his portrait. Just look at how sad he looks in this portrait! The detail and the uniqueness of such a small creature is astounding. It would be very easy to suck him up in the vacuum without a thought. I’m glad I took the time to get to know Jack, who was happy to be released onto my lavender plant just outside the front door.