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Hawaiian Happy Face Spider Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Many people think that spiders are scary or nasty animals. Would you believe there is a spider with a happy face? Read this lesson to find out about this unusual spider, where it lives, and some interesting facts about its life.

Theridion Grallator: The Hawaiian Happy Face Spider

You might not think of a spider as being very happy, but there is one spider that you can find smiling! The Theridion grallator spider, commonly called the Hawaiian happy face spider, is found only in Hawaii in rainforests on the islands of O'ahu, Moloka'i, Maui, and Hawai'i.

Happy Face Markings

Scientists are not quite sure why these spiders have happy faces on their backs, but they believe that they are there for deterring predators, or stopping predators, like birds, from eating them. The markings on the backs of the happy face spiders may confuse predators, or they may also work as camouflage, looking like rust spots on the leaves of the plants that grow where they live.

Can you see the spots that look like a face?
happy face

However, not all scientists are sure this is the reason for the spots; some say it may have to do with what the spiders eat. One study found that the spiders would change from yellow (the most typical color) to orange or green depending on what insects they would eat! These spiders may also have red and blue colors.

Some of them have markings that look like frowns instead of happy faces, and some have no faces or markings at all and may be all blue or all orange! Each spider may be unique. Since this spider can have so many appearances, it is known as a polymorph, which means it has many forms.

Lifestyle and Diet

These spiders spend much of their lives alone. Most spiders don't care for their babies; less than 1% of all spiders care for their young. However, the Hawaiian happy face spider is part of that 1% who shows motherly care! She guards her eggs and brings food for her babies to eat when they are small. When they leave the nest for good, they are on their own.

A happy face spider hiding under a leaf.
leaf

These spiders hunt at night and hide under the leaves of plants in their spindly webs during the day, but they don't rely on their webs to catch their food. Instead, they hunt their food. They mostly eat small insects, such as flies and grasshoppers.

Studying the Species

Although they were first noticed over 100 years ago, scientists didn't pay much attention to them until about 50 years ago, when they began studying this unusual spider.

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