Say Hello To The Happy Face Spider

The ever elusive Happy Face Spider (Theridion grallator). Ah, I finally got you to smile for me on camera! On a recent hiking trip to the Palehua-Palikea trail, I spotted two very happy looking Happy Face Spiders. They are known as Happy Face Spiders because the array of colors on the back of their abdomens make it seem as if they are, well, smiling. Hawaiians gave these spiders the name Nananana Makaki`i, which simply means face-patterned spider. It’s Hawaiian name sort of reminds me of that Steam hit from 1969… sing it with me… “Na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbye. Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbye!”

Some believe that the face patterns helps the spiders avoid from being eaten by birds. The spiders themselves are almost translucent and blend it very well with the underside of leaves, where they like to hang out and build their spider webs to catch prey. So if you’re hiking, you probably won’t spot them. You’ll actually have to put some effort into looking for these little guys.

There are a few variations to the Happy Face Spider, with the yellow morph being the most popular on the Palehua-Palikea trail. The Happy Face Spider is endemic to Hawaii and only found on the islands of Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island.

  • Scientific name: Theridion grallator
  • Classification: Phylum: Arthropoda. Class: Arachnida. Order: Araneae
  • Origin: Native to Hawaii
  • Status: Reduced populations
  • Distribution:¬†Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Big Island

Below are two photos that I took of a Happy Face Spider on the Palehua-Palikea trail. These are two different spiders. Both were very, very tiny and roughly 1-2mm in length. We spent about 45 minutes or so looking at these two spiders and also searching for more, but didn’t find any others. I used the very useful Olloclip to take these macro photos.

UPDATE (2/24/2013): Joshua Serrano sent over two more photos of the Happy Face Spider. Thanks Josh!

Happy Face Spider (Theridion grallator) totally stoked about his big snack waiting to be munched on. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Happy Face Spider (Theridion grallator) totally stoked about his big snack waiting to be munched on. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

These Happy Face Spider's are known by the Hawaiians as Nananana Makaki`i. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

These Happy Face Spider’s are known by the Hawaiians as Nananana Makaki`i. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A nice full body shot of a Happy Face Spider. Photo by Joshua Serrano.

A nice full body shot of a Happy Face Spider. Photo by Joshua Serrano.

This picture should give you a good idea of just how tiny these Happy Face Spiders really are. Photo by Joshua Serrano.

This picture should give you a good idea of just how tiny these Happy Face Spiders really are. Photo by Joshua Serrano.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.