Monsoons breathe new life into the landscape; the dry landscape suddenly becomes a vibrant green. The countryside that was hitherto seemingly dull, dreary, dry and bereft of any life suddenly seems to be buzzing with activity. Plants are in various processes of their reproductive stage. All animals try to maximize this time of plenty.
This was the setting when a few of us headed out one morning to the countryside, a short distance from Bangalore, perhaps a 45 minute drive from the southern parts of the city. The light was dismal, the sky overcast. We had parked our vehicles and were exploring some of the lush roadside vegetation.
My eyes were drawn to a little butterfly that was sitting on a leaf. As I went closer to photograph it, I realized that the Dark Cerulean (Jamides bochus) was in the jaws of a Crab Spider (family Thomisidae). I was planning to photograph the butterfly, but instead caught the butterfly becoming the meal of a spider – a bonus natural-history photo-op! Many Crab Spiders are known to stay in flowers, their colour often matching that of the flower. They catch and make a meal of insects which visit the flowers.
There was a constant breeze through the morning and photographing was not easy. I started scanning the vegetation within my eye shot as I waited for the breeze to stop so that I could continue photographing. I sighted a little brown, leaf-like object that was curiously stuck to the underside of a lantana leaf. Even as my fingers neared the leaf, a Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridana; family Oxyopidae) suddenly moved to the upper-side of the same leaf. The brown ‘leaf’ that I had espied turned out to be a Praying Mantis that was becoming the meal of the spider! The present position of the spider offered excellent opportunity for photographing. We managed to get some good images of this too. Lynx spiders are active hunters, diurnal, and live on vegetation.
Satisfied with the photos in spite of all odds (breeze, constant traffic movement which threatened to run us over, etc.), we were ready to move further when one of us spotted a little black creature in a low shrub – it turned out to be a Jumping Spider (family Salticidae). The Jumping Spider was also having its morning meal, feeding on something we could not identify. This spider was particularly shy and gave us only 3 record shots before disappearing into the shrubbery.
There was so much life within a few square meters and before we realized it, we had spent a good hour photographing these 3 “preying” spiders! We were also left wondering about the kind of impact spiders must be having on insect populations and the role of spiders in keeping a check on insect numbers, which we very often ignore or even overlook.