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Salticid: The Jumping Spider

Solomon Hess
Matthew Hess

Jumping spiders are a compact and often hairy spider species, native to most regions which humans inhabit. Chances are, you’ve had at least one interaction with a jumping spider in your life, and probably more.

In Kentucky, one of our local jumping spiders is black with red, orange or white markings on the topside of the abdomen. Although they look nothing like a black widow, some people confuse them simply due to the red and orange marking and compact black bodies.

In Kentucky, at least, many people come in contact with jumping spiders at their mailbox! Thinking it’s a black widow, panic often ensues.

Jumping spiders often take residence in mailboxes, not to attack humans, but to feed from the ants and earwigs which also love to take residence in mailboxes

A jumping spider in your mailbox does not mean that you should declare war on spiders! In fact, it may be a tell-tale sign that other insects are infesting your mailbox. Jumping spiders like to take up residence where easy meals are located.

There’s Food in that Mailbox!

There’s a good reason why you might find one of these furry critters in your mailbox, and it’s probably a better reason than you think. They’re waiting to hunt down the ants and earwigs which also want to live there! Their role as a predator of many nuisance insects and some vectors is extremely important to the ecosystem and public health.

In east Africa, around Lake Victoria, the jumping spider species, Evarcha culicivora are found feast almost completely of Anopheles mosquitoes! Talk about an important spider species! This is just one more reason why the jumping spider finds itself on the beneficial insects list. It’s important that we spend less time killing these spiders and more time learning how to avoid unwanted interactions with them instead. (Check out Thomas Shahan’s YouTube page for some pretty cool videos of jumping spiders!

There are over 4000 species known across the world and around 300 of those species reside within the United States and Canada. They make up around 13% of all known spider species. Their colors vary and can be black, brown, gray  or tan with markings ranging from green to pale white, gray, blue, yellow, red orange and others. Their colorations and marking range from dull and boring to exquisite and beautiful.

Take a look at Thomas Shehan’s video of a Maevia inclemens jumping spider devouring an Aedes albopictus mosquito!

Many species of jumping spider are very colorful

Not all jumping spiders are created equally when it comes to beauty. Here is a fine example of a beautiful Mopsus mormon or “green jumping spider” found only in Australia and New Guinea! It is the only species in the genus Mopsus.


Jumping spiders belong to the Salticidae family under the infraorder Araneomorphae, the order Araneae and the classification Arachnida. While all spiders are Arachnids, not all Arachnids are spiders. What classifies an insect as an Arachnid is  their four pairs of legs and no antenna. This includes ticks, scorpions and mites along with spiders. That adds new depth to the term “arachnophobia”! Truthfully, “araneomorphobia” might be a better term, at least if being bitten by a spider is the cause of your fears. Araneomorphs have pincer-like fangs which either crossover or pinch together. Yeah, they hurt when they bite!

The subphylum Chelicerata, consists of the Arthropoda phylum which have an exoskeleton with only two body segments; the cephalothorax and the abdomen, and have segmented limbs. These, along with other insects and animals, belong to the Animalia kingdom, which are multicellular and rely either directly or indirectly on other organisms for nutrition.

Scientific Classification List:

  • Kingdom Animalia
  • Phylum Arthropoda
  • Subphylum Chelicerata
  • Class Arachnida
  • Order Araneae
  • Infraorder Araneomorphae
  • Family Salticidae

Anatomy of the Jumping Spider

Like all spiders, the jumping spider has 8 legs. The front two are often used in defense, attack and attracting a mate. At the end of the legs are the scopulae. These are used to adhere to surfaces, (like Spider Man), which allow them to scale slick and smooth surfaces and even walk upside down. The scopulae are tiny claw-like devices which find the irregularities and unevenness of surfaces and grab hold of them, much like a rock climber would do but on a microscopic and more advanced level.

They have two primary body segments; the cephalothorax and the abdomen. The cephalothorax contains the legs, eyes, chelicerae, pedipalps and fangs. The fangs are used to inject venom in prey and as an act of self defense when necessary. However, only a few spiders are venomous to humans.

The abdomen contains the spinnerets which are used to construct silk webs. Some spider species construct extravagant web designs while others seem to be disorganized and without structure. However, each species is precise in the construction of their webs for the purposes they use them for. Their is nothing random about a spider’s web.

Learning the anatomy of a jumping spider can help identify them and separate them from other spiders which may become pests

Not all jumping spiders are created equally when it comes to beauty. Here is a fine example of a beautiful Mopsus mormon or “green jumping spider” found only in Australia and New Guinea! It is the only species in the genus Mopsus.

