Nature designs her subjects with intricate detail, and many end up with a bizarre exterior or behaviour. This series documents some of the well-camouflaged insects and spiders found in Singapore.
(Left) Bird-Dropping Spider (Black morph)
The Bird-Dropping Spider (Phrynarachne rugosa) sports a black and white, glazed, blobby surface to give it an authentic wet and faecal look. It even emits an odour to lure flies right to its grasping legs.
Location: Singapore’s Central Catchment Nature Reserve
Text and photos by Nicky Bay
Nicky Bay also blogs at Sgmacro
(Left) Bird droppings come in different colours and textures, hence so do the spiders that mimic droppings! This amazing species even has textures that swirl slowly on its back.
The Whip Spider, also known as a Tailless Whip Scorpion (Amblypygi), is neither a scorpion nor a spider! It is classified in a distinct order of the arachnid, having two extremely thin front legs that have been modified into sensory feelers, and six running legs with a stronger build. More interestingly, this species, unlike other arachnids, exhibits social behaviour – the mothers appear to caress their young, and family members tend to gather together.
The Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis petax) stabs its prey and discards the carcasses onto its back. It secretes fine, sticky threads on its back so that the corpses stick to its abdomen, forming an armour of dead bodies as it creeps around.
Planthoppers often resemble the leaves and plants that occur in their immediate, natural environment. This very colourful variant must have some flowers around its home.
The Twig-like Feather-Legged Spider looks just like a hanging, dried twig and often goes unnoticed. Take a closer look and you will see its eyes and legs. It is very much like the Whip Spider in its method of camouflage, except that it is brown and has distinctly feather-like legs.
Location: Admiralty Park, Singapore
As its name implies, this bizarre orb weaver looks like a tree-stump and camouflages itself by perching at a stump along a branch. This is a view of the spider from the top. From this perspective, it resembles a sawed off branch. This is a nocturnal species and builds a web every evening. After a night of catching prey, it dismantles its web in the morning and goes back to sit on the stump of a branch. I have always wondered how it doesn’t overheat under the hot sun. Many trees at Admiralty Park get uprooted during the seasonal storms, yet this guy managed to stand firm at the same spot for over two weeks.
Scorpions emit an eerie glow when placed under Ultra-Violet light. I used a UV torch to locate creatures in the night and found this family of newborns huddled on the back of their mother. The kids do not emit much luminescence yet, so I had them illuminated with a red torch.
Have you ever looked up close at the faces of termites? These guys appear to be faceless, with just a pointed head. In fact, these termites do not even have mandibles. Their "faces" are actually located beneath the pointed head.
Location: Republic Polytechnic Trail, Singapore
The Whip Spider is also commonly known as the twig spider for its excellent camouflage as a harmless twig suspended from leaves and twigs.
This spider mimics the look and behaviour of ants to appear harmless to other bugs. Its two front legs move around to resemble the antennae of an ant. Some species even mimic the scent or odours of the species of ant it is trying to imitate, enabling the spider to infiltrate the ant colony without detection.
What seems to be a walking pile of junk is also sometimes known as a trash bug because it collects “trash” and bodies of its prey on its back until it matures into an adult Lacewing. While photographing this guy, it stumbled onto my thumb and started stabbing its mandibles deep into my skin. I had to grab this shot of it before putting it back onto the trail.
This is the pupa of a Nolid Moth. At first glance, it’s hard to figure out where its head is. Upon closer observation, you’ll notice this "watermelon head" to be wobbling slowly, as if internally chewing on its food. This critter is a common sight in Admiralty Park and is affectionately known as the "Big Head Cat".
This nymph of a leafhopper has a unique bushy tail which normally covers its entire body for camouflage and protection. However, when the wind blows, this tuft of unkempt "hair" lifts to strike a peacock-like pose.
Location: Dairy Farm Nature Park, Singapore
Nicky Bay also blogs at Sgmacro