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The zebra jumping spider (Salticus scenicus) is one of the smallest of its kind. Due to its size, it can sometimes be easily overlooked in the garden. The small, skilled hunters are usually particularly active during the summer months. For some people, the little creepy-crawlies are just repulsive and dangerous. Others are impressed and fascinated by the zebra jumping spider. Should you really avoid the “little ones” in an encounter? More information on this below.

zebra jumping spider

Zebra jumping spiders are also under the name Harlequin jumping spider known. Like many other animals, they belong to the cultural followers of humans and stay close to them. Here they find enough food and shelter. Even if the spiders are not very big, everyone has probably seen them somewhere. Their markings, which are largely reminiscent of zebras, are striking. The appearance of the spider can be described as follows:

  • Size 4 to 7mm
  • females larger than males
  • strong, stocky body
  • large eyes in three rows on the head
  • 2 large front eyes
  • another 2 eyes directed forward
  • 4 eyes on the sides of the abdomen (prosoma)
  • 8 short, muscular legs irregularly banded cream to tan
  • pair of white spots on prosoma
  • black and white transverse bands on abdomen (Opisthosoma)
  • Transverse bands consist of scale hairs
  • older animals darker due to abrasion of the scale hair
  • Long, forward-sloping jaw claws (chelicerae)

Due to the special position of the eyes, the zebra jumping spider is able to see in color and in three dimensions with its front eyes. Furthermore, due to the special arrangement of the remaining eyes, she is also able to have an almost perfect all-round view. As a result, the spider can perceive even the smallest movement in its environment, i.e. in the garden, and can thus orientate itself well and clearly recognize its predators. Spiders can see much better than humans, even at close range.

tip: The eyesight of spiders can be easily tested. To do this, the animal is simply held in front of a small stick, alternatively the finger, and slowly approaches the spider with it. The Harlequin Jumping Spider will immediately retreat, maintaining the previous distance.

Toxic or not?

The fact is that in the poisonous claws of the zebra jumping spiders also contains poison. This is a highly effective neurotoxin. Now the question surely arises: How do the spiders apply the venom and to whom can it be poisonous and even deadly?

The zebra jumping spider does not catch its prey in the webs specially woven for this purpose, as is usual with spiders, because it is a very skilled hunter and hunts actively. This takes place between May and October. The spider prefers to catch prey during the day in bright sunshine. As the name "jumping spider" suggests, the prey is jumped directly and grabbed with the front legs until it is no longer possible to escape. Before that, the spider secures itself to the ground with a thread at the jump-off point. With the help of this "safety line" she can quickly retreat if the jump fails. However, before the spider starts to jump, it first observes its prey very closely, then sneaks up silently and finally jumps off abruptly.

The targeted jump does not happen through the muscle power of the animals, but is based on a hemolymphatic pressure. The haemolymph, the blood of the insects, is expanded and contracted, similar to a hydraulic pumping process. As a result, the third and fourth pair of legs are suddenly overstretched and the first two pairs of legs finally land and the prey is grasped. Finally, a more targeted neck bite. One bite from the zebra jumping spider is usually enough to kill the prey.

human and animal

The poison released by the death bite usually acts very quickly on the insects. During this time, they are still held by the spider. The venom of the zebra spider is deadly for predators and prey, which are sometimes much larger than themselves. However, people need no concerns because a bite of the Salticus scenicus is not dangerous for them and also for dogs and cats and certainly not poisonous. The little spiders are simply not able to penetrate human skin with their poisonous claws.

notice: The small zebra jumping spider can cover long distances in one jump, up to distances twenty-five times the length of its body, and still land precisely on the dot. Bionics have been trying to use this phenomenon for mankind for quite some time in order to improve the precision of hydraulic systems.

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