Goldenrod spiders: The chameleons of cottage country


This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

“I’m not usually fond of spiders,” says Georgian Bay cottager Patricia Healey, who took this photo of a goldenrod spider. “But I thought its colouring was very interesting.”

Are you ready to nerd out, Patricia? It gets way more interesting. These crab spider family members usually spend their time on either white or yellow flowers; they can change colour from white to yellow and back, depending on the background. A yellow spider will turn white in five to six days. But for physiological reasons (still not well understood), “if you place a white spider on a yellow flower, it takes them 10 to 25 days to produce enough yellow pigment to change colour to yellow,” says Tyler Cobb, the curator of invertebrate zoology at the Royal Alberta Museum. This seems incredibly slow in a world where Katy Perry once did seven on-stage costume changes while performing “Hot N Cold.” But Cobb says it works for the spiders: “At its core, the colour change is believed to camouflage the spider from both prey and predators.”

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