Pseudoscorpions, also known as false scorpions or book scorpions, lead secretive lives under tree barks. It is very rare to see them out in the open. Eight-legged creatures like spiders and scorpions, pseudoscorpions are also placed under the class Arachnida. Their pincer-like pedipalps give them a striking resemblance to scorpions, and it is from the tip of these pedipalps that they produce silk to construct their retreat, like spiders! They play an essential role in keeping insect populations in check because, like spiders, they prey on ants, beetles, bees and other bark insects. They always live in a community and hunt in groups.
Other than on tree barks, I have seen them inside honeybee boxes in our farm, often with more than fifty individuals living together. They feed on honeybees and also on mites that infect the bees. Active tiny creatures, they can move both forward and backward, and can hold on to a bee’s legs to move from one place to another. This is probably how they could have occupied an entire bee box.
One day, while collecting honey from a box, I saw a grape-like object hanging from the tip of a pseudoscorpion’s abdomen. I realised instantly that they were the eggs. I rushed home and returned with a camera and found that there were three pseudoscorpions carrying eggs. They were never out in the open, and only moved in between the beehives. I was so focused on them, that I didn’t notice when some bees started stinging me! It was impossible to photograph with swollen hands, so I put my camera aside and took out the beehives to send them home to extract honey.
That is when I managed to spot one female pseudoscorpion with eggs and carefully shifted her onto a peeled tree bark nearby. With no bees around to sting, I thought I could finally get some great shots. But this pseudoscorpion was uncomfortable and moved around very fast. I shot more than twenty images and only one turned out to be satisfactory. The oval shaped eggs arranged symmetrically looked like a bunch of grapes! The image made my day; on the one hand, I collected honey from a bee box and on the other, I had photographed this beautiful creature.