Saturday, 20 August 2016

Insect Mini-Series - HUNTSMAN SPIDER

Nocturnal hunting came with its own set of rules, rewards and hazards. While she risked the dangers of the hunter becoming the hunted, she enjoyed a freedom of movement that only a webless spider could experience. 

Huntsman, Fiji

Fruit Bat, Fiji
On this particular night she had stalked a beetle up into the canopy of a papaya tree and found herself confronted by a flying fox – or fruit bat. The bat had taken umbrage at the interloper who had disturbed it at its evening meal, causing the Huntsman to make a rapid retreat.

The spider leapt, jumped and skittered down the papaya tree and took refuge on a nearby house where she had spotted some interesting activity. Moths were hurling themselves against a window in a vain attempt to reach the light within. 

Gecko,  Morocco
She had barely positioned herself to pounce on a juicy looking specimen when she spotted a gecko approaching, no doubt with the same idea.

Now the Huntsman had a serious problem. With a potential leg span of 160mm she was the largest spider in this part of the world, but geckos were dangerous predators. She knew the lizard would have no qualms about taking her on. Indeed, a spider of her dimensions was probably a far more attractive proposition to the gecko than a slim moth with insubstantial wings.

The Huntsman withdrew.

She needed to find a hiding place because she knew that more geckos would arrive to feast on the moths. Her preferred choice was loose tree bark to slide and hide beneath, but with sunrise imminent she didn't have time to leave the security of the building to go in search of something more suitable. 

She therefore elected to remain under the eaves of the house.

Now, if only the creature that lived within the house would stop flashing a light in her eyes, she might have been content to stay a while. As it was, she waited patiently for night to descend once more so that she could make good her escape.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Insect Mini-Series - LARGE RED DAMSELFLY

The most enjoyable part of his job was done. All he had to do now was hang onto her head.

Large Red Damselfly, West Cork, ROI

It was a bit boring, but if he let her go another damselfly might catch her and turf out his sperm. So he waited.

From his leafy vantage he surveyed his realm with satisfaction.

When he had reached maturity he had searched for a good breeding ground. The vegetation beside this slow running stream offered an excellent habitat.

Yet it was hard work. There always seemed to be another male wanting his piece of prime real estate and he was constantly defending his territory. His reward for his vigilance was this female who had flown in to check him out and found him worthy.

From the moment she arrived and indicated her willingness, he grabbed her by her thorax before moving into the tandem pose while he readied his sperm. It didn’t take him long. Within a few seconds he changed position and they curled themselves into a wheel to mate. Copulation took a good deal longer - about fifteen minutes – although he didn’t mind that!

When they finished she tried to fly away but he grabbed her head and held her in the tandem position again. It was only by forcing her to stay attached to him, that he could guarantee she wouldn’t mate with rival males before she laid her eggs.

He looked down into the stream at the submerged leaves and stems; the perfect place to lay her eggs was right below them.

He wished she would get on with it.