Ant Mimic Jumping Spider: Unveiling Their Secrets

Ant mimic jumping spiders are fascinating creatures known for their unique ability to imitate ants in order to avoid predators.

These tiny spiders, belonging to the family Salticidae, exhibit an impressive range of sizes and color patterns, making them visually interesting to observe.

Ant Mimic Jumping Spider
Ant Mimic Jumping Spider

One of the reasons these jumping spiders mimic ants is because ants are known for their aggressive defense mechanisms, such as bites, stings, and formic acid.

Predators are often deterred by these traits, which make the ant mimic spiders a less appealing meal.

Besides, these spiders are known for their remarkable hunting skills. They stalk their prey during the day and attack in a swift leap, aided by their excellent eyesight and sensitivity to movement.

Overview of Ant Mimic Jumping Spiders

Species and Evolution

Ant mimic jumping spiders imitate ants to avoid predators. This spider has evolved its to look and act like ants. These spiders exhibit:

  • Ant-like appearance
  • Similar behaviors to ants
  • Improved survival rate due to ant mimicry

There are different species of jumping spiders that practice ant mimicry, each evolving independently to resemble ants in their habitats.

Habitats and Geographic Locations

Jumping spiders can be found in various environments, such as gardens, around homes, and in tropical regions.

For example, the Phidippus audax or Orchard spider is black with a distinct orange to white spot and is commonly spotted in gardens.

Some ant mimic jumping spiders like Menemerus bivittatus and Plexippus paykulli can be found in Florida and have been imported from the tropical Old World.

SpeciesCommon NameHabitat
Phidippus audaxOrchard SpiderGardens and around homes
Menemerus bivittatusGray Wall JumperFlorida, imported from the tropical Old World
Plexippus paykulliPantropical JumperFlorida, imported from the tropical Old World

These spiders adapt to their habitats, mimicking the appearance and behavior of ants native to their geographic location.

The Art of Mimicry

Physical Appearance

Ant-mimic jumping spiders have some remarkable adaptations to resemble ants. They possess:

  • Long, slender bodies
  • Elongated abdomen segments
  • Antennae-like front legs

These features help the spiders effectively camouflage themselves as ants, which are less appealing prey to predators due to their aggressive defense mechanisms, including bites, stings, and formic acid [1].

Movement and Gait

Jumping spiders don’t just look like ants; they also mimic their movement patterns.

An essential aspect of jumping spider ant mimicry is their ability to move in a manner that resembles ants’ gait. They do this by:

  • Moving their antennae-like front legs in tandem with their steps
  • Using short, jerky movements
  • Pausing intermittently

These movement patterns deceive predators into thinking they are ants, thus increasing their chances of escaping unharmed [5].

Coloration and Camouflage

In addition to their physical features and movements, ant mimic jumping spiders also employ coloration and camouflage techniques to enhance their ant-like appearance.

Some of these techniques include:

  • A body coloration that matches the ants they are mimicking
  • Spots on their abdomen that resemble ant thorax segments
  • Concealing their chelicerae (mouthparts) to reduce the visibility of spider-specific features

By combining these strategies, ant-mimic jumping spiders successfully deceive their predators, which results in a lower rate of attacks compared to their non-mimic counterparts [3].

FeatureAnt-mimic Jumping SpidersNon-mimic Jumping Spiders
Physical Appearance  
Antennae-like front legsYesNo
Elongated abdomen segmentsYesNo
Movement and Gait  
Ant-like movement patternsYesNo
Coloration and Camouflage  
Body coloration matching antsYesNo
Spots resembling ant thoraxYesNo
Concealed cheliceraeYesNo

Predatory Behavior

Role of Mimicry in Hunting

Ant-mimicking jumping spiders use mimicry to improve their hunting success. These spiders imitate ants to:

  • Avoid predators
  • Get close to their prey

Mimicking ants has its benefits, as ants are:

  • Aggressive defenders
  • Equipped with bites, stings, and formic acid

Venom and Hunting Techniques

Jumping spiders are active predators, known for their:

  • Ability to jump several times their body length
  • Hairy bodies with colorful markings

Their main hunting techniques include:

  • Stalking prey
  • Attacking with a fast leap

These spiders use their venom to:

  • Immobilize prey
  • Aid in digestion

Common prey for jumping spiders include insects and other spiders.

