A couple of weeks ago, shortly after my friend Rich and I began hiking a 9-mile stretch of the North Fork Section of the Ozark Trail in the far southern reaches of Missouri, we encountered this colorful jumping spider (family Salticidae) on the foliage of an oak sapling. He was not at all in the mood to be photographed—dashing persistently from one side of the leaf to the other and finally dropping to the ground as I tried to close in for some shots. So active was the little guy, that even had I managed to get him within the camera’s field of view it would have been nearly impossible to get him properly focused, much less achieve a nice composition. Hoping he would be a little easier to work with in the confines of a hotel “studio”, we coaxed him into a vial with a sprig of foliage and then got him out and placed him on a branch of dogwood flowers (Cornus florida) that evening once we were in our room. Yes—he was easier to work with, but only by the fact that being in a hotel room made it more difficult for him to escape! He was just as active as in the field, darting from flower to flower in his persistent efforts to elude the large glass eye that kept trying to look at him. For many subjects, I would have given up rather than spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get photographs that likely would not turn out to be what I wanted. But this spider was just so attractive—red and black and white with flashy blue chelicerae! I persisted in my efforts, got about two dozen shots off before he finally did escape, then promptly deleted all but five immediately after seeing them on the computer. The photo shown here is the only “keeper” that I can actually bring myself to post—the focus is a bit too deep, but not so much that it detracts greatly from what is otherwise a fairly decent composition. The more I shoot jumping spiders, the more I am amazed at the portraits that Thomas Shahan achieves with these delightful little arachnids.
After browsing through the salticid galleries at BugGuide, I am inclined to believe this is the species Phidippus princeps, with the coloration and white-stripes on the pedipalps suggesting it is an adult male. ID correction welcome.
© Ted C. MacRae 2014