Unique characteristics of the Jumping Spider

The jumping spider has some unique and interesting characteristics. Take for instance, the Myrmarachne jumping spider. This is a genus of ant-mimicking jumping spiders which can infiltrate ant colonies undetected and take them out one by one! They are masters of disguise, like Pistachio Disguisey, and often go undetected within an ant colony for long periods of time.

Ant mimicking jumping spiders infiltrate ant colonies undetected and feast on the colony

As this picture details, the Ant Mimicking jumping spider is cloaked in an ant-like body. This allows them easy access to meals as they gallivant through the colony, picking the ants off one-by-one.

Black and red ant mimicking spiders infiltrate ant colonies undetected and feast on the ants

Black and red Myrmarachne ant mimicking jumping spiders like this one pictured here, are masters of disguise amongst ant colonies. These little guys are so cool!

Black and red ant mimicking spiders infiltrate ant colonies undetected and feast on the ants

The ant mimicking jumping spider is one of the most unique spiders in the salticid family, which is comprised of nothing but unique spiders!

Other unique characteristics include:
  • Variation in size from around 4 to 18 mm or 1/8 to ¾ of an inch
  • Often very hairy
  • Have very large eyes
  • Often seen “dancing” with their pedipalps held high above their bodies while they move in all directions
  • They are one of the few diurnal (non-nocturnal) spiders
  • Prefer bright sunshine
  • Are Excellent hunters
  • Have swift reflexes
  • Can move sideways, backwards and forwards very quickly
  • When threatened, can jump as much as 20 times their body length
  • As a sort of safety dragline, they deploy silk from their spinnerets when they jump.
  • Like the brown recluse, the jumping spider does not construct a web to capture prey but instead is a hunter.
  • Their webs are used as retreats and for their offspring.
  • Some also eat nectar

Besides the ant mimicking jumping spider, there’s another insect mimicking salticid; the Chaerilus scorpion mimicking jumping spider.

Scorpion mimicking jumping spiders are awesome!

Scorpion mimicking jumping spider

Unordinary… or Extraordinary!

There is nothing ordinary about the jumping spider and everyone can find something interesting and likeable about this little “creature in the mailbox”! They actually earn their name based on one of their unique and interesting characteristics; their ability to not only jump, but jump 20-40 times their body length! Jumping spiders are so equipped that they may easily stalk, pounce, catch and eat their prey. They’re kind of like the cat of the spider world; a little cuteness, plenty of fluffiness, and they love to lie in wait and POUNCE when the opportunity arises. Like cats, you either love ‘em or hate ‘em!

Best Vision of the Spider World

In the voice of a former president, “Jumping Spiders have excellent vision, in fact, it’s the very best vision known to the spider world. All the scientists say so! Everyone is saying it. It’s the best!  There’s no other vision in the spider world like it.” Of course, he didn’t say that, but if he had, it would have been something he was certainly right about! Simply by turning its head 45 degrees in either direction the jumping spider can make use of its available 360° vision.

The arrangement of its 8 eyes allows the jumping spider this unique characteristic ability. The eyes are arranged in three rows with the foremost (primary eyes) giving the best color vision and the eyes to the side having only black and white vision. Jumping spiders have a very similar vision to many birds of prey. As great as their vision is, however, it is daytime vision only, and their nighttime vision is quite poor.

Jumping Spiders have a semi-circle row of 8 eyes allowing full 360 degree vision with a 45 degree turn of the head in either direction

The eyes of a jumping spider are certainly a marvel of intelligent design and engineering. Plus, they look like a set of old jeep headlights, which is just awesome!

Jumping Spiders are Great Hunters

Like the brown recluse, the jumping spider is a hunting spider. With poor night vision, the jumping spider prefers to hunt during the day. As with other spiders, the spinnerets and silk glands are located at the rear of the abdomen, although they do not use silk webbing to capture their prey. This is where their excellent vision comes in handy. Jumping spiders are hunters by nature. Great eyesight aids them in finding their prey. Their unique ability to “pounce” or jump a great distance, makes their attack skills on par with a well trained and experienced ninja! The front legs extend forward and upward like a pair of num-chuks in the hands of Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris!  From the front of the spider, they extend up and are often used in what seems like a “dancing” routine.

Defense, Attack and… Mating?

