Lurking in the Corner.


Perhaps the most common human interaction with spiders is how we run headlong into their webs. This happens most often with orb webs, as (obviously) a thin two-dimensional web spread across an empty space is most likely to go unnoticed even when we’re looking straight at it.

Sometimes, the saving grace is that you at least spot the spider before you spot the web. Not always, though.

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Some orb web spiders like building webs (why they love to build them at the same level as our heads is beyond me,) and then hiding at one corner of it. You won’t notice it on the first pass, but on one of the leaves anchored to the web is a silk sheath, and you just might find something hiding behind it.

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These spiders can be quite reluctant to see the light of day, but if you take a small stick or a blade of grass and slip it into the spider’s sanctuary, it jumps out and scrurries to a second hiding space – usually under another of the leaves attached to the web.

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This spider is an Araneus mitificus: also known as a Kidney Garden Spider. I’ve come across them a couple of times, and my guess is that the specimen you see above is gravid. They have a beautiful erm… posterior, with large variations in their marking from spider to spider. The underbelly is a brilliant, almost iridiscent green.

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The next time you see a large, empty orb web, try looking at everything that the web connects to. You’ll find a spider hiding somewhere. And this critter is worth taking the time to find.

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Lurking in the Corner.

It’s a Gender Equality thing.


I’m sure most of you would’ve read or heard about the beastly female spiders that devour their puny male mates after copulation, biting their heads off soon after they erm, serve their biological imperative.

While I can’t deny that it is – generally speaking – true, things aren’t quite as bad as that. Many male spiders survive at least 2-3 encounters with females. 🙂

Many male spiders are still tiny little squirts though – they make a great case study of sexual dimorphism in nature. The male Argiope spider is barely a quarter of the female’s size. And while the female is strikingly colourful, the male is a dull, featureless brown. Come mating season, they usually build secondary webs close to a female’s much larger, better web… and you know, just hang around.

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There’s no real punchline to this post, all that text was just build-up to what I thought was a pretty neat picture. 🙂 Thassal for today.

Continue reading “It’s a Gender Equality thing.”

It’s a Gender Equality thing.

Portrait of a Jumper.


Jumping spiders are great fun to photograph, expressive as they appear to be. In my limited experience, I get a chance to see them more often in more man-made environments: desks, walls, indoors, and on my pants even. They’re far harder to get a-hold of on a plant or in a bush.

A most opportune time to catch them in the “wild” is when they’re getting set to molt. The disadvantage is that molting often happens at night, with the spiders prepping come late evening, so you need to find ’em by then and keep shooting.

I came across a female Two-Striped Jumper, Telamonia dimidiata earlier in the year. Twitchy little spider that she was, the photograph below is the best I could do before nightfall.

Jumping spider pre-molt

As night fell, the jumping spider found itself a leaf that it liked, and started building a protective web under it.

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The web was quite tough, and it seemed as if the spider felt really comfortable inside it. While the jumper continued to spin round and round and pace about its little bunker, it also allowed me to go in closer and shoot a lot better.

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I love the texture of Telamonia‘s carapace, and the red stripess running down its length.

Continue reading “Portrait of a Jumper.”

Portrait of a Jumper.

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. ]

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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.

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.

Denim goes well with spiders.


At least once every week, a furtive little spider hops around on my desk, full of nervous energy. At least, I manage to catch him in the act once a week or so. The delightful little fellow is a male “Larger Housefly Catcher“, Plexippus paykulli.

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The only way to catch him on the camera is to literally herd him in towards the lens: I block his forward direction of motion with his other hand, some times hit the surface hard so that he spends at least a second standing still. Jumpy little bugger though, he’ll jump on my hand or on the lens unannounced if he doesn’t get his way.

Also, I don’t know if you can tell, but he’s perched on my jeans in this particular picture. 🙂

I think one of the reasons that Jumping Spiders appear so emotive in the appearances, giving off strong vibes of apparent curiosity and innocence is because of the way their eyeballs work. Unlike vertebrates (and like most of their invertebrate cousins,) their eyeballs are fixed in nature – they cannot move around independent of their heads.

While most other invertebrate eyes have large fields of vision, the Jumping spider eyes have a rather narrow field: which means that they need to turn not just their head but almost their entire body in whichever direction they want to see. And voila. The spider becomes more emotive. 🙂

Hat-Tip to Joseph KH Koh’s lovely A Guide to Singapore Spiders for ID help. It’s the only excellent tropical spider guide that I’ve found till date.

Continue reading “Denim goes well with spiders.”

Denim goes well with spiders.