Arachnids and insects closely associated with certain plants?

I’m wondering if there’s a good place/book to learn or start learning about invertebrates closely tied to certain plants? There’s tons of info for butterfly and moth host plants/food plants but apart from that I haven’t seen anything that’s written for the lay public, which I’d consider myself here.

This question inspired by a spider I’ve observed on some of my firewheels that’s either able to change color or has evolved to fit into their color scheme perfectly…I don’t even notice the thing until I’m looking at pictures of the flower or other creatures on the flower and notice it.

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This paper might be a good place to start. Documents an unusual relationship with an Orb Weaver species and a specific host plant:

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It might be worth looking at some gardening books, especially older ones, where whole chapters are devoted to ‘pests’ and ‘beneficial insects’ and the plants they are associated with.

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Talking about “pests” this site is awesome, may be a help for other parts of the world too. https://bladmineerders.nl/

And, knowing which spiders are that adapted for flower colours, most of spiders don’t stick to one particular plant, with them it’s easier to read Wiki pages for families, they tend to prefer specific places for nets.

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I can’t really help with sources, but I can say there are many spiders which are like limited, slow chameleons: they can change colour to match their background over the course of about a week. Most famous for this are Goldenrod Crab Spiders (Misumena vatia), which have a limited but spectacular palette, but many other flower crab spiders and orbweavers can change from light to dark or from one hue to another to a limited extent.

So, mostly spiders aren’t tied to specific plants, rather they adapt to whatever they happen to be on. As always in biology, there are probably some exceptions. Maybe Juniper Orbweaver?

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I think you are asking about cryptic coloration, which insects and other mostly small living things use to blend in with their environment.

If the front two pairs of legs of the spider you saw were much longer than the rear legs, it may well have been a crab spider, such as JeremyHussell mentions.

Crab spiders do not use webs to catch prey. Instead they blend in and hide. When a prey insect lands on the flower where they are hiding, they use the long front legs to capture it. Ambush bugs have a similar strategy.

If you Google cryptic coloration you will find some amazing examples of animals that blend in.

BTW, if you are interested in plants that depend on certain insects, iNat has a number of pollinator projects.

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I’m familiar with cryptic coloration and this is probably an example of it. But it’d be an extreme one.

is there a way to post a photo in these threads to show what I mean?

https://imgur.com/YCQFyRm

That should link to an imugur photo of this spider.

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One place to find a lot is iNat taxon pages. At the taxon search box type a plant common name and look through the list. Milkweed has butterflies, bugs, assassin bugs, beetles, aphids, moths, and leaf beetles for example.

When trying to find what gall is on a plant, often “plantname gall” will provide possible candidates.

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Often with spiders, and I suspect it is the same with other invertebrates that have a high degree of variability in patterning, the colour changes happen at the time of ecdysis. If Eriophora pustulosa is on a green plant, then it will have a green appearance, and if you pick it up and move it to a white painted wall, then at the next moult it will develop white colouration.

This is a site that attempts to record associations particularly around herbivory in NZ :
https://plant-synz.landcareresearch.co.nz/

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That IS cryptic! Still haven’t found the spider

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I agree with NancyinSunnyvale and JeremyHussell - it is likely to be a crab spider, which don’t spin webs, but are instead ambush predators. Below is an interesting article on plant choice and colour in Thomisus spectabilis in Australia, and the effect this has on bees. Interesting relationship observed i think:

https://jeb.biologists.org/content/208/10/1785

“The Book of Forest and Thicket”, “The Book of Swamp and Bog” and “The Book of Field and Roadside” all have information on insect associates, but not limited to insects. Below are links to the Google Book previews, so you can see if the information inside these books are useful to you.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=akP4WWbgMFgC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
https://books.google.ca/books?id=n7fKt2fdznsC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
https://books.google.ca/books?id=B9Hlyh-pwKYC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

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I don’t see a spider in that photo. I think I see a line of silk across the top of the center of the flower, but everything else seems to be part of the flower.

The best place for a photo like this is, of course, an iNaturalist observation. But if you want to include a photo in a post on the forum, there’s an image upload button in the toolbar above the text box where you type in a new post, which will insert the image you upload to where your cursor is.

Seeing if this works.

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I think I see what you mean, but I think those are bent-over petals (?? definitely not the right word) of the flower, not spider legs. There are some more to the right of your circle.

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One resource for information on species of invertebrates associated with specific plant species (in Illinois, USA) is

http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/

I’m slowly wading through the book by Schoonhoven, van Loon, and Dicke, “Insect-Plant Biology” (2nd edition, 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-852595-0). It’s written for college students, and it’s on this exact topic.

There is an open source online tool which keeps track of known biotic interactions and includes inat observations: https://www.globalbioticinteractions.org/

It’s pretty cool and under-used. I checked for Indian blanket, and while there are a lot of species listed I didn’t see anything that matched your observation. There was a spider (Misumenoides formosipes) but it’s probably not what you describe.

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I am getting more and more interested in plant-arthropod (and fungi) associations.
As @melodi_96 mentioned, I can also highly recommend the site https://bladmineerders.nl .

In addition, who wants to know what kind of aphid sits on a specific plant, this site:
https://influentialpoints.com/Gallery/Aphid_genera.htm is very helpful.
For rust fungi and other phytoparasitic fungi, this website has a large number of species and great photos (in German, but can be easily navigated using the scientific names): http://jule.pflanzenbestimmung.de/pflanzen-und-pilze/phytoparasitische-kleinpilze/

I tried to raise some dipteran miners from plants in my garden, but so far ‘only’ got parasitoids out (which is still great!) - will try again this year.

Lastly, mainly for European users, I created this iNat-project dealing with tight plant-animal relationships: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/specific-animal-plant-interactions


Adding both the plant and the animal is obligatory to contribute. Hopefully this project will get some more memebers and thus provide some ideas for new targets to look out for. Would be happy to see some more contributions :-)

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I heard about a mildly horrifying paper in which they blinded the spiders by painting over their eyes. After the spiders could no longer see the color of their flower, they didn’t change their body color to match it. I also remember it takes about a week for the spider to produce new color pigments, but it can “wipe” itself of color (revert to white, I believe) much faster, in only a few days.

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any chance of a link to that paper?

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