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.

Telamonia dimidiata

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.

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.

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.

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.

An ant or two.


Yesterday I’d talked about a spider that disguised itself as a weaver ant, and how I had stumbled on to one without realising at the time. Turns out that the spider is Myrmarachne plataleoides, also known as the Kerengga Ant-like Jumper.

(When you have about 40,000 spider species with over 5,000 of them being jumping spiders, you end up using silly common names like that one.)

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I had spotted a female, and this was way back in January btw. A couple of months ago I’d seen the same near the flower pots some evening, but I didn’t have the camera near me, and the critter disappeared before I could arm myself with one.

Cut to Tuesday evening this week, I noticed something like an ant or two on one of the leaves of a plant growing just in front of my door. It’s evening and after dark, so my eyes almost glanced over it. But my spider sense tingled. 🙂 And then I noticed the webs to one side.

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As it turns out, the male Myrmarachne one-ups the female, not very common in the arachnid world. While the female Myrmarachne resembles a weaver ant, the male resembles TWO! It has adapted itself to resemble a worker weaver ant carrying a smaller ant.

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Most jumping spiders are cute, but this one looks nasty. Even though they are quite timid, really. They mimic the fearsome (and apparently bad-tasting) weaver ants so that they can get by unmolested. They try to be so convincing in their disguise, these jumping spiders rarely jump, except in dire need.

I love the way the name rolls off my tongue, though. Myr-ma-rach-ne. Apparently, that’s ancient Greek for ant and spider: myrmex and arachne. Everything sounds cooler in ancient Greek. If only we can decipher Linear A some day.

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Continue reading “An ant or two.”

An ant or two.