This is a defensive posture which allows the fangs to be positioned for perfect attack. Other spiders have fangs which bite against each other in a pinching motion and therefore do not rear-up to strike. This defensive attack posture is just one more reason why jumping spiders are the greatest! Waving the pedipalps is another interesting feature of the jumping spider. This display is used in mating rituals as well as for defense. In this case of the picture below, however, I like to think this jumping spider is about to use his ‘Chuck Norris style, pedipalp-num-chuks to capture it’s prey when he jumps! As they say, the jumping spider doesn’t revolve on the earth, it revolves the earth. Oh wait, that’s Chuck Norris!

As hunters, jumping spiders feast on a wide variety of insects including flys, gnats, crickets, ants, mosquitoes, leafhoppers, fleahoppers, stinkbugs, bollworms, webworms and many others.  Because of their unique love for sunlight, they have the opportunity to find prey throughout the daylight hours.  Most jumping spiders are carnivores, few are omnivores and at least one genus is strictly vegetarian.

Jumping Spiders use their two front legs raised high in the air for attracting a mate, self defense and to position their fangs for attacking prey

This little guy is ready to pounce its prey for a good afternoon meal. The front legs are raised to position the fangs for attack and are also used for defense and attracting mates.

Jumping Spiders stalk and hunt their prey before lunging forward for the attack

Jumping Spiders often stalk and hunt their prey like a lion or other predator, before lunging forward for the attack, injecting the venom and then enjoying the feast.

Jumping spiders often catch and eat flying insects like mosquitos, gnats, flies and many others

Jumping Spiders often hunt and feed on several flying insect species. Some even hunt mosquitoes! Here, this jumping spider feasts on a fly.

The Life Cycle of the Jumping Spider

Although a unique species indeed, that uniqueness is short lived in the individual. While jumping spider females can lay more than 125 eggs at a time, these eggs take only 1-4 weeks to hatch into spiderlings. Once hatched, they will explore the nest until the first or second molt. The mother will guard and keep them in the web-nest as long as she can.

Soon venturing out of the nest, it takes only 6-8 months with approximately 8 more molts to achieve full maturity. Afterwards, each spider might live only six months to one year as an adult.

The life cycle of the jumping spider begins at the egg and hatches into a spiderling. From there, 6 molts bring the spider to adulthood.

Jumping Spider Habitat

The jumping spider has a wide range of habitats including temperate and tropical forests, fields, deserts, mountains, shrublands, intertidal zones and more. It seems they can survive in most environments as long as there is plenty of vegetation for other insects. This makes the jumping spider a desirable insect to have around, since they have no interest in coming indoors. They love the outdoors and plenty of sunshine and plant life!

jumping spiders love the outdoors with plenty of sunshine

Jumping Spiders love the outdoors, plenty of sunshine and lots of plant life, which all provide an abundant food source for these hungry hunters.

Are Jumping Spiders Dangerous to Humans?

The jumping spider only bites humans and other large mammals as an act of self-defense. While their bite is venomous to its prey, it has no venomous effect on humans and poses no health risk. Bites are rare and should simply be cleaned  with soap and water, or as recommended by a physician. Bites are generally reported as minor, and may include itchiness, redness and swelling in those allergic to spider bites.

It is unusual to see infestations of jumping spiders, especially indoors. These are not social insects nor are they typically found in high concentrations to any one confined area. The most common complaint we receive from customers regarding the jumping spider is finding them in mailboxes. When opening the door and removing the mail, a jumping spider may be startled and jump towards you in what appears to be aggression. However, this is an act of self-defense mixed with a startled reflex. Occasionally, they may be found around a door or window facing as well. In such cases, inadvertently making it inside the home is a possibility. When possible, simply relocating the spider will do. However, typical pest control measures should alleviate any issue with jumping spiders.

Attacks on Humans?

Spiders are not intent upon attacking humans. They do not stalk, seek out or hunt us. Likewise, they don’t band together in tactical assault missions to flush you out of your home! When a jumping spider jumps towards you, it was not going to kill and eat you. Spiders are more afraid of us than we are of them. We can simply take a step and put an end to a spider. They don’t enjoy this same defense against us. Just because it’s a spider, doesn’t mean it needs to die… unless of course, it decides to take up residence inside your residence. At that point, “all is fair in love and war”!

On a more serious note, if we take the time to get acquainted with the jumping spider, we may just end up with a whole new perspective on this interesting little creature. In fact, if you study them enough, you just might find yourself hunting one up for a pet…. or maybe not!

And remember, it’s okay to live among pests… but you don’t have to live with them!