Feature Journal

Moulting – A Natural Wonder

19 July 2013

In order to grow, most arthropods have to shed their exoskeleton because this hardened outer layer restricts growth. This delicate process of shedding the exoskeleton and expanding to a larger size, is called moulting. During the moulting process, the arthropod forces a split in the exoskeleton and pushes itself out with a new cuticle. At this stage, the overcoat is still soft and the arthropod must expand it’s body before the new exoskeleton hardens – this also means that it is in an extremely vulnerable state. The colours of a freshly moulted arthropod are usually different too – sometimes faded, and at times, vibrant. This makes moulting or freshly moulted subjects a joy to photograph!

    House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0137
  1. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    I was roaming about off the track when this House Centipede was spotted, fresh out of it’s moult above it. It is usually brown, but exhibits a strong tone of purple before it’s new exoskeleton hardens. A flash was placed behind to highlight the colours of the legs which were a little bit translucent.

  2. House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0122
  3. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    Moving in closer on the House Centipede . We had to be careful with it in this vulnerable state.

  4. House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0123
  5. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    Close up on the tail end. The House Centipede is normally a very skittish and fast running centipede, but on this occasion, it will stay put.

  6. House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0126
  7. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    Checking out the vibrant colours

  8. House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0130
  9. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    Even the micro hairs were a vibrant tone of yellow and orange!

  10. House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0200
  11. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    After almost 2 hours, the House Centipede started moving a little and hid underneath a leaf, abandoning it’s old exoskeleton

  12. House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0227
  13. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    Full dorsal view of the beautiful House Centipede

  14. House Centipede (Scutigeridae) - DSC_0228
  15. House Centipede (Scutigeridae)

    Close up on the head again

  16. Katydid (Tettigoniidae) - DSC_0149
  17. Katydid (Tettigoniidae)

    Just 2 meters away from the house centipede was this moulting Katydid !

  18. Katydid (Tettigoniidae) - DSC_0154
  19. Katydid (Tettigoniidae)

    It was busy pumping air into the wings, so I tried placing my flash behind to shine through the wings and highlight the wing texture

  20. Moth-Like Planthopper (Ricaniidae) - CSC_9995
  21. Moth-Like Planthopper (Ricaniidae)

    Moth-Like Planthopper perched on a stalk.

  22. Moth-Like Planthopper (Ricaniidae) - CSC_9998
  23. Moth-Like Planthopper (Ricaniidae)

    Indeed, the Moth-Like Planthopper has often been mistaken to be a moth

  24. Midges? - DSC_0013
  25. Midges?

    Midges? Usually found hanging around on horizontal strands of silk.

  26. Froghopper (Cercopidae) - DSC_0016
  27. Froghopper (Cercopidae)

    A lone Froghopper or Spittlebug

  28. Spider Wasp (Pompilidae) - DSC_0034
  29. Spider Wasp (Pompilidae)

    This Spider Wasp was resting quietly on a leaf, but our intrusion led it to wander around restlessly, occasionally taking flight

  30. Huntsman Spider (Thelcticopis sp.) - DSC_0037
  31. Huntsman Spider (Thelcticopis sp.)

    This Huntsman Spider stays still most of the time but once it moves, it would usually be too fast to trace. It tends to do the suicide drop as well. It is an escape tactic by many arthropods to drop into the leaf litter where it would be almost impossible to spot.

  32. Orb Web Spider (Eriovixia sp.) - DSC_0044
  33. Orb Web Spider (Eriovixia sp.)

    The others found this beautiful Orb Web Spider hiding under a leaf

  34. Harvestman (Opiliones) - DSC_0061
  35. Harvestman (Opiliones)

    Spikey looking Harvestman . This probably would fluoresce under UV light, but we decided against spending too much time on it. 😛

  36. Planthopper (Fulgoromorpha) - DSC_0068
  37. Planthopper (Fulgoromorpha)

    Planthopper, any ID for this?

  38. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_0074
  39. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae)

    An interesting looking Huntsman Spider found on a tree trunk

  40. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_0075
  41. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae)

    The Huntsman Spider flattens it’s body on the tree trunk to break it’s silhouette

  42. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_0078
  43. Huntsman Spider (Sparassidae)

    How the Huntsman Spider looked when we found it. Not that easy to spot!

  44. Ground Spider (Zodariidae) - DSC_0084
  45. Ground Spider (Zodariidae)

    Several of these Ground Spiders … where else? On the ground! 😛

  46. Wolf Spider (Lycosidae) - DSC_0088
  47. Wolf Spider (Lycosidae)

    The leaf litter was full of these Wolf Spiders as well

  48. Wolf Spider (Lycosidae) - DSC_0093
  49. Wolf Spider (Lycosidae)

    Because they were on the ground and extremely skittish, this was the lowest I could get without moving the spider.

  50. Katydid (Tettigoniidae) - DSC_0097
  51. Katydid (Tettigoniidae)

    A well-camouflaged Katydid

  52. Orb Web Spider (Araneidae) - DSC_0108
  53. Orb Web Spider (Araneidae)

    Orb Web Spider

  54. Wrap-Around Spider (Talthybia sp.) - DSC_0160
  55. Wrap-Around Spider (Talthybia sp.)

    There were a few small Wrap-Around Spiders happily wrapped around tree stalks.

  56. Big-Jawed Spider (Tetragnathidae) - DSC_0165
  57. Big-Jawed Spider (Tetragnathidae)

    Quite a number of Big-Jawed Spiders in the area but often ignored. Took a record shot of this one.

  58. Beetle - DSC_0167
  59. Beetle

    A common little Beetle, hopefully it looks cuter here!

  60. Moths - DSC_0169
  61. Moths

    A pair of Moths doing their thing

  62. Wandering Spider (Ctenidae) - DSC_0177
  63. Wandering Spider (Ctenidae)

    This Wandering Spider walked up to us. Couldn’t help but take a few shots!

  64. Wandering Spider (Ctenidae) - DSC_0179
  65. Wandering Spider (Ctenidae)

    Closing up on the face of the Wandering Spider

  66. Long-Legged Velvet Mite (Leptus sp.) - DSC_0187
  67. Long-Legged Velvet Mite (Leptus sp.)

    Spotted this Long-Legged Velvet Mite walking about on the leaves. It really wasn’t camouflaged at all.

  68. Long-Legged Velvet Mite (Leptus sp.) - DSC_0192
  69. Long-Legged Velvet Mite (Leptus sp.)

    The Long-Legged Velvet Mite belongs to the Erythraeidae family, different from the usual Red Velvet Mites (Trombidiidae)

  70. Skull-Faced Caterpillar - DSC_0240
  71. Skull-Faced Caterpillar

    A huge Skull-Faced Caterpillar that I found on a branch high above us. It was probably 4 to 5 inches long and very very hairy!

  72. Lynx Spider (Oxyopidae) - DSC_0243
  73. Lynx Spider (Oxyopidae)

    Melvyn found this beautiful Lynx Spider with an orange and green patterned body

  74. Lynx Spider (Oxyopidae) - DSC_0256
  75. Lynx Spider (Oxyopidae)

    The Lynx Spider trying to balloon away

  76. Lynx Spider (Oxyopidae) - DSC_0278
  77. Lynx Spider (Oxyopidae)

    Front view of this Lynx Spider did not look as interesting as the dorsal view!

The complete album can be viewed here.




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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