Archive for September 2009

The majestic pair!

30 September 2009

A few posts ago, I had waxed poetically about a female spider that had visited my desk. When I posted on SpiderIndia to get her name, address and phone number, I was rudely informed by Janaki Turaga and Dr Amit Chakraborthy that what I had seen was the male!

Vikram Gupchup, who met the lady while I met the gent!

Vikram Gupchup, who met the lady while I met the gent!

Telamonia dimidiata , or the ‘Two-striped Jumping Spider’ as it is commonly called, is a Salticid or jumping spider. As you could make out from my rhyme, the spider jumped everywhere.

This spider has been wrongly featured in an internet hoax where it is supposed to be lurking under American toilet seats, bite you and then you stumble off and die – Ha, what cock & bull about this lovely harmless spider which is not recorded to have ever hurt anybody.

This spider shows sexual dimorphism – the male and female do not resemble each other and could each be mistaken for a separate species.

The gentleman we have already met on my blog.

I would now like you to meet the lady!

See Madame Telamonia here from this post by Vikram Gupchup.

The lustrous eyes of the sensous lady!

The lustrous eyes of the sensous lady! (Photo - Vikram Gupchup)

A different spider I would have thought, if I didn't know better!

A different spider I would have thought, if I didn't know better! (Photo - Vikram Gupchup)

The Telamonias nest in between leaves. Janaki Turaga tells us of her fascinating encounter in the forests of Andhra Pradesh in 2007.

Here are Telamonia dimidiata Male and Female. They were building their nest in the monsoon. The female is sitting on their (under-construction) nest web.

As I approached, the male fended off  the threat – my camera and was making his way back to the nest web and his lady. It seemed to me that he was guarding the nest and had successfully driven off  the threat-my camera and me.

Just to show of his virility, he jumped on my camera and then on me and jumped right back on another leaf – where I was able to photograph him and this is that shot.

The male Telamona, similar to the one in my poetic post! (Photo - Janaki Turaga)

The male Telamonia, similar to the one in my poetic post! (Photo - Janaki Turaga)

The nest web leaf was at a much higher level. Actually I had disturbed these two while I was photographing some insects . Anyway, this guy jumped down on me and chased me out, and climbed up the hibiscus plant and joined his lady right up on the leaf.

His lady love was none too pleased to meet my camera! But here is the shot!
The female’s eyes were incredible and you can see one of her fangs: this photo was really up close and personal!
The female defends! (Photo - Janaki Turaga)

The female defends! (Photo - Janaki Turaga)

Exactly two years later now in 2009 I wonder whether I had disturbed a courting or mating activity. But the female was already working on the nest.

I am not very clear as to the parental division of labour  in this species. Does the female spin the nest web before mating? To my mind back then it appeared that both the male and female were nesting together and the male had warded off an attack on them!”

I am sure that this lady would have driven me to even more sublime rhyme, just look at her lustrous black eyes! And golden-green cuticle.

A gorgeous babe. Definitely qualifies for an Angelina IMHO!

Meet The Butterfly! Series

30 September 2009

Since this blog is (supposedly) about butterflies, I would like to blog more about them. I do understand though that I have a mixed audience.

So for those new to the world of biodiversity, I intend putting up informative shorts about butterflies and moths. These will make the blog easier to follow if I post something specifically about butterflies! I hope these ‘primer’ posts will be of interest in themselves.


28 September 2009


Beautiful must be the mountains whence ye come,
And bright in the fruitful valleys the streams wherefrom
Ye learn your song:
Where are those starry woods? O might I wander there,
Among the flowers, which in that heavenly air
Bloom the year long!.

Nay, barren are those mountains and spent the streams:
Our song is the voice of desire, that haunts our dreams,
A throe of the heart,
Whose pining visions dim, forbidden hopes profound,
No dying cadence, nor long sigh can sound,
For all our art.

Alone, aloud in the raptured ear of men
We pour our dark nocturnal secret; and then,
As night is withdrawn
From these sweet-springing meads and bursting boughs of May,
Dream, while the innumerable choir of day
Welcome the dawn.

Robert_BridgesRobert Bridges

Bridges (1844-1930) was a doctor and also Poet-Laureate of England from 1913-1930.

This poem refutes the traditional premise that a work of art is created by being inspired by beauty. It tells of the power of unsatisfied desire to move the nightingales to matchless song – a more telling commentary on the human condition than most nature poems.

Nightingale-stampThe real bird itself is the Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) a song-bird and flycatcher found in Europe and South-West Asia and migrating in the winter to Africa.

The bird’s name means “night-songtress” but it is the male that sings to attract a mate and defend its territory.

Nightingales have often appeared in traditional lore and the arts—again, usually because of their song.

The poet John Keats thought of the bird as a carefree spirit, free to sing in “full-throated ease.”

In “Ode to a Nightingale,” one of the finest poems ever written, he wrote that he longed to:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget….

The butterflydiaries ‘Scribbler’ awards go to….-

26 September 2009


Avdi, she who brings eggs that be rotten to her feast, hath given me ye famous award.