Prey TypeHunted by Jumping Spiders?
InsectsYes
SpidersYes
AntsRarely (mimicry involved)

Jumping spiders are versatile hunters, able to adapt their behavior based on the available prey. Mimicry and agility make them successful predators in various environments.

Defense Strategies

Batesian Mimicry

Ant-mimic jumping spiders use Batesian mimicry as their primary defense strategy.

This means they imitate ants, which are typically aggressive and well-armed with biting mandibles, spiny defenses, and formic acid1.

By looking and behaving like ants, they are avoided by predators that do not want to risk being injured or sprayed with formic acid.

Imperfect Mimicry vs. Perfect Mimicry

There are two types of mimicry in nature:

  • Imperfect mimicry: Involves some resemblance to the model, but not an exact replica
  • Perfect mimicry: A nearly identical copy of the model’s appearance

In the case of ant-mimic jumping spiders, their mimicry is imperfect but still effective.

One example is the Myrmarachne formicaria2. It moves similarly to ants, but does not have an exact ant body structure.

Features of ant-mimic jumping spiders:

  • Eight legs (as opposed to ants’ six)
  • Four eyes rather than three distinct ocelli (ant eyes)
  • Same color as ants, but lacking segmentation or other specific ant features
Jumping Spider mimics Mating Blues

Chemical Repellants

To further deter predators, ant-mimic jumping spiders have evolved to produce their own chemical repellants.

This supplements their physical and behavioral defenses, making them a highly unattractive target for predators.

Key aspects:

  • Combination of physical Batesian mimicry and chemical defenses
  • Ant mimics produce chemical scents that are unpleasant to predators

Jumping spiders’ chemical defenses add an extra layer of protection, helping them increase their chances of survival.

Pros:

  • Effective in deterring predators
  • Can work in combination with physical mimicry

Cons:

  • May not be enough on its own to avoid predation
  • Requires constant adaptation to evolving predator chemoreceptors

Other Ant Mimic Relations

Mating Dances and Courtship Rituals

The ant-mimicking jumping spider is known for its fascinating mating dances and courtship rituals. These spiders perform elaborate displays to attract their mates. Some key features:

  • Dance steps: Quick and rhythmic movements to grab the attention of the potential mate
  • Vibrations: Complex vibrational signals using their legs
  • Visual cues: Bright colors and patterns on their bodies

Interaction with Other Spiders

Ant-mimicking jumping spiders interact with various spider species, including spider-eating spiders. Some interactions involve:

  • Predation avoidance: The resemblance to ants helps them avoid being hunted by these predator spiders
  • Competition: They compete with other spiders for food sources, mainly insects like praying mantises

Comparison Table

CharacteristicAnt-mimicking Jumping SpiderPraying Mantis
AppearanceMimics ants in size and colorLong and slender with wings
PredatorsAvoid spiders, birds, and mantisesBirds, spiders, and crematogaster ants
Hunting techniqueAmbush and pounceStealth, patience, and camouflage
Mating ritualElaborate dancesDecapitation of the male by the female

By mimicking ants, these jumping spiders showcase a unique strategy to survive and reproduce in their environment. Their intriguing behavior adds diversity to the complex world of spider interactions.

Notable Ant Mimicking Spider Species

Portia Labiata

Portia Labiata is an impressive ant-mimic jumping spider species prevalent in various regions such as Japan and southern Hainan.

This spider is known for its extraordinary intelligence and ability to problem-solve. Portia Labiata can also exhibit a wide range of hunting tactics.

Key features of Portia Labiata:

  • Highly intelligent
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Wide range of hunting tactics

Myrmarachne Formicaria

Myrmarachne Formicaria, commonly found in China, is another remarkable ant-mimicking spider.

Its physical appearance closely resembles ants, allowing it to camouflage with ants and evade predators.

