Phidippus johnsoni – Red-Backed Jumping Spider

Edited to add (7/11/11): Thanks to a couple of knowledgeable and generous commenters (below) the positive ID on this jumping spider is “Ms.” :)

I found this little Mr. (or Ms.) on the kitchen ceiling a few days ago. Before I could grab my telephoto to see precisely what type of venomous spider might be parachuting onto my head during dinner, he (or she) disappeared.

Today, I saw the black splotch in my peripheral vision again. But I couldn’t get much of a shot in the available light without my tripod (which I routinely forget in the car).

Blur of a Red-Backed Jumping Spider

Blur of Red-Backed Jumping Spider - Phidippus johnsoni - ©ingrid

I could obviously make out the red stripes on the spider’s back. But I don’t know enough about spiders to make a firm ID. Google turned up references to the most dangerous spider in Australia, the Redback . . . a species I could have dismissed had there not been one alleged sighting in Texas.

So, I figured that absent any species consensus, I’d have to find a way to get the guy with the redback (but not necessarily a Redback) outside without risking interaction. Spiders get the benefit of the doubt in this household.

When he climbed on a painting, I seized the moment. I grabbed the frame and swung it outside the door, just as my spider friend plummeted outdoors on a sheen of silk.

The anthropomorphic interpretation of this spider’s expression: “What in the hell was that about?”

I positively identified this guy after the fact. Had I known my California Arachnidae, I’d have known he (or she) was a Red-Backed Jumping Spider (Phidippus johnsoni), common in California. And I might have known the preferred habitat is tucked under something on the ground, not on a leaf — where he landed.

I would have understood that although it has some venom, its bite is not fatal. An encounter would generally only happen if the spider felt threatened, and then, a spider-inflicted injury would render minor swelling and pain. (Being catapulted out the door on the frame of a painting probably constitutes being “threatened.” So if I’d been bitten, whose fault would that have been?)

A person who raises Red-Backed Jumping spiders commented on my Flickr photo, attesting to their relatively docile nature. (Lots more great Red-Backed Spider pics at their Flickr site: The Green Thumb/Spider Pics.)

Here was my last vision of the eight-legged, dancing upon its gossamer silks before trundling off down the tree limb.


Gossamer (silk) of the Red-Backed Jumping Spider - ©ingrid

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