Spider movement, UV reflectance and size, but not spider crypsis, affect the response of honeybees to Australian crab spiders

PLoS One. 2011 Feb 16;6(2):e17136. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017136.


According to the crypsis hypothesis, the ability of female crab spiders to change body colour and match the colour of flowers has been selected because flower visitors are less likely to detect spiders that match the colour of the flowers used as hunting platform. However, recent findings suggest that spider crypsis plays a minor role in predator detection and some studies even showed that pollinators can become attracted to flowers harbouring Australian crab spider when the UV contrast between spider and flower increases. Here we studied the response of Apis mellifera honeybees to the presence of white or yellow Thomisus spectabilis Australian crab spiders sitting on Bidens alba inflorescences and also the response of honeybees to crab spiders that we made easily detectable painting blue their forelimbs or abdomen. To account for the visual systems of crab spider's prey, we measured the reflectance properties of the spiders and inflorescences used for the experiments. We found that honeybees did not respond to the degree of matching between spiders and inflorescences (either chromatic or achromatic contrast): they responded similarly to white and yellow spiders, to control and painted spiders. However spider UV reflection, spider size and spider movement determined honeybee behaviour: the probability that honeybees landed on spider-harbouring inflorescences was greatest when the spiders were large and had high UV reflectance or when spiders were small and reflected little UV, and honeybees were more likely to reject inflorescences if spiders moved as the bee approached the inflorescence. Our study suggests that only the large, but not the small Australian crab spiders deceive their preys by reflecting UV light, and highlights the importance of other cues that elicited an anti-predator response in honeybees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Bidens / physiology
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Color
  • Ecosystem
  • Female
  • Flowers / physiology
  • Food Chain
  • Inflorescence / physiology
  • Inflorescence / radiation effects
  • Optical Phenomena
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Spiders / anatomy & histology*
  • Spiders / physiology*
  • Spiders / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays*