The World of Ant-Mimicry

30 April 2011
From my field trip observations, the ant has been one of the most mimicked species, and many really do a good job at the mimicry. Insects mimic ants for the 2 main reasons of defence and predation.

Mimicking Ants for Defence
Ants are typically aggressive, and are known not to taste good to predators of insects, such as birds, and occasionally, wasps. Some insects mimic ants, to avoid being an obvious target to these predators. For certain species, mimicking ants allow them to assimilate themselves into the ant colony so that they would not be attacked by the ants.

Mimicking Ants for Predation
This category largely applies to spiders, as well as some predatory bugs such as the assassin bug. They look like ants, and behave like ants as well. It allows them to get close and hunt ants down.

Here are some examples from my past shoots:

Ant-Mimic Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_6892#1 Side profile of an ant-mimic jumping spider. It runs around like an ant, waves it’s 2 fore legs like an ant, but jumps at the sigh of prey, and is quick to weave a web as well.

Ant-Mimic Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_6890#2 Example of the 2 fore legs waving around to mimic the ant’s antenna

Ant-Mimic Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_5295#3 Top view, looks like a normal ant from afar. Remember to count the legs and number of eyes. 4 pairs of legs, 4 pairs of eyes!

Ant-Mimic Jumping Spider (Salticidae) - DSC_7479#4 Example of aggressive mimicry: Ant-mimic Jumping Spider devouring an ant

Ant-Snatching Assassin Bug (Acanthaspis sp.) - DSC_2033b#5 I’m suspecting that this ant-snatching assassin bug mimics ants by producing chemicals to convince ants that this is one of their kind. This assassin bug is documented in an earlier post: New Tiny Findings at Mandai Track 15.

Today’s shoot lasted less than 2 hours. I spent more than half the time trying to lure an Ant Mimic Crab Spider out from the grass, and got rewarded with a heavy downpour! *$#%&$#&%

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6773#6 Top view of the Ant Mimic Crab Spider. The abdomen is uniquely shaped to mimic the ant’s head, with 2 black spots to mimic the eyes.

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6779#7 Side view close-up

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6803#8 You’re getting this subject at various odd angles because it refused to stand still, I had to take all shots handheld and with random poses

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6827#9 Peering over the leaf

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6846#10 Finally got a clearer look at it’s face

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6830#11 Another view of the top. Fake black eyes!

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6818#12 Another side profile shot

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6873#13 Right smack in center. Say hi!

Ant-mimic Crab Spider (Amyciaea lineatipes) - DSC_6888#14 Last shot. I shot this while sitting at the bus stop when it rained. Everyone else was waiting for me while I indulged myself with this little fella. So sorry!

Orb Weaver Spider (Araneus sp.) - DSC_6750#15 The only other subject in the morning.

The complete album can be viewed here.
  1. Reply

    Daddy Bear

    1 May 2011

    nice shots Nicky! You mean sitting at the bus-stop waiting for the rain, you managed to find the AMS? Solid!

  2. Reply

    Nicky Bay

    2 May 2011

    Thanks Adrian! Scooped it up from the grass la, just a few meters away from the bus stop so continued with it while everyone else were immersed in poison!

  3. Reply

    Visual Indulgence

    3 May 2011

    Hi Nicky, your blog is a inspiring place for me. I've some enqueries on my Tamron90mm, is it ok for your to share with me ur experience/ technique?

  4. Reply

    Nicky Bay

    3 May 2011


    I am using the Tamron 180mm now. Biggest difference with the 90mm, is the ability to get smooth bokeh in the background. U can check my about page for more info on the setup

  5. Reply

    Visual Indulgence

    3 May 2011

    I've seen the set up,
    ok, the problem im facing is that when im using 50mm prime with my extention tubes for macro, it seems to have more dof and sharpness compared to my tamron 90mm which apparently have very very shallow dof and blurred image.
    Is it my settings/ flash/ anything causing the prob?
    I'm quite disappointed with the result that my tamron is giving me rather than my 50mm with ext tube which should be the other wise! pls advice (:

    check out my link and you can see the tamron is giving me very bad result.

  6. Reply

    Nicky Bay

    3 May 2011

    The pics look pretty decent! When doing your comparison, did you use the same settings? Your Tamron90 pics seem to have better lighting.

    What was the magnification ratio for each setup? Similar? If you force your setup to 1:1 each time, thin DOF is expected.

    At 90mm, you have a longer working distance and naturally require faster shutter if using handheld as compared to a 50mm. Otherwise your subjects may be subject to handshake blur.

  7. Reply

    Visual Indulgence

    3 May 2011

    Yup both were under same settings, and the magnification ratio for tamron is 1:1, for the 50mm im not sure how to guage.

    the working distance doesnt seems to have improved for me? coz when i force a 1:1, i still need to go up close to my subject which did not differ from my 50mm.

    Sorry im still new,
    hope to get some guidance along the way.

    Did you not shoot at 1:1?
    and if you don't shoot at 1:1, the subject on the photo will be super small, and thus will the details still be there?

    Thank you very much btw!! (:

  8. Reply

    Nicky Bay

    3 May 2011

    I often use a tripod, so would rarely shoot at maximum magnification. With Raynox 250 on my lens, it becomes approx 2.2x

    With 90mm handheld, try to use 1/100s

    As for DOF control, experiment with shooting at less than 1:1 to see the results. You may also need smaller aperture. F11 is a nice place to start. Best way to learn is to try all possible settings to see the effect on your setup.

  9. Reply

    Visual Indulgence

    3 May 2011

    what u meant was, you're not shooting at 1:1 ?

    Can I have a breakdown of one of your shots,
    perhaps the ant mimic spider?

    ISO/ Apreture/ Shutter/ WB
    tripod? distance of subject from lens?

    Coz i realise often when I shoot, the subject from my lens would be less than 10cm apart, is it possible to increase that distance so i can stand further away to shoot with my tamron 90mm? and at which magnification would u recommend?

    and understanding if u did not shoot at 1:1,
    meaning your shots were cropped to the subject you wanted?

    Thank you very much !

  10. Reply

    Nicky Bay

    3 May 2011

    Without the Raynox, I usually shoot at less than 1x (1:1) magnification. You don't always have to shoot at the highest magnification to get a good shot.

    Raynox 250 was attached for the ant mimic spider shots. Most had varied settings. Rough gauge would put us at ISO400, 1/100s, F25 and two SB600 at 1/4 power. Distance about 8cm. Cropped about 0-5% for some shots, hand held. Remember this was with 180mm. With 90mm it can be completely different.

    There is no magic answer or settings to photography. I use ISO100 to 400, shutter 1/200s to 30s, F4.5 to F29. It all depends on the situation.

  11. Reply

    Visual Indulgence

    3 May 2011

    Alrights, thanks alot Nicky! it's a pleassure to come by your blog. if chances permits, we shall have a shoot together one day (: thank you for your sincere guidance.



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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