Misumena – Flower Crab Spider

The misumena, commonly called flower crab spider, is a genus of spiders that hunt their prey in or around flowers. The most common misumena species in North America is Misumena vatia, commonly called the goldenrod crab spider or also just flower crab spider.

The Golden Rod Crab Spider has the ability to change its color from white to yellow to match the flower it is waiting in. It is therefore one of the few spider species in the world that can change its color. It does so by adding a yellow pigment into its outer skin layer. The entire process of color change is not immediate but takes around 10-25 days.

By autumn, young flower spiders reach a size of about 5 mm (0.20 in). They are spending the winter months under the ground and molt one last time in the May of the following year.

Misumena vatia goldenrod crab spider on a sun flower
The goldenrod flower crab spider after changing its color to yellow sitting on a sunflower.

Misumena Description

The Flower Crab Spider can have several looks to them, as their bodies will match the terrain they are hunting. Often, they will come in a white or yellow color. Sometimes even green or brown. Golden Rod Crab Spiders usually have a colorful stripe (Pink, Purple, Blue, etc…) along the side of the abdomen.
The front two pairs of legs are longer than the third and fourth pair of legs. They also will often spread the first two sets of legs out to the sides of them with the two on each side held tight to each other.

Misumena white flower crab spider Vermont
A beautiful white flower crab spider seen by Susan in Vermont. It’s abdomen looks almost like the face of a mime

Size

The Flower Crab Spider is a smaller spider, which will only grow to a little larger than 1/4 of an inch (6 mm) and around 5/8 inch (16 mm) including the legs. The male flower crab spider is only about a third as large as the female, reaching no more than 0.2 inch (5 mm).

Web

The Flower Crab Spider is a hunter and does not use a web to catch prey. Instead, it will wait inside a flower or low vegetation, and wait patiently for a bee or another insect to come along.

Color change of flower spider
The flower crab spider in its white color. Photo: Phillip Grames – Michigan

Flower crab spider bite

The bite of the Flower Spider is little to no risk of danger. They are a non-aggressive spider, and will try to run, or hide, rather than attack, but a bite is very possible if they are handled. Their bite will cause some local pain that will fade after time.

Flower Crab Spider Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Infraorder: Araneomorphae
  • Family: Tomisidae
  • Genus: Misumena

Common names

Flower spider, flower crab spider

Distribution of flower crab spiders in the USA

Misumena – Flower Crab Spider range map

Spiders of the Misumena genus can be found in every US state and in the entire northern part of the world, including Europe and Asia. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Misumena – Flower Crab Spider

30 thoughts on “Misumena – Flower Crab Spider

  1. Going off the eye pattern and the hairs, I think this is a Mecaphesa, possibly Mecaphesa celer, which is found in Utah. Am I correct? It was found on a sunflower in my yard on 1 July 2020, South Jordan, Utah

    Yellow Crab Spider Misumena vatia, Daybreak, july 2020 found in Utah

    1. Hi John,
      It is hard to make a definite ID since so many Thomisidae species have a similar appearance. However, I agree with you that this is most likely a Mecaphesa celer.

  2. I found this on my sons boot we can tell what it is. It’s about 1cm in diameter and is completely white.

    1. Hello Shannon, thanks for uploading this great picture! This is some species of white crab spider of the family Thomisidae. They are not medically significant.
      It’s hard to make an exact ID on genus or species level as many Thomisidae have a very similar appearance. They are called flower crab spiders as they often lurk inside of flowers for small insects.
      Some of them can change their colors from white to yellow.
      Here is one of our articles about flower crab spiders: https://usaspiders.com/misumena-vatia-flower-crab-spider/

    1. Hello Dennis, thanks for getting in touch! This is definitely a crab spider of the family Thomisidae. There are a number of genera in this family that can have a very similar appearance: Misumena, Mecaphesa, Misumessus and Misumenoides. None of the spiders in this family are medically significant. My guess is that this is either Mecaphesa or Misumessus.
      Here is our overview for Misumena flower crab spiders: https://usaspiders.com/misumena-vatia-flower-crab-spider/

  3. Spider found in our truck on the headliner. Dunbar, Wisconsin. Would like it identified and know if it’s poisonous. It is bright yellow with red stripe on each side of body.

  4. The bright color caught our eyes on a walk in our North Attleboro, MA neighborhood. It was in a fence post. Seemed all one color throughout whole body, including legs. Main body was about the size of an adult pinky fingernail.

  5. I found this on my kitchen counter this morning. We are in the North Carolina mountains. There are lots of spiders here but I have not seen one like this. Since there were bananas nearby on the counter I wondered if it hitchhiked from the country of origin.

    1. Hello Jeff, thanks for getting in touch! This is indeed a local spider. It’s a type of crab spider which usually hides in flowers and preys on pollinating insects. There is a number of genera that can look very similar but in this case I am fairly certain that this is Misumenoides formosipes, a whitebanded crab spider. Spiders of the genus Misumena look and behave very similarly. Here is an article with information about Misumena: https://usaspiders.com/misumena-vatia-flower-crab-spider/

  6. I found this while taking apart my greenhouse in Poulsbo, Washington. It’s about the size of a quarter

  7. First time ever seeing this. We have seen two in our vegetable garden this year. It is only about 1/4 inch body.

  8. This amazing spider matched the color our day lily almost exactly. It reminds me of how an octopus can match the color (and even texture) of its surroundings. Am I assuming correctly that this is a flower crab spider?

    1. Hi Mark, this is definitely one of the commonly called flower crab spiders of the genera Misumena, Misumenoides or Misumessus. These spiders are hard to tell apart from photos alone.

  9. Found this spider out in the yard by a pile of kindling. My husband and I live in a rural area in central Pennsylvania. We bought this property a year ago and have come across a bunch of insects, spiders, and other critters we’ve never seen before.

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