Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Completely out of character

I'm flabbergasted. I've never seen this behaviour before.

Spiders are predators, right? They eat insects, other spiders, even birds, if they're big enough. They don't eat fruit. So what was this one doing with papaya?

Young male philodromus dispar. Apparently eating papaya.

I had cut up a papaya for supper, and when I went to clean up, I found this little guy working on a speck left on the counter. I brushed him away and he returned immediately, twice. After that, I cleaned around him and watched. He stayed with the piece of papaya another 10 minutes or so.

The spider is about 5mm long; it feeds on flies and other insects. It does not build a web, but hunts its prey by remaining stationary in ambush and awaiting prey to come near it. (Wikipedia)

After I wiped the counter clean, he ran about in the area for a while, as if searching, then gave up and went home.

I've still got half a papaya. I'll put out a bit for him tomorrow, to see if he's still interested.

UPDATE: I found an article about this behaviour, by crab spider males. (Philodromus dispar is a crab.)

Adult male crab spiders hardly eat at all. They live mostly on energy from food they captured before maturity. Finding and guarding females can take a lot of effort, though, and some recent studies have found that male crab spiders sometimes dip into flowers and drink nectar, which would provide considerable energy without the extended effort of capturing prey.
Simon Pollard and fellow researchers propose in the journal Animal Behavior that
nectar may also provide male spiders with much-needed liquid. All spiders drink rainwater and dew to replace the body fluids they lose through evaporation. But males lose water faster than females because of their relative size, and they do not gain liquids from consuming insects as females do.
(From Charlotte without a Web)


  1. maybe it had minerals or something he needed. Also, they say the biggest challenge for indoor invertebrates is finding enough water; maybe it was the fluid that was attractive. That said, I used to have a cat that would go bananas for cooked broccoli.

  2. Only you would work around a spider to see what it does. Good for you. - Margy

  3. Sara, That's possible; and who knows what insects taste like; maybe they're fruity, like the papaya.

    Come to think of it, I did have a cat that went crazy over papaya skins, as if they were catnip.

  4. Anonymous12:00 pm

    Actually, I remember an article about how a biologist discovered that male crab spiders drank nectar from flowers. The males wandering in search of females do not catch prey, so topping up on nectar lets them live longer.

    It's possible that this behavior is more widespread than we thought. Also, like the previous poster said, it's possible it was thirsty and was attracted by the moisture

  5. Thanks, Anonymous; I'll have to look up that article. Sounds interesting!

  6. Found it! The full research study is not available for download, but I found a good article. I'll update the post.

  7. I learn much from you. I think I am as surprised as you over this observation...... and glad you found info. regarding this behavior.


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