A unique mating ploy by male two-tailed-spider !!!
Winter had just planned to move on leaving behind the warm weather allowing the spring flowers to bloom. It was almost March and the gardens looked colorful with the pinks and yellows smiling as the wind caressed them. Bees and butterflies seemed busy on their jobs.
I moved back from my balcony and sat down with a cup of tea with a plan to process some of the photographs from my earlier trips to my haven. As I concentrate on the photographs, I get that feeling creep in inside me and the call to visit the greens was getting stronger. Off late I get to instantly recognize the invites from Mother Nature as mind starts focusing on the locations best to visit and my eyes get settled for the search. It has always been the same since the last couple of years of my macro journey. Weekend comes and so comes the call. My hands twitch to hold my gears and my mind stays clear with only the thoughts of the greens and my subjects. The longing to get the best moments captured pushes me to get my gear and food packed for the next day early morning hunting trip. Yes, I use that word hunting as I actually go for shooting trips, not with a gun but with a fully loaded gear bag.
Next morning I found myself at the gates of my most favored location.Whenever I have come to this place, Mother Nature ensured that I never went back empty handed, rather empty soul. As I walk down the dusty roads leading to my prep room, the sun decides to heat up the otherwise cool greens that welcome me.I keeping looking out as I get ready with my gears praying for a little less heat. From my past experiences, I have now learnt that I pay a price for every visit that I make here during the summers and keeping me dehydrated during the day becomes highly essential.
The crowd gathers and before they start showing more interest in my attire and get up, I leave the place discretely and walk towards the greens, deep inside the foliage in search of some subject that I have been looking out for since few months now. Once I reach my planned and desired location, I start looking out for the clever creatures that camouflage themselves so well that missing them is very easy unless my experienced eyes patiently look out for the signs around to locate them. Wish there was some light breeze to help me shake up the dormant little ones and help me zoom in….
Suddenly deep in the forest, I feel them staring at me…I look up to see that I was standing under a mango tree and the thick trunk...rough and patched bark that it had….it was a safe retreat for the little creatures that stuck to it. Highly camouflaged, it needed my slight movement to make them visible. What lay in front of me was a bunch of double-tailed spiders. I could perceive around 4-5 of them stuck patiently onto the bark. I move across the tangles of creepers which are so thick that I would lose visibility of the trunk if I am even a feet away from it. The movement that catches my experienced eye is the spinning of the silk by one of the spiders. It keeps running around busily once clockwise and then again anti clockwise. It is a signal that some prey has fallen in the traps of the spiders. This spinning of the silk is a unique behavior of the double-tailed spider. I try to focus my camera when I suddenly observe on the bark one such spider holding food in its mouth that looked to be a beetle. What surprised me was that it was not alone but another spider too was on top of it. Knowledge from the Spider world says that they were mating and the male was mounted on top. The female spider was of a much larger size as compared to the male. The size and ferocity of the female’s attitude does matter hence when the mating need arises, he waits for the moment when the female consumes all its energy on its prey. Slowly he proceeds towards her and POWER wins!. If not, a fatal fight often ensues resulting in the death of the male most of the times.
But while I get busy capturing the mating moments, I am intrigued by the placement of the sexual organs. None seems to be placed at its usual place. What I gather from the position during mating is that the females must be having some sort of receptacle on the top of her body and the males must be having some attachments under its belly. I keep my camera focused and then the surprise happens…a third spider walks into the frame. I assume it is another male that might be interested to have a share of her food. However, the male that was mounted on her, smells competition. Reluctant to fight, he just dislodges himself and leaves the spot. The female double-tailed spider is left alone with the beetle still held by her fangs.
I wait for around ten minutes to capture any other natural moments that they might offer me. However, when no movement happens, I leave the place. Tired with the sun shining on my head and feeling extremely dehydrated, I move out from the area and come out on the main road of my shooting zone. I was in search of some spider eggs but I could not continue further. I feel the heat on me and sit down to drink enough electrolyte water to sustain my salt and sugar content. Having quenched my thirst, the double-tailed spider beckons me again…I walk back to the same spot.
However, nothing new moments happen and I am suddenly left with regret. Just moments back when I was there, I was so busy waiting for a moment in anticipation of a tough fight to win over the female that I forgot to capture all three of them in the same frame!!! I curse myself to have been so careless to have missed it. A regret so big which might not even be fulfilled in the near future as Mother Nature offers such rare moments once in a while…strange thing is while one male wanted a share of food, the other did not want any competition in sharing his mate…and all the while the huge female sitting with all her power holding her prey.
The females are generally 16mm-18mm in size in contrast to 10-12mm that of the males. They lay eggs in bunches of 20-30 and secure the eggs with dense silk wrapping.
I wait for another 15 minutes before I walk back…my legs feel heavy and my head aches…one moment captured but other missed…wish this never happens again…