8 Intriguing Facts About the Green Lynx Spider

It can spit venom nearly eight inches, but it isn't dangerous to humans.

Green lynx spider waiting on a leaf
Green lynx spiders typically ambush their prey rather than waiting in a web.

Frank Starmer / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The green lynx spider is a big, bright green ghost of the garden, often fading into the foliage and flowers as it prowls for insects. It lives across most of the southern U.S. from coast to coast, as well as Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. It's North America's largest lynx spider, a mostly tropical family of arachnids named for their cat-like speed and agility.

The green lynx inhabits a variety of low shrubs and herbaceous plants, gravitating near the top of vegetation in open habitats like meadows, prairies, farms, and gardens. People who find one are often rightfully impressed; in Florida, it's reportedly the spider species most often received for identification by the state's agriculture department.

Still, many people who share their habitat never actually see a green lynx spider, or they may feel needlessly nervous when they do. In fact, the green lynx spider is not dangerous to humans, and it's also a helpful predator of crop pests. In hopes of boosting the profile of these impressive arachnids, here are a few interesting things you may not know about the green lynx spider.

1. Its Babies Are Well-Protected

A green lynx spider faces the camera as she protects her egg sac in Franklin County, Florida.
A green lynx spider faces the camera as she protects her egg sac in Franklin County, Florida. cturtletrax / Getty Images 

Like many lynx spiders, the green lynx actively hunts prey rather than trying to catch it in a web. Thanks to the incredible properties of spider silk, though, it still finds important uses for this wonder material.

Green lynx spiders make draglines, for example, and sometimes trail this tough, non-sticky silk when they jump. They also use a lot of silk in their distinctive egg sacs, which females build three to four weeks after mating. About 0.8 inches (2 cm) wide, the egg sac is studded with small, pointed protrusions, and features "a maze of silken threads extending from the egg sac to nearby leaves and stems, investing the whole branch" in a nursery web, according to the Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), to house the spiderlings until they grow up.

The mother aggressively guards both her egg sac and her hatched spiderlings, often hanging upside down and charging at anything she deems a threat.

2. It's a Spider Who Jumps, but Not a Jumping Spider

A green lynx spider climbs on a yellow flower in Florida
Green lynx spiders specialize in pouncing on flowers to catch insects. cturtletrax / Getty Images

The green lynx spider is an ambush hunter, often lurking on leaves or flowers and pouncing when an insect comes near to feed on nectar. It darts and hops nimbly through vegetation, and while it technically isn't a jumping spider — they belong to the family Salticidae, while lynx spiders are in Oxyopidae — it leaps around with a precision exceeded only by true jumping spiders, according to the IFAS.

3. It Lays Bright Orange Eggs

Female green lynx spiders typically produce one or two egg sacs per year, each holding an average of 200 bright orange eggs. The eggs hatch after about two weeks, but the young spiders stay in their egg sac at first, taking another 10 to 16 days before molting into a more capable spiderling. When they're ready, the mother helps them emerge by ripping open the egg sac, although they can also escape on their own if needed. Once they exit the egg sac, green lynx spiderlings may need nine months to reach maturity.

4. It Can Adjust Its Camouflage

green lynx spider is camouflaged on a green leaf
The green lynx spider is adept at disappearing on foliage. Tristan Danbury / Getty Images

Green lynx spiders have uncanny camouflage to begin with, but they also have the ability to change colors and blend in with their background even further. It doesn't seem to happen very quickly, though — in one study, gravid female spiders who were placed on different colored backgrounds changed their own colors to match over a period of 16 to 17 days.

5. It Can Spit Venom Nearly 8 Inches

Closeup of green lynx spider in Alabama
If provoked, a mother green lynx spider may spit venom from her fangs. Judy Gallagher / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

While surveying green lynx spiders in the field, zoologist Linda Fink noted 15 occasions when small droplets appeared on her face or hand. When she investigated further, she realized the liquid was being "forcibly expelled by the females from their fangs," she wrote in The Journal of Arachnology in 1984. They were spitting venom at her, with some droplets traveling as far as 20 centimeters (7.9 inches).

Although some spider species spit venom to subdue prey, this seemed to be entirely defensive, Fink reported. She only observed the behavior among females, leaving it unclear if males or juveniles do it, too.

6. It Isn't Dangerous to Humans

Despite their aggressive nature when hunting or defending their brood, green lynx spiders seldom bite people, even in places like Florida where both the spiders and humans are abundant, according to the IFAS. In rare cases when a person is bitten and envenomated, the venom causes only local pain, itching, redness, and swelling.

And while the idea of a spider spitting venom from 8 inches away might sound unnerving, this poses little risk to humans. For one thing, the spiders only spat venom at Fink when she provoked them, and some didn't spit at all. The venom tastes bitter and "always feels cool upon the skin," Fink noted, but it seems mostly harmless aside from irritating the eyes. Fink did cite one case of a soldier who reported "moderately severe chemical conjunctivitis" and impaired vision after being sprayed in the eye by a green lynx spider, but the effects reportedly cleared up after two days.

7. It's an Important Predator of Crop Pests

A green lynx spider captures a Japanese beetle in North Carolina.
A green lynx spider captures a Japanese beetle in North Carolina. Rachel Fleming / Getty Images 

The green lynx spider certainly seems to be a major predator of insects in low shrubs and non-woody plants across its range, but there isn't much detailed research on the species' diet, according to the IFAS. There are interesting studies, however, that suggest some lynx spiders — including the green lynx — are a nightmare for many agricultural pests.

In some cotton fields, for example, researchers have found green lynx spiders feeding on a variety of moth species from the families Noctuidae, Geometridae, and Pyralidae, including some of the most destructive crop pests. They reported the spiders preying on adult corn earworm moths, cotton leafworm moths, and cabbage looper moths, for example, as well as the caterpillars of these species.

Given the economic toll these moths can take on cotton, corn, and other crops, this has piqued interest in the possibility of farmers enlisting help from green lynx spiders to protect their fields. It has also more broadly endeared the spiders to many home gardeners, especially those looking to encourage more native predators as a form of natural pest control.

8. But It Also Eats Bees

A green lynx spider stalks a bee on a moonflower.
A green lynx spider stalks a bee on a moonflower. Christine Kohler / Getty Images

Spiders can play valuable roles in farm or garden ecosystems, and the green lynx does have tantalizing potential for growers plagued by hungry caterpillars. It's worth noting, however, that green lynxes may offset their helpfulness a bit by feasting on beneficial insects as well as pests.

Green lynx spiders often prey on bees and wasps, lurking around flowers and pouncing when the pollinators fly up to feed. They capture a lot of honey bees, for example, whose pollination services are important for many crops. They're also known to hunt other bee species, along with hoverflies and tachinid flies, which are beneficial as pollinators and as parasites of harmful moths, respectively. They even prey on other predators that prey on pests, including vespid wasps like yellow jackets.

Nonetheless, the same is also true for some other popular backyard predators — praying mantises, for instance, eat bees and butterflies along with harmful beetles and grasshoppers. And green lynx spiders might still be valuable allies for some farmers, depending on the crop, location, season, and pest in question, according to the IFAS, which notes they could be useful for controlling soybean and peanut pests in Florida.