Misty Webbing Hop.


No matter where you are in the world, the next time you get up early on a weekend morning, especially after a dewy night: go out! Be it in the grasses or near the bottom of hedges or just about anywhere, you’re quite likely to find spider webs that are bursting with dewy goodness.

Trapdoor spider (The same?)

Spider webs provide an excellent surface for dew condensation (I’m guessing that there are lots of nucleation sites,) and it doesn’t matter if it’s an orb web, a three-dimensional web or a funnel web like that of the wolf spider above, they’ll stand out shining.

And if you pay enough attention, you’ll find the spider hidden underneath the waterdrops somewhere.

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Misty Webbing Hop.

A Time for Mothers.


The monsoon is High Spring for a lot of spiders and critters in India, odd as that may sound. You start seeing spiders in different stages of their life cycle, and you get snapshots of how things are in the whole birth-growth-death cycle.

Here’s a hunting spider, an Oxyopes spp. (brown, in contrast to their green cousins). When it’s their time of the year, the gravid female spiders cleverly weave silk strands along the length of a leaf tip, forcing the leaf to curl down and provide a nice little nook to store their eggs in. [“Gravid” is a fancy way of saying pregnant, when it comes to spiders. ]

Hunting spider with

I’ve mentioned before that hunting spiders are rangers, and they can lope quite fast on their long legs and stalk prey. However, once the female lays eggs, they sit themselves either on or close to the egg sac, protectively guarding it. It was the same this year as the last.

I’m not entirely sure how long the whole hatching process takes place, but spider growth is slightly different hatching chickens. Even after hatching, some spiderlings spend a few days within the egg sac/web, finishing a molt or two before they feel ready to leave and wander off. In the photo below you can see the first few spiderlings emerging from the nest.

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I’m guessing here, but I think the mother provides a few “stock” silk lines to a few nearby locations, and the spiderlings do the rest: they start producing their own webs and strands very early, and scamper off in different directions.

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Here’s a close up of the spiderlings. This is as much resolution I can get in the “wild” on my camera, I’m afraid.

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To the naive observer (i.e. moi) it’s interesting how spider mothers take on a very protective mantle: guarding the nest from marauding insects and the like, but they don’t really coddle the hatchlings at all, they’re left to figure things out on their own. I’m really curious to know how freshly hatched spiders “learn” how to spin webs and strands.

Continue reading “A Time for Mothers.”

A Time for Mothers.

Long Live the Queen.


For the better part of the summer, a marvellous Green Lynx Spider (likely a Peucetia viridana) was living three feet outside my door. I’ve shared several pictures of her before, and it used to be a favourite pass time of mine to stand outside in late evenings and watch the Queen of Thorns sway with wind.

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Green lynx spiders are hunting spiders: they don’t jump around, they don’t build giant orb webs, but they do have a Ranger’s look about them: on the prowl with their long legs and infinite reach.

The spider just sat still on most occasions when I observed it, and I’m afraid I never really got to see it hunt. This one evening I got lucky though: in the photograph below the Peucetia‘s caught herself a grasshopper easily as big as her, and then some. By the time I saw it, the hapless insect had stopped struggling.

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The place where the spider rested was quite susceptible to strong winds and was only partially protected from the rain (and light rain at that), so she would often disappear on stormy evenings, and be back in her perch the morning after.

Some day late in July, she disappeared for good. We had a particularly stormy night, and I’m hoping that she skedaddled to safety.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

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Continue reading “Long Live the Queen.”

Long Live the Queen.

Bipolar dragonflies.


Last week I had shared a single photograph of the Wandering Glider, Pantala flavescens. Thought I might share some more today.

Maybe an entomologist or a dragonfly expert might be able to tell me better: but dragonflies appear to be quite bipolar, having two extreme states of behaviour. One is where they’re constantly flitting about, changing direction mid-air and never resting. A couple of times I have kept my eye on a single dragonfly and found that they can do that for over ten minutes. Maybe much more.

31358404-Golden_Dragonfly_2The other is where they become living statues, sometimes even non-responsive to light contact. I am not sure whether these are metabolic states of the dragonflies, age regimes, or something else entirely. So they’re either hyperactive or they are zombies. Coolio.

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Dragonflies are quite colourful and pretty as they come, but I always found the lack of any substance at the back of their head a bit… disconcerting. [Flashback to the Temple of Doom, with chilled monkey brains for dessert. Yum.]

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Bipolar dragonflies.

Spider humour and photography.


Hello Critter fans!

(The Daily Critter: You come for the photography, and you stay for the banal greetings.)

For a change, I thought that I might share a couple of videos with all of you today. None of them by me, let me add. The first is a really funny Ricky Gervais video on spiders. (Warning: lots of profanity)

(via Bug Girl’s Blog)

Spiders, oh spiders, they’re always ready, aren’t they?… You’ll never see a spider stretched out on the carpet, it’s head down and all eight legs just stretched out. They’re always ready! 

Funnily enough, Ricky Gervais makes for an excellent spider as well. (Note to self: Steal Gervais’ spider stance for later animated discussions.)

The second, much longer video is one by Thomas Shahan, an amazing macro photographer with some bewitching photographs of jumping spiders, who’s even gone on NBC’s The Today Show. Crazy, huh – The amount of glamour a bug photographer can get in the states? 

It’s a really nice video about how the magic happens. He articulates the process of finding and photographing critters a lot better than I can.

When you’re out looking for arthropods it’s a good idea to relax and take your time, things may not come easy – you may go days or weeks or months without taking a good photograph…

Most importantly, get to know arthropod behaviour, you’ll see how certain bugs find purchase, how close you can approach some of them,

…equipment doesn’t matter, and neither does talent, to some extent: It’s about perseverance, persistance and most of all: the sheer volume of shots taken… 

That may not sound as glamorous as you might’ve imagined, but there you have it. Paraphrasing Andrew Zuckerman, creativity is curiosity mixed with rigour, and when that combination is just right, you have something truly special.

Spider humour and photography.

Up on the Wall.


Today we the jumping spider again, the Plexippus paykulli. He’s perched on the wall next to my desk in this one.

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I’ve also tried my hand at a little Photoshop here, playing with the backdrop. (Anyone in Bangalore willing to introduce me to Adobe Lightroom?)

I like paykulli. And saying it too. Especially with a Kannada twang. See you next week, everyone.

Continue reading “Up on the Wall.”

Up on the Wall.

It’s mine, I tell you.


Today’s critter is a Wolf Spider with a no-nonsense attitude.

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Usually wolf spiders that dwell in holes or funnel webs beat a quick retreat into their holes when a camera lens comes looking. Not this guy. He’s recently (?) dragged in a dragonfly, and he’s not about to give it up to anyone. Not without a fight, at any rate.

Their eyesight is not exactly as good as that of jumping spiders, but I’ve never had one of those get into a staring contest with my camera before. Standing over a kill, mammals usually growl under their breath. Spiders just give you a look.

Oh, and I’ll probably be off on a little trip with the folks by the time you read this! Heading down to Mysore and thereabouts, there are a bunch of old temples that have slipped under my radar, and then there are some that I haven’t checked out since I was 10. Follow me on Twitter and keep an eye on my other photo blog It’s a long way to Thipparalli if you want to know more.

Cheerio. Tomorrow’s post has been uploaded as well. Fear not, you shall have it in your inbox / facebook wall feed / google reader / source of choice. 🙂

Continue reading “It’s mine, I tell you.”

It’s mine, I tell you.