Meet Lemondrop, the Yellow Crab Spider that Can Change Color and Hunts Bees


How I Came Across Lemondrop

While suffering on a hike that ended up being much tougher than I had anticipated, I decided to sit on a rock to catch my breath. With the relentless Hong Kong summer sun roasting my bald head (I had also forgotten to bring a hat in my infinite wisdom), I spotted something magical.

A little yellow spider shared my rocky perch and moved in a peculiar sideways pattern that immediately grabbed my attention. In that instance, the fact that the sun was frying me alive was of zero consequence. All I could focus on was this remarkable little spider and its fascinating behavior.

I quickly snapped a few pictures and then went on my way, determined to learn more about this beautiful yellow spider that I named Lemondrop.

Lemondrop is a Crab Spider

After a little internet sleuthing, I found out that Lemondrop is a crab spider. Crab spiders, which belong to the Thomisidae family, are found worldwide with about 2,000 unique species discovered so far. Of these 2,000 species only about 15 types of crab spiders are found in Hong Kong - including my cute little buddy Lemondrop!

5 Fascinating Facts About Crab Spiders

I quickly came to the conclusion that crab spiders are really really cool. Here are my 5 favorite facts about them:

They can change color

Crab spiders often hang out on flowers, waiting for prey items to pass by. Depending on the type of flower, some species of crab spiders will switch colors to blend in better with their surroundings. They can reversibly swap between white and yellow, though the transformation takes days to complete. I wonder if Lemondrop was a different color prior to our chance meeting.

They Eat Butterflies and Bees

Crab spiders have a pretty varied diet. They hunt in flowers because they are ambush hunters who are on the prowl for bees, butterflies and other pollen-consuming insects to snack upon. Aside from butterflies and bees, they may also snack upon crickets, grasshoppers, wasps, aphids, caterpillars, houseflies, fruit flies, whiteflies, and Japanese beetles.

They are Tiny

Most crab spiders measure in at less than 1cm in length. Lemondrop was much larger than that, which might mean she's a female. Female crab spiders are often several times larger than their male counterparts. The extent of sexual dimprphism in some species of crab spiders is truly remarkable with females being up to 60 times larger than males! Most of the time females are 2-3 times larger than males, though.

They Use Silk to Make Abstract Art and Create Drop Lines

Crab spiders don't weave traditional webs like many other spiders do. Instead, they use silk drop lines to hunt, similar to a fisherman. Some species of crab spiders even use this silk to create incredible artwork that mimics the look of bird droppings. Flies and other insects are attracted to this abstract art under the false assumption that they're getting a free meal. That's when our little crab spider friends pounce.

They're Ferocious Hunters

If crab spiders are so tiny, how do they eat such large prey? Well, they use their powerful crab-like legs and incredible strength to hold onto prey before delivering a venomous bite that paralyzes their victims. The captured insects are then often consumed alive. Yikes!

Where You Can Find Crab Spiders

If you want to try your luck finding one of Hong Kong's 15 species of crab spiders, here are some of the places you might locate them:

  • forests
  • grasslands
  • meadows
  • gardens
  • urban areas
  • flowers
  • shrubs
  • low-lying vegetation
  • taller plants
  • trees
  • leaves
  • leaf litter on the ground

Basically, they could be anywhere. But, you have to be quite lucky to spot one of these unique predators since they rely on camouflage to successfully hunt and hide from predators. This is one of the many reasons why I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met Lemondrop.

Given that crab spiders can live for up to two years, I hope Lemondrop has a long and prosperous life!