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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fighting Spiders - Thiania bhamoensis

I chance upon a spider last week that reminds me of an activity I so fondly remembered during my childhood. Not just any spider, only a certain species is caught and the thrill of pitching them against each other in a fight certainly rekindles happy childhood memories and because the males readily fight each other if put together, they are known as fighting spiders from the Salticidae Family. Catching the spider was half the fun, your priced specimen winning in a fight against your
friend’s is an extra bonus.
To look for them, you have to search them out in hedges with long leaves preferably in a cool quiet location with minimal intrusions like human activities or traffic. The Crinum asiaticum or commonly called spider lily is their favourite plant to nest hence the name. They build nest by binding two leaves together with strands of silk, once a nest is located, slowly and carefully open the two leaves to confirm that it is the correct spider species you are looking for. The next step is to confirm that it is a male, females are no good for fighting, the males are instinctively much more territorial and aggressive, scientifically termed as agonistic behavior. In comparison, females have larger abdomens (or is it their butts?), shorter claws and display a duller appearance with more green and less blue iridescent markings.

You catch them with your bare hands as they don’t bite and are not known to be toxic. In my days, they are always kept in match boxes and the only acceptable accommodation for champions will no doubt be matchboxes of the “King Kong” brand, some of you older guys might remember this (girls don’t play with spiders in my days and as far as I know still don’t). Then some leaves are put in to provide moisture and a “homely” environment for them to hide and to feed them, any small insect will do but first they are to be incapacitated by squishing them half dead. To train champion fighters, the practice was to feed them smaller specimens of the same species, in an attempt to ignite their cannibalistic behavior thus making them more aggressive, or so we think, it all sounds so “inhumane” now but that was how it was done.

To make them fight, all that is needed is to bring two males together and while facing each other, a sort of ritualistic dance occurs with opponents circling each other with the front legs/arms open up as if they are sizing each other up before taking any physical actions. After a brief moment, the fight begins with their front legs or arms (we thought it was their claws at the time) locking up against each other in a push and pull motion. The loser is the one that gives up and runs away. I have not come across fatalities during this fighting matches but I do see injuries being sustained when an arm seem to have gone missing after a while. Properly fed and kept, I had one champion that I manage to keep for more than a month, before it escape because I did not close the matchbox lid properly and I never had one that died on me due to old age most probably because they always managed to escape before that happen

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Red Bug

Spotted this small attractive red bug flying around and it was kind enough to stop a while for me to take a few photos. I have not seen this type of insect before let us see what it is.

From the photo it looks like it belongs to the family Pyrrhocoridae (order Heteroptera), described as a plant feeding insect oval in shape and brightly coloured with red. It has also been reported for this species, Dimorphism can occur, a condition in which two or more visibly different forms exist.

That could maybe explain why it was not possible for me to match this particular specimen with photo identification available of more common species. Colour and slight variation of shapes was observed when compared.

If I had identified it correctly, this species is also known as Fire Bug. The red bug is considered as a pest in the coton industries, if present in the cotton being harvested would cause stains during further processing of cotton.