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Lynx Spider

Introduction

In Florida, the green lynx spider, Peucetia viridans (Hentz), is the spider most often received for identification by Division of Plant Industry entomologists. It is a conspicuous, large, bright green spider found on many kinds of shrublike plants throughout the southern United States and is the largest North American lynx spider. Although it is common throughout Florida and aggressively attacks its insect prey, it very seldom bites humans. While its bite is of little concern to humans, the green lynx spider is of interest because of its potential use in agricultural pest management.

Identification

The female P. viridans is a large spider often 12 to 22 mm in length, averaging approximately 16 mm; the more slender, lighter male is somewhat smaller, averaging 12 mm in length. The cephalothorax is highest in the eye region, where it is quite narrow, but broadens out considerably behind. The body is bright transparent green in life (the vivid green pigment washes out rapidly in alcohol), and usually with a red patch between the eyes and with red spots over the body, as a whole varying in number and size. The eye region is clothed with white appressed hairs. Legs are paler green to yellow, quite long and thin, provided with very long, black spines, and covered with numerous black spots, particularly noticeable on the femora. Gertsch (1949) reported distinctive color variations in P. viridans, and Brady (1964) gave means for distinguishing P. viridans from P. longipalpis, particularly the males which have distinctively different genitalia.

Life History, Habits, and Habitat

In North America, P. viridans has one generation a year under field conditions and apparently constructs one egg sac, typically in September and October, although two or more may be constructed in the southern part of its range. After an egg sac is constructed, the female guards it continuously and vigorously. Usually, she hangs upside down from the sac and will rush at anything that threatens it. Each egg sac contains 25 to 600 bright orange eggs, with an average of approximately 200 eggs. Eggs require 11 to 16 days to hatch, depending on air temperature. Each egg transforms to a postembryo (incorrectly called a deutovum in some of the literature). The postembryo of the green lynx, like that of other spiders, is without tarsal claws and mouth parts, and the eyes are functionless. No setae or hairs are present on the body.

The postembryo remains in the egg sac, where it molts after 10 to 16 days. The resulting first instar spiderling has functional eyes, a digestive tract, and spines, and is ready to leave the egg sac. Emergence from the egg sac occurs within 10 to 13 days after the eggs have hatched. The female spider helps the young to emerge by tearing open the egg sac soon after the first postembryos have molted. Unlike the wolf spiders, in an emergency green lynx spiderlings can make their own exit holes from the egg sac. Under field conditions, male and female spiderlings pass through eight instars before reaching sexual maturity, but less may be required under laboratory conditions. Brady (1964) recorded that, “under laboratory conditions the total time from egg sac emergence to maturity, in the case of reared males, averaged 288.6 days; in the case of reared females, 301 days.” Males had six to seven instars; females had seven to eight instars.

Whitcomb et al. (1966) observed that the female constructs her egg sac 21 to 28 days after mating, which occurs in July and August. The egg sac is light green when first constructed but becomes straw colored with age. It is a rounded object 1.5 to 2.5 cm in diameter and flattened on one side; the thick outer coating has many small, pointed projections, with a maze of silken threads extending from the egg sac to nearby leaves and stems, investing the whole branch in a silken web where the young can remain until they are ready to fend for themselves. Most egg sacs are constructed in the upper branches of woody shrubs. Green lynx spiders overwinter as early instar spiderlings.

The green lynxes, like other Oxyopidae, are diurnal hunting spiders which run over low shrubs and herbs with great agility, leaping from place to place with a precision excelled only by the true jumping spiders. Their relatively keen eyesight is comparable to that of the wolf and fishing spiders. However, they may pause and assume a characteristic prey-catching posture to await their victims. Although they trail a dragline even when jumping, they do not make use of webs to capture their prey. The North American oxyopids are recognized readily in the field by the presence of numerous, large, erect spines on the legs and by their quick darting movements and sudden leaps.