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Word of the Week: Ballooning (Goldenrod Crab Spider)
August 18, 2021 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each week to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Word of the week is BALLOONING [ buh-LOON-ing ](noun): A process by which spiders, and some other small invertebrates, move through the air by releasing webbing to catch the wind, causing them to become airborne at the mercy of air currents and electric currents.

Goldenrod Crab Spiders, also known as flower spiders, are medium-sized arachnids with short, flat and wide bodies. These spiders can change their body colour (although it takes a couple of days) to blend into the white or yellow flower in which they wait for prey. Females are lighter coloured — white or yellow — with reddish stripes along the sides of their abdomen. Differently, males are darker and more reddish-brown in colour.

Goldenrod Crab Spiders do not use their silk for building webs, as they hunt for their prey using a sit-and-wait technique. They will, however, use their silk to protect their eggs and to practice ballooning as a way for them and their spiderlings to disperse and travel great distances.

Their ability to change colour really comes in handy when they hunt for their prey! They patiently wait on flowers, on the ground or even on fences, until suitable prey lands. Because they are so well camouflaged against their floral backgrounds, butterflies, bees, flies and grasshoppers often don’t realize this spider is near. When prey approaches, the goldenrod spider uses its front legs to grab onto its prey and its venomous fangs to paralyze it. The spider then sucks the fluids from the insect’s body.

On your next summer visit to High Park, keep an eye out for Goldenrod Crab Spiders!

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