Myrmarachne Formicaria showcases aggressive mimicry, utilizing its appearance to hunt for insects.

Myrmarachne Formicaria

Key characteristics of Myrmarachne Formicaria:

  • Physical resemblance to ants
  • Camouflage ability
  • Aggressive mimicry

Siler Collingwoodi

Siler Collingwoodi is an ant-mimicking jumping spider species. It mainly inhabits regions where ants are abundant.

Similar to the other species mentioned above, Siler Collingwoodi also exhibits adaptive strategies to blend in with its surrounding, enabling it to escape predators and hunt for insects.

Main features of Siler Collingwoodi:

  • Ant-like appearance
  • Adaptive strategies
  • Predation avoidance

Comparison Table:

Spider SpeciesKey FeaturesRegions
Portia LabiataIntelligent, problem-solvingJapan, southern Hainan
Myrmarachne FormicariaAnt-like appearance, mimicryChina
Siler CollingwoodiAnt-like appearance, adaptiveAnt-abundant regions

These three ant-mimicking spider species showcase fascinating features that help them evade predators and hunt for insects in their respective habitats.

Scientific Research and Observations

Evolutionary Ecology

Evolutionary ecologist Wei Zhang’s iScience paper showcased the wild ant-mimicking spiders’ ability to mimic individual limbs of ants. They can adjust their acceleration and trajectory to achieve movement mimicry. These abilities point to their unique adaptation for survival.

Monochromatic Visual System

Ant mimic jumping spiders possess a monochromatic visual system. It allows them to differentiate between various shades of gray and recognize their prey.

Key features of ant mimic jumping spiders:

  • Pretend to be ants
  • Adjust acceleration and trajectory for movement mimicry
  • Monochromatic visual system
FeatureAnt Mimic Jumping SpiderRegular Jumping Spider
Mimics antsYesNo
Adjusts accelerationYesNo
Monochromatic visionYesNo
Recognition of preyYesYes
Ability to jumpYesYes

Plants Associated with Ant Mimicking Spiders

West Indian Jasmine

Ant mimic jumping spiders, such as Gonypeta brunneri, are often found on West Indian Jasmine plants. Some features of this plant are:

  • Beautiful white or pink flowers
  • Attracts insects for the spiders to prey on

This association provides a suitable habitat and hunting ground for the spiders.

Fukien Tea Tree

Another plant associated with ant mimic jumping spiders is the Fukien Tea Tree or Carmona microphylla. Key characteristics of this plant include:

  • Small white flowers
  • Often used for bonsai

Spiders may choose this tree as their habitat due to its dense foliage and insects for prey.

Ixora Chinensis

Lastly, the Ixora Chinensis also has a relationship with ant mimic jumping spiders. Some features of this plant are:

  • Dense clusters of red or yellow flowers
  • Attracts a variety of insects

Spiders find this plant ideal for hiding and hunting.

PlantFeatures
West Indian JasmineBeautiful white or pink flowers, attracts insects
Fukien Tea TreeSmall white flowers, dense foliage, often used for bonsai
Ixora ChinensisDense clusters of red or yellow flowers, attracts many insects

This table compares the plants associated with ant mimic jumping spiders, highlighting the different features that make them attractive habitats for these spiders.

Conclusion

Ant mimic jumping spiders are intriguing creatures that imitate ants to deter predators.

Their unique ability to mimic ants’ appearance, behavior, and chemical defense makes them less appealing prey.

With remarkable hunting skills and visual adaptations, these spiders successfully survive in various habitats.

Footnotes

  1. Jumping spiders mimic ants to defy predators – Cornell Chronicle

  2. Harvard study untangles mystery of how jumping spiders mimic ants – Harvard Gazette

Readers’ Mail

Over the years, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Ant-Mimic Jumping Spider

some kind of tiny spider
i got some great pics of this little guy; perhaps you can help me
identify him. the drain he’s posing by is 2.5″ across, so he’s quite tiny.
i live in south florida. thanks, i’m in love with your site.
lish

Hi Lish,
This is an Ant-Mimic Jumping Spider, possibly Peckhamia picata. Jumping Spiders, Family Salticidae, are good hunters, do not build webs, and have excellent eyesight. Most are very small, but not as small as your little one.