The Superior Scribbler Award!

The Superior Scribbler Award!

As is the case with awards, ye olde “you scratch my @%$e, I’ll scratch you%’$” rule applieth.

I hereby proclaim ye grande old rules for all to follow:-

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to five most deserving blog friends.

Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog and link to the original post at The Scholastic Scribe which explains The Award.

Each blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit the original post at The Scholastic Scribe and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who wins This Prestigious Honor.

Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules to his/her blog.

Shince ve ar awl Indian and my blohg, excuz pliss, is of naturalist caste, you know…

So though I am enjaying sew menny good blogs – by penniless Roshmi-amma, Gilpa (Rosie)  Sharg, Mr farce, Miss-tedious Kadduji, LS didi, ty ‘notso’ nice, the finer noisy note and so menny udders…

the awards naturally going to these blogs…

(long roll of drumbeats….)

FlowergirlMadras Ramblings

There was a literary flowergirl of Madras
who had quite a cute little …  😉 blog
who wrote of birds and  things so passe
as a spider, plant, dragonfly and frog.

rocksea and sarah

Rocksea & Sarah

With his lady love in Italy
Rocksea may enjoying be
but he hasn’t lost the knack
of describing nature or  scenery

Shtory-tellerShtories & shtuff

“Mera Bharat is mahaan enough!”,
proclaims this naturalist undercover.
because of matunga-kaapichai-shai, shtories and shtuff
but no mention of forgotten courser!

Matunga kaapi

Anush ShettyAnush Shetty’s journal

In Anush‘s Livejournal
you never know what are the new treats
photos, anecdotes, delights eternal
culture, running, tech-stuff, tweets

Small wondersSmall Wonders

Yuwaraj, photographer extra-fine
sneak previews nature’s party
records cute little colourful vignettes
and blog-posts them in Marathi

There, that be done, begone all of ye and propagate five little scribblers each….

Oranges streaks on a green canvas!

26 September 2009
Wherever the lands not cropped, an orange blaze is seen.

Wherever the land is not cropped, an orange blaze is seen.

Each season brings a new colour or fragrance to our campus.  Over the past month, banks of tall orange wild flowers have grown in a number of places. One kind is a bright orange bloom at the end of tall stalks, all of which may be seen looking up to the sun in admiration.

A field full of Cosmos.

A field full of Cosmos.

This is the common garden flower, the Cosmos sulphureus, which has escaped the clutches of formal gardens and established itself in many places around Pune district.

A beutiful bloom indeed!

Cosmos! A beautiful bloom indeed!

Last year, banks of Cosmos could be seen edging the cricket field adjoining the OI,  near the D Flats, behind F Combat, en route to the Lake Park and on many other grassy verges around CME. This year they are resplendent off the main driveway from the gate to HQ building and along the road from Bopkhel to the Subway.

The other kind of orange flower which is blooming in the wild after escaping from captivity, is the Tithonia rotundifolia, which is a darker orange and more conventional in looks.

Tithonia, a darker and different flower highlighting CME.

Tithonia, a darker and different flower highlighting CME.

It can be seen near the Lake Park, on the road to the Engineer Regiment or on the Bopkhel-Subway road.

They add such a blaze of colour which reminds of the summer and monsoon are almost gone and spring is around the corner.

Let us take a lesson from nature’s swathes of orange against the earthy canvas.  Our gardens are a part of nature around us. We can keep out the wild weeds which enter the gardens from outside, but you cannot stop nature completely.  She can and will move plants across the garden fence into the wild yonder.

Tethonias frame a few weaver bird nests! This year the weavers are busy, busy, busy!

Tethonias frame a few weaver bird nests! This year the weavers are busy, busy, busy!

A spider came to my office….

22 September 2009
and got onto the table...
and got onto the table…

A spider came to my office.
I didn’t know what to do,
So I greeted her as a guest;
didn’t grate her under my shoe.

She had sexy gold markings,
on a body chocolate brown,
slim, jointed legs and pied pedipalps
and a gold crown all her own.

She jumped up along my leg
and got onto the table,
looked me square in my eye,
as if eager and willing and able

she jumped into my file cover....
she jumped into my file cover….

to help me with my work.
I turned her mini-help down
but she was not to be put off
by a word or even a frown.

She jumped into my file cover
got stuck between two pages
I rushed before she passed over.
Carefully! Slowly! Took ages!

She now wanted to type
on to the keyboard sprang she
but she was once again mightily floored
as to how to press down a key.

on to the keyboard sprang she....
on to the keyboard sprang she….

I offered her a pencil or pen
she was vain to touch such stuff
wandered off for more interesting things
of Literature she’d had enuff.

She jumped onto my shirt,
went onto my collar.
I was statue still, perspiring,
I didn’t want her to be a goner!

of Literature she'd had enough....

of Literature she'd had enough....

Angrily I swatted her off.
No more, get right off me!
But she just wouldn’t go away,
that arachnine busybee!

To her