Since we returned from China a couple of weeks ago (more on that in the next blog) I have been trying to get stuck into experiments. Although it is exciting to be collecting data, I’ve been locked in a windowless room most days and feeling a bit desperate to get outside for some fresh air. What better excuse to escape the lab than the need to head to the field for more spiders!
Unfortunately, the jumping spiders I’m working on (Orsima ichneumon) are not widely known from Singapore. They have been recorded here though, and so Caleb and I set off to Upper Peirce Reservoir in the central catchment on advice from Joseph Koh (local spider expert) who found one there some years ago.
Joseph recommended following an unmarked trail where a series of pipelines cut through the forest. Orsima seem to like edge habitat like this and in Malaysia we had most luck finding them in areas where it was shady but got some sun. They particularly seemed to like hanging out on ginger fronds covered in vines.
Despite much beating and searching we didn’t have any luck on our quest for Orsima today, but we still had a lot of fun. For the first time on any outing in Singapore we didn’t see another human soul on the trail. Also, despite it recently feeling a little quiet in the forest we spotted and heard lots of wildlife including a baby clouded monitor, greater racket tailed drongo, bee eaters, tailor birds and macaques. One of the mama macaques was even nursing a tiny baby and posed long enough for a photo.
Of course, loads of beautiful spiders fell into our umbrellas as we were beating, but the find of the day was something I had never seen before – a mantidfly! This is one of the strangest insects I have ever seen, being a confusing blend of mantid and wasp. Techincally, mantidflies are not flies either – they are lacewings (Neuroptera). This particular species is a pretty convincing wasp-mimic, with its yellow and black patterning. Like a mantid, it has modified (raptorial) forelegs for capturing prey which Caleb tested out by feeding it a fly. This exciting find reminded me how incredibly diverse the invertebrate world is and how much more I am yet to see – it is so great to get a surprise everytime we go out.
Here are just two of the many jumping spiders that we spotted today. We saw a lot of the very cute bumblebee jumpers as well as a couple of different Telamonia species including this bright yellow and orange one.
While it wasn’t an entirely successful trip I’m hopeful that we will eventually find the elusive Orsima in Singapore, and our finds today made it feel like it was worth the day away from the lab.