Lurkers of the Night

1 July 2011
Another night trip to observe the local tarantulas.

Most of the tarantulas we found were hiding at the entrance of their burrows. The burrows are typically woven with silk and the hosts would detect the presence of potential prey when they tread on the silk.

I used a very very soft and limp stalk, and moved it around the entrance, creating vibrations like a prey. The host tarantula would then rush out to grab the stalk and do a little tug of war with me. On realizing that its not supper, the hairy fella would retreat almost as quickly into its burrow. All this typically lasts for less than 5 seconds, and should not be repeated for a single tarantula (it will soon ignore you).

A word of warning for those interested in observing tarantulas though. NEVER push a stick into any tarantula burrow to dig the tarantula out. It will only push the tarantula further in, and even destroy its home/nest. After which, you’ll never see it there again.

With enough patience, it should be easy to spot one with half of its body sticking out of the burrow. That would be a creepy yet beautiful sight.

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9728#1 A dried, soft twig trails the entrance and gets caught by the host tarantula. Returned back to its burrow within 3 seconds.

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9737#2 It could either think that the stalk was food, or a threat. Hope it wasn’t too traumatized by the fake lure.

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9738#3 The short tug of war. These fellas are strong, and I could feel it tugging at the stalk.

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9753#4 Another burrow. The tarantula decided to climb up my stalk, but stopped midway and retreated almost as quickly. Look at the sharp fangs, bent on the kill!

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9761#5 Typical position to find the tarantulas in without disturbing them

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9766#6 Tried to pull my stalk in between its fangs

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9768#7 Another animation sequence of the brief tug of war

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9790#8 Last shot before I left the hairy critters waiting at their burrow entrances for real food

Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_9795#9 The Orange Huntsman (Thelcticopis modesta), usually a common sight at Lower Pierce

Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_9806#10 Closing up on the Orange Huntsman

Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_9817#11 Direct shot at its face. Very neatly groomed!

Tailless Whip Scorpion (Amblypygi) - DSC_9866#12 Everyone had many shots of the Tailless Whip Scorpions (Amblypygi) but I only took a pic of one super tiny one (2-3mm). This juvenile had cute pink claws! More on this night creature posted here.

Tailless Whip Scorpion (Amblypygi) - DSC_9896#13 Top view. The patterns of the shell appear blur, probably because it has yet to develop fully.

Planthopper nymph (Fulgoromorpha) - DSC_9907#14 Plant Hopper Nymph. The tail is like a brush, and some species have beautiful tails that look like fiber optic cables under flash light.

Planthopper nymph (Fulgoromorpha) - DSC_9914#15 It liked to move around, or rotate on the spot

Planthopper nymph (Fulgoromorpha) - DSC_9923#16 Finally settled down, but no more bright background.

Spider with 10 Legs?!? Trapdoor Spider (Conothele sp.) - DSC_9940b#17 Looks like a trap-door spider, spotted by David. It was resting on this leaf, but jumped off after we got closer. Mistaken to be a tarantula when first spotted. It has sharp pointed legs and appeared to be something else.

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9957#18 Victor found this large tarantula (2 inches long) resting on a tree trunk.

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9963#19 My favorite shot of the night, manually positioned the flashes behind the subject, and asked Lance to help me press the the shutter release!

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - DSC_9977#20 I got lucky, as it started to move… into a nicer position for me!

Tarantula (Phlogiellus sp.) - ESC_0002#21 Slightly different angle

House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - ESC_0014#22 Moulting House Centipede. Please don’t let your pet eat them…!

Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - ESC_0020#23 Juvenile Orange Huntsman

Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - ESC_0021#24 It ran behind the leaf, but can’t run away forever!

Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - ESC_0030#25 Closeup on the juvenile orange huntsman

Centipede (Chilopoda) - ESC_0052#26 Centipede close up

Huntsman Spider moulting (Sparassidae) - ESC_0058#27 Moulting spider, possibly Wandering Spider. It was spinning on its silk while waiting to harden up and hunt again. Dizzy….

Huntsman Spider moulting (Sparassidae) - ESC_0066#28 Side view

Huntsman Spider moulting (Sparassidae) - ESC_0076#29 Top view

Huntsman Spider moulting (Sparassidae) - ESC_0074#30 Bottom view!

The complete album can be viewed here.

James blogged about this trip here
  1. Reply

    James K

    12 July 2011

    Hi Nicky, you make people regret leaving early lor :p

    That orange huntsman is not Thelcticopis according to David Court (Thelcticopis looks like this[email protected]/4148390215/). It is likely mislabeled on many hobby forums and probably erroneously named in the pet trade. Confusingly, T. modesta is the pet trade name for what is supposed to be the rare Heteropoda davidbowie and some hobbyist recognise both names as synonymous. However the wrongly named T. modesta spider is possibly not H. davidbowie either as according to Peter Jager, there are Heteropoda sp. that look similar.

  2. Reply

    Nicky Bay

    12 July 2011

    Hey James, thanks for the correction. Another case of monkey see monkey do. haha.

    Always striving to make the early-leavers regret! 🙂



Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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