You don’t need to be human to steal.


Today’s post, like many others before it, starts with an Argiope spider. Though they are quite interesting in their appearance, you’re likely to be quite bored of them by now, if you have been following this blog for any length of time. In fact, the photo just below is rather mediocre compared to what I usually share.

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But wait. The Argiope is not the only thing seen in that picture, is it? No, there’s a second, smaller spider in the top right corner, messing around with a dead insect wrapped and kept as leftovers.

Turns out that the second spider is a Dewdrop spider, genus Argyrodes. And it’s up to no good. Take a look at the collage below.

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Most orb-web spiders trap and kill prey when they find them, and they wrap them up in silk and tie them on their web to one side, pretty much like what you can see in these pictures. And the Dewdrop spiders steal them!

Dewdrop spiders build small webs quite close to those of larger spiders, such as this one. Often their web is in a plane parallelt to the larger spider’s, but set to one side. They also sneak in a couple of strands between the two webs for ease of access. And when they chance upon a morsel small enough for them to nick, voila. Now you see the silk ball, now you don’t. The Sting glowed blue when Sam rescued Frodo from Shelob, the Argyrodes just shines silver.

Kleptoparasitism is the technical word for it, parasitism by theft. It seems to be all the rage in the animal kingdom. The Arachnid world has dewdrop spiders, the birds have skuas, and we humans have pimps, child peddlers and other scum of the earth.

Viva la Evolución.

Continue reading “You don’t need to be human to steal.”

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You don’t need to be human to steal.

The Mottled King.


Ah. Another long night. This time, it included getting well and thoroughly soaked in the rain (while driving the scooter home, thanks for asking). Good fun though.

I have been dabbling with a few too many things off late, and I’m afraid The Daily Critter’s suffered a little as a result: often I end up getting to it too late in the day to do anything really good.

However. I’ll actively try and avoid that from tomorrow onwards – and as a pledge I’ll start off with a good post tomorrow. Y’know. Something with an actual story of sorts.

Remember the Queen of Thorns? A beautiful, big, green spider that had made its home in the tulsi plants in front of my door? Well, during one of the heavy spells of rain last month, the lynx spider skedaddled, leaving only what photographs I’d taken, behind.

Today I saw this little moth seated in the same place, open to the rain and uncaring. I absolutely love the colour patterns and am cristening it the Tiger Moth until someone tells me otherwise. The little droplet of water on its head is like the pièce de résistance cherry on a very unusual cake.

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Continue reading “The Mottled King.”

The Mottled King.

With a bit of backbone.


Thought I’d dabble in something different for a change! Instead of the usual invertebrate lot, I decided to go for something with a backbone today.

Calotes versicolor, better known as the Oriental Garden Lizard, is one of the largest lizards you can find with ease, in India. Unless you’re particularly skilled at tracking down monitor lizards and iguanas. They have a characteristic heart-shaped head, and as their name goes, they can change into a variety of colours.

Oriental Garden Lizard / Changeable Lizard / Calotes versicolor

Unfortunately as my luck would have it, the only decent photograph I have of the lizard is during its boring season – all greys and browns instead of bright yellows and reds. They have excellent eyesight and scamper before I can get to shooting distance with my not-an-SLR-with-a-big-fat-telephoto-lens camera.

That’s all for today, so move along now. And have yourself a damn good weekend.

Continue reading “With a bit of backbone.”

With a bit of backbone.

Arthropod husbandry.


We humans (and quite a large number of our fellow mammals) have our head lice, body lice and… lice that may flourish in other regions. It turns out that plants have their own version of lice as well!

Aphids are little bugs that are often very serious pests for agriculture and horticulture. The only redeeming quality, I suppose, is that they’re rather more colourful compared to head lice (and I’m guessing here, mind you,) and come in various shades of yellow, green and brown. Any time you observe odd specks on a plant, tiny blobs stuck to the underside of a leaf or the nodes on stem, in all likelihood they’re aphids. They usually puncture the plant and derive their nutrients from the phloem inside.

Now, aphids are squishy little things, largely defenseless, and can be easy prey for the roving insects, larvae and other fiends. They remind me a lot of herds of sheep, just milling about. You know, if the sheep were yellow, had six legs and a bit more alien.

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Like most sheep need sheperds, the aphids need ants! Turns out that humans aren’t the only ones who keep farm animals for food. Ants have been doing it for millions of years now.

Aphids suck up so much delicious juice out of plant veins, that if they try to process all of it, they would all die horrible hyperosmotic deaths thanks to all the high sugar concentrations. To avoid that dreadful fate, aphids secrete out honeydew, manna of the ants and nectar of the arthropods.

Ants carefully collect this honeydew and use it to nourish themselves, and in turn offer the aphids some much needed protection.

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More than that, some ants even carry aphid eggs into their nests during winters and keep them safe. Come summer or the monsoon, they bring back the aphid larvae to plants and grasslands where the aphids can graze and the ants can reap their harvest. What a wonderful world.

Continue reading “Arthropod husbandry.”

Arthropod husbandry.

Back to them spiders.


Not since May have two entire weeks gone by with not a hint of a spider or three. High time I did something about it.

Today’s spider is a rather curiously shaped fellow who is called the Spiny orb-weaver from genus Gasteracantha. As the name suggests, this spider builds large two-dimensional orb webs like the Argiope spiders and many ohers. I’m not quite sure why, but for some reason they seem to build these webs rather close to Argiope webs. Often I’ve found them but a foot or so away, with the plane of the web sometimes almost normal to that of the Argiope’s.

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Anyhou, tiny as they may be, they’re still quite colourful and I was lucky enough to catch this one with some backlighting.

Continue reading “Back to them spiders.”

Back to them spiders.