Readers’ wildlife photos (and video)

First a video from reader Rick Longworth, who added these notes: “This spider had just finished molting and was resting under its discarded exoskeleton. The whole process took about 30 minutes of drying as the sun was setting. The tight new outfit she’s wearing gets a bit of scratching at the base of the legs. The light color, I suspect will gradually darken.”

I’m not sure what species this is, but I’m sure readers can help:

And some golden ants and other insects (as well as ant-mimicking jumping spiders) from reader Tony Eales in Oz. His notes are indented:

I recently came across a nest of Polyrhachis rufifemur, which is a spectacular golden species of Tropical Spiny Ant. That lead me to this paper on the golden ant mimicry complex. Over the years I have managed to photograph several instances of this mimicry in ants, wasps, bugs and spiders. Here are a few examples.

JAC: I suspect this is an example of a Müllerian mimicry ring, in which a number of dangerous or toxic species mimic each other, although some of the mimics could be Batesian, meaning that they are harmless and enjoy protection by mimicking a dangerous model. The gold color is, to my knowledge, almost unique as a form of warning coloration, and some of these insects (particularly in the very last photo) are spectacular.)

A velvet ant (Bothriomutilla sp.), which is a wingless female wasp in the family Mutillidae:

A couple of Lygaeid Seed Bugs Daerlac sp.:

Some ant-mimicking jumping spiders Myrmarachne sp.

And ants from diverse families in the genera CamponotusDolichoderusMyrmecia and Polyrhachis (in order):

Looking at the paper, I’ve still got a long way to go to get all the species in this mimicry ring.


  1. Hempenstein
    Posted July 23, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    FWIW, of late I’ve encountered a lot of Video Unavailable here. Is it my server, or have a lot been blocked to the US of late?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 23, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Nowt to do with you or your server

      I assume you’re referring to music videos & some sports videos. This is the new normal – on the increase everywhere as publishers scramble for royalties & detection algorithms improve.

      This happens quite frequently for US comedy content when viewing outside the USA such as Comedy Central which has special product for each region & we’re forbidden to watch CC from other regions

      Another example is BBC worldwide pay to view content

      There’s also regional restrictions such as use of the swastika in Germany, Austria & possible France – model making YT videos often leave off the symbol or the vid gets banned or made available in only parts of the world!

      If you’re referring to the spider vid – the uploader has set regional restrictions by accident or design.

  2. jaxkayaker
    Posted July 23, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Amazing photos, especially the last. I’ve never seen gold used as aposematic coloration either.

  3. Posted July 23, 2018 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    The last picture especially is stunning.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted July 23, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink


  4. Posted July 23, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    The spider looks like Aranea Diademata to me. But I am far from sure. She seems to have the markings but they are not dark yet (as they would not be at this stage of the moult).
    Do we know the size/ ecology?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted July 23, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Ref your excellent alias, my mother had a college classmate named Helenius. Prof would always make a point of calling on her as Miss…

      • Posted July 24, 2018 at 6:47 am | Permalink

        Alias? I’m sure I dont know what you mean…my name comes from the old family of Suffolk Hand-Baskets…

    • Hempenstein
      Posted July 23, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      And Wm Safire once wrote a column on that, if you’ve never seen it before.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted July 23, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the link. As for Miss Helenius, I’m sure some drag queen adopted the name without ever knowlng of your mother’s classmate.

    • Terry Sheldon
      Posted July 23, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Ironically, when I did a search on that genus and species all the results I got were for a homeopathic remedy that is apparently derived from the bodies of those creatures!

      • lkr
        Posted July 23, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Do you mean the golden ant or the mutillid? Either way, homeopathy would seize on non-existent dilutions as pain meds! [Law of Opposites]

        Certainly a more straight-forward connection than dilutions of the reflection of Saturn at apogee…

        • Terry Sheldon
          Posted July 23, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          I was speaking of Aranea diadema.

          • loren russell
            Posted July 23, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

            Aranea? Then a homeopath cure for desire to balloon? Or for wanting to eat your husband?

    • Posted July 23, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      It is going to be tricky to ID because there are several rather similar orb weavers, and each is variable in their colors.
      I personally lean toward the marbled orbweaver, Araneus marmoreus, b/c the markings on the underside of the abdomen are a good match. That part of the abdomen is less variable.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 23, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      I’m keeping an eye on the area of it’s web to see if I can get another picture for the ID.

  5. Posted July 23, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful coincidence:

    “A velvet ant (Bothriomutilla sp.), which is a wingless female wasp in the family Mutillidae:”

    I was just talking with a colleague about a IT security training tool which is quite fun to use that shares the name of that wasp family.

  6. Posted July 23, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Very cool stuff! Ants are hard to photograph well, and these are fantastic pictures. Many ant mimics are also challenging since they often behave like ants. So double kudos!

    • tjeales
      Posted July 23, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Mark.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 23, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Lovely work Rick. A collection of golden bums!

    • rickflick
      Posted July 25, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Tony Eales in Oz is to be credited for the lovely bums.

  8. rickflick
    Posted July 25, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    As a follow-up, I have filmed the unidentified spider several days after the molt described above. I caught her tidying up the torn web. We can only see her underside so an ID might still be hard.

    Size: The bolt head to the left is about 1.5 cm, so the spider would be about 3.7 cm from the tip of the front legs to the tip of the back legs.

  9. rickflick
    Posted July 25, 2018 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Here are side and top views. It has a curiously long cephalothorax and the abdomen looks decorated with swirls of whipped cream. Looking for an ID on line, I discovered that the orb spiders are of the Family Araneidae. I’m afraid the genus and species elude me.

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