The spider that thinks it's an ant...and a duck

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 1 August 2018 21:03

I had a rare thing last weekend. I had an afternoon off. So I thought I would I would switch off from natural history...kidding! So I thought I would head out to the Crumbles at Eastbourne and try and find Heath Shieldbug Legnotus picipes at its only known Sussex site. It was very windy but that's not a problem for the suction sampler. With John Burnham and Oliver Froom on their way, I stood in the car park looking at the Pampas Grass tussocks. The Crumbles is now a shadow of its former self, it was an incredible area of vegetated shingle but has been developed (and continues to be developed - a large chunk has gone since I was there last five years ago). It's a sad story that the value of vegetated shingle wasn't recognised at the time BUT it still has a lot to be found there. So with my feet on the tarmac, I rammed my suction sampler into the nearest Pampas Grass tussock. They reminded me of the kind of structure with hanging litter that Greater Tussock-sedge provides and I've had good results with those in the past. I walked right by them five years ago when I was last there though.

The first sample produced a lifer, the tiny ladybird Scymnus interruptus (above) and TWO immature Myrmarachne formicaria We went on to find maybe 50 Myrmarachne in all! Included one stonking adult male which we were very pleased to see! We initially thought we also had Synageles venator but they were just female Myrmarachne (they have surprisingly large palps). Being ant mimics, it's actually the females and immatures which make for a more convincing mimic than the adult male with those huge chelicerae, such as in this video. The mimicry comes from the way it moves, the unusually-shaped and patterned abdomen, the raised and darkened section on the cephalothorax but also from the way it holds and moves the angled front legs (which are also slightly darker and paler-tipped). I can't understand what the huge chelicerae of the adult male add to this!

In Sussex this most captivating of our jumping spiders is only known from here and Rye Harbour. They are really quite hard to find, so seeing around 50 was incredible! Here are some more shots. I can't help think it looks a bit like a duck (A sad little ant-duck-spider in the second shot).

But the fun didn't end there! I got a first for Sussex (and a lifer!) in the form of this beautiful ground bug, Beosus maritimus. That's the fourth new bug we have added to the Sussex list so far this year.

And Oli had ONE go on the suction sampler and came back with a lacewing that I thought was a spongefly at first but it turned out to be Psectra diptera. This is the second record for Sussex and the first for East Sussex. Other highlights includes Neides tipularius, Dasypoda hirtipes and Odiellus spinosus (which was a new one for me). We never did find Legnotus picipes. I wonder what else is there unrecorded?

4 Response to "The spider that thinks it's an ant...and a duck"

Unknown Says:

Brilliant, wonderful how the spider mimics ant antennal movements!

Unknown Says:

Thanks for sharing this :)

Graeme Lyons Says:

Thanks for all the comments guys!

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