Letter 2 – Ant Mimic Jumping Spider

Ant with Claws
March 28, 2010
Hi, a couple years ago i found this ant with claws in my house. I’ve searched different things on google but still have not come across any pictures that look like this and i just found this site and i hope you can identify it
Tazia
North America

Ant Mimic Jumping Spider

Hi Tazia,
Ants are insects and have six legs.  Your creature has eight legs, plus the claws.  We are nearly certain this is an Ant Mimic Jumping Spider, and we believe based on the pedipalps which you call claws, that this is a male. 

We cannot find an exact match on BugGuide, but there are a series of photos of Sarinda hentzi that resemble your specimen.  North America is a big place.

Ed. Note:
April 11, 2010
Rich provided a comment identifying this as possibly Myrmarachne formicaria, and we just found photos of that species on BugGuide while trying to identify another Jumping Spider.

Letter 3 – Bug of the Month September 2016: Ant Mimic Jumping Spider

Subject: Ant with enlarged head?
Location: Rochester, NY
August 30, 2016 10:18 am
Hi, I was studying in my dorm room in Rochester, NY when I noticed a little bug go scurrying by. At first I just thought it was ant carrying something black, but I quickly realized it was something far weirder. I was hoping you could identify it. Thanks.
Signature: Connor

Ant Mimic Jumping Spider

Ant Mimic Jumping Spider

Dear Connor,
Because we have gotten so many comments on the posting this summer, earlier in the week, we began featuring a five year old posting of an Ant Mimic Jumping Spider,
Myrmarachne formicaria, a species that was “Recently introduced from Europe” according to BugGuide where the range is listed as “Roughly Cleveland, OH to Buffalo, NY.”

BugGuide also notes:  “The first specimen records of M. formicaria from North America have all been from Ohio, USA: from Warren, Trumble County on 16 August 2001; the J.H. Barrow Field Station, Portage County on 15 September 2002; and at a residence near Peninsula, Summit County. Additional individuals have been observed by the third author in and around the J.H. Barrow Field Station and the Peninsula residence during the summers of 2003 and 2004. ”  Because of the timeliness of your submission, we have decided to make it the Bug of the Month for September 2016.  Readers who want to see a better image can use this BugGuide image for comparison.  If you have a sighting, please leave a comment with your location.  If you have your own image, you may submit it using the Ask What’s That Bug? link on our site.  We don’t know how this introduction will affect our native ecosystem, but it is possible that this Ant Mimic Jumping Spider may begin to displace native Jumping Spiders if it is a more efficient predator or if it preys upon our native species, and for that reason we are tagging it as an Invasive Exotic species.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

31 thoughts on “Ant Mimic Jumping Spider: Unveiling Their Secrets”

  1. Nice photo of a male ant-mimic jumping spider. This one doesn’t look quite like Sarinda (the native species) but more like a recently (we think) introduced species from Europe called Myrmarachne formicaria. There is a recently published article about this species published in the Journal of Arachnology (2006, v 34:483-484). I’d love to know where in North America the photo was taken!

    Reply
  2. I’ve seen two on separate occasions in my yard in Minnesota.
    Please don’t squash these or any other spiders!
    They won’t hurt you and they are really cool to watch closeup.

    Reply
  3. Bugman – can you please clarify if this Ant Mimic Jumping Spider can also produce a web or thread? I found one (on me!) inside my house today. I went to the door with it in my hand to take outside, and it repeatedly used a web to drop down from my hand. I was so surprised I put it in a container instead, to do some research before I let it go. I looked up “spider that looks like an ant”, and when I saw the pictures, I didn’t think this was the same – at first. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it DOES have those flat pinchers in front.

    I also saw a post saying someone had found a “male”. How can you tell?

    I’m just outside Buffalo, NY, very close to Lake Erie.

    Reply
  4. I seem to have a considerable number of them in my house. I see perhaps 3-5 a day. NE OH.

