Masters of Deception

Two remarkable masters of deception seen on a trip to Malaysia a few years ago. The bird-dropping spider (Phrynarachne decipiens) was encountered beside a boardwalk at the wonderful Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak. I thank Wiki for the ID and behavioural notes, which say, in part: ” It crouches stationary on a leaf…and exhibits an elaborate combination of form and colour, the posture it adopts and the character of its web so as to simulate accurately a patch of bird’s execreta. The effect is to create the impression of a semi-solidified bird’s dropping with a white raised centre with black specks, a surrounding thinner, more liquid portion and even a drip effect on the lowest margin ending in a little knob. …the spider emits an odour not unlike bird excreta.” The disguise may work two ways: enabling the spider (in typical crab spider style) to quietly await an unwary victim and also perhaps fooling birds who might enjoy a spider snack. The butterfly was seen perched on a piece of rotting pineapple laid out for the enjoyment of denizens of the Butterfly Park in Kuala Lumpur. A dip into Wiki leaves me convinced it is Kallima paralekta, the Indian or Malayan Leafwing. With wings folded the underside mimics a dry leaf, with veins and even a mid-rib. The uppersides are colourful, but quite different for male and female. The rear of the wings even end in pointed narrow tail resembling a leaf petiole.

Seeing Dendroica’s posting of a crab spider this morning I remembered this picture taken at Kabulwarnamyo on the West Arnhem Land Plateau about 2004.

It’s also a crab spider and I think probably Thomisus spectabilis, with its prey. The prey is a feral bee (Apis mellifera) which the spider has caught by hanging out in ambush mode on the underside of this lamb’s tail flower head (sp?), well camouflaged by its white colour.

Apis mellifera is a foreign invader in Arnhem Land.  Feral Apis seem to have spread extensively through Arnhem Land only in the late twentieth century where they compete with the stingless native bees, or “sugarbag” as these are known in Aboriginal english.

At Kabulwarnamyo in Kundednjenghmi language, native honey is called mankung, with various other speciific names that align with Linnaean taxonomic classifications for more than four different stingless bee species.