A welcome surpise in the garden this summer was the appearance of a female Green Lynx spider on a Wild Cotton milkweed plant.
The Green Lynx is native to most of the southern half of the US from the east to west coasts and south through Mexico, Central America, Columbia and Venezuela.
A spiny-legged denizen of the class Arachnida, Peucetia viridans does not construct a web. Instead she strings drag lines.
Our resident Green Lynx strung one long line and a few shorter lines of silk that were anchored at each end. Her version of a web. My eyes were focused farther out each time I walked through her longest drag line and destroyed her work. The line was usually rebuilt by the next morning. After repeating my mistake three times, I figured out that it was her line. From then on I chose my path around it with care. The long line ran for three or four feet from one corner of the house to a leaf on the milkweed where she waited, camouflaged among bright green leaves that matched her primary color.
With a drag line, a spider can detain unwary prey in a sticky tangle, then pull it towards her via the line. While the line may trap hapless insects (or the occasional lumbering human), much of the Green Lynx’s hunting involves watching for prey to approach her, or the active pursuit of prey by stalking and chasing it. Either way, like her namesake, once it is in range, she pounces on her target. While waiting for prey to approach, or defending her egg sac, she hangs upside down on a leaf or the egg sac, where she may remain motionless for hours, perhaps days.
The Green Lynx that lives in our yard has held her body flush against her egg sac since mid-December. She moves quickly toward the threat of a human-held leaf touched to a leg, but is otherwise still, probably conserving energy for her vigil. She is looking lean and worn at this point, much smaller than she was in her prime.
When conditions are right and they are ready, anywhere from 25 to 600 spiderlings will hatch. As postembryos not yet able to see, hunt or eat, they will remain within the egg sac for approximately 10-16 days. The female spider will continue her vigil during this interval.
After each spiderling completes its first molt, it will be equipped with the eight eyes, mouth and claws that it lacked as a postembryo. Her vigil near its end, the female will assist her brood in exiting the sac by tearing it open. If she happens to go missing before that moment, her young can tear their own way out with their claws.
In this spider species, the emerging young are not reported to prey upon their mother. My hope is that when they do emerge, they pursue the non-native Oleander aphids that pester all varieties of milkweeds in my mostly native garden.