    And I am SO relieved to find that they are jumping spiders and not some ant tearing my house apart from the inside out.

    For some odd reason, I’m a jumping spider fan; so they are welcome.

    Reply
  5. We have been seeing this for the last week or so in Genesee County, NY. I thought the first one was an ant until I picked it up and found it hanging by a silk thread.

    Reply
  6. Found one in deer stand while hunting in South Georgia. Also saw it hanging from a silk type web. When I tried to pick it up it was very fast!

    Reply
  7. I live in Bengaluru, India. I have been seeing Ant-mimic Spiders since 2 years in my garden. I have clicked photos of at least 6 different sizes and shapes of these bugs. They hunt mosquitoes, flies, ants, and other tiny spiders. Like all other spiders they use ‘silk’ to hang from and weave their webs. They usually foray around an ant nest. But I am yet to seem ‘ their’ nest. Like the others they may also be lone fighters.
    I see a lot of people expressing concern or surprise for their ‘sudden’ increase in number, ‘invasion’ or ‘migration’. I remember S. Hawking scaring us about ‘Aliens are coming’. So let us find out the source and try to build a ‘wall’- a tall and transparent wall at that at their cost! LOL

    Reply
  8. Do they bite? I’ve noticed small, biting, jumping, ant/spiders this summer here in Baltimore. The bite hurts bad but not for long.

    Reply
  9. Found one! Curious as they are, I prefer my spiders with some spacious bedmanners.
    Glad they only bite! Thanks for the helpful site!
    -muggy summer ontario

    Reply
  10. I’ve seen these every summer since I moved to Buffalo six years ago. I thought they were ants until I realized I was only ever seeing one at a time, and they move like jumping spiders.

    Reply
  11. We have them in Buffalo NY I left them alone to live in the house. They seem small enough to share space with however i found in bedroom and i keep getting bits from something.
    I HAVE more bits than the dog! So I know its not fleas! I will release it outdoors.

    Reply
  12. Regular ants seem to be sparse now a days. This may be attributed to moisture and low tempr as it is raining for the last few weeks.
    But i suspect that the ant mimic-spiders which have come in different shapes and sizes, for the last 2 years, have devoured all our ants.
    Are ants an endangered species?

    Reply
  13. We got ‘em innorthern Virginia too. Or at least, on produce in Wegmans grocery chain. He had built a little web nest in the folds of a small gourd. Not the first time I’ve seen these here though, but they’re definitely not common in my area

    Reply
  14. Reporting in from the town of Newfane in Niagara County, NY.
    Over the last week I’ve had two definite and one possible sighting in our house. One was in the kitchen and the other two in the breezeway between garage and kitchen.

    Reply
  15. I would have thought this little guy was a Texas fire ant, a very common sight here in Dallas–had he not been dangling above my desk at work a few minutes ago. Still, I was perplexed. He began to ascend the strand, and I was pretty sure it was a spider in disguise.

    Halloween was last week, buddy.

    Reply
  16. Think I saw my first ones last summer, but this year they are everywhere! The first ones I saw this spring were in an open garden area, and there were quite a few so I passed them off as ants, since they were running across the ground just like ants. But the black-reddish-black coloring and the weird-shaped ‘head’ threw me off when I looked closer. So I went through books & online to find out what kind of ants they were, and eventually found a cross reference to the ant mimic.
    They are everywhere now. Most I have seen are on open soil, but also the kitchen table, in the bathroom, and the floor of the house. I finally saw my first one hanging from a thread, in the bathroom, which finally made it appear more like a spider than an ant. I live in western Geauga County in Ohio. I never saw these before last summer, and now they are everywhere!

    Reply
  17. Just saw one here in Ottawa, Ontario Canada.
    Thought it was an ant but it moved like the commmon jumping spiders we have.
    I took a picture if interested.

    Reply
  18. Have them for certain in Erie PA, just south of I-90. I’m trying to find out if they nest together or live alone. Nobody seems to know how to get rid of them yet???

    Reply

Leave a Comment