Green Lynx Spiders

A few years ago, on one of the late season walks, we encountered several dead bumblebees in the chicory along the railway tracks. Closer investigation showed that near each bumblebee was a Green Lynx Spider, Peucetia viridans, one of the more impressive spiders around the Nature Center. As its name suggests this spider is green, in fact the cephalothorax (fused head and thorax) is lime green. The eight eyes form a hexagonal pattern at the peaked front of the cephalothorax. The greenish abdomen has chevron-shaped markings that have some color. The long legs, paler green with dark spots, have a number of long black spines. At maturity, the average female body is a bit shorter than an inch, while the average male is slightly smaller.

Females usually lay their eggs in early fall. The earliest record I have is the beginning of August at Torrey Pines. The latest is January at Blue Sky. There, several years ago in mid-February, I found a dead female's intact body loosely caught in the silk left behind by the activity of her hatched offspring. It seems unlikely that this situation would have persisted through the winter since she and her egg sac were out on an exposed leaf and everything looked relatively fresh. Most females only lay one clutch of eggs, perhaps this one laid two. (Up to 6 clutches have been reported under laboratory conditions.)

The dirty white egg sac, generally spikey and rounded on one side, is loosely anchored to old vegetation, where it blends nicely, especially on plants that have gone to seed. The female usually sits right on top of the sac with her legs wrapped around it, guarding it. After about 25 days her young spiderlings emerge. (Spiderlings undergo their first molt the inside the egg sac, so if you examine the contents of an old spider egg sac under the microscope, you will see a bunch of little spider skins.) They remain near the egg sac for 10 days or more, before dispersing by ballooning. Spiderlings emerge later and stay around longer when the female guards the sac.

This impressive spider makes good use of camouflague and disruptive coloration. One study showed that gravid females can adjust the coloration on their abdomens to blend in with green, purple, yellow and white backgrounds. If you watch for these spiders around the Center, you are sure to notice quite a color range.

Two confirmed incidents of bites by Green Lynx Spiders were documented in the literature in 1973. Both reactions were characterized by a burning sensation and severe itching, accompanied by local swelling and tenderness. No long term problems were indicated. In the one case, the spider had been guarding her eggs; in the other, the spider was on a packing crate that was being handled.

This spider, a favorite of mine and participants on the Bug Walks, is free ranging and can often be found sitting quietly in the tops of the telegraph weeds.

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Ron Lyons (volunteer 1990-1999)
Chula Vista Nature Center, 1000 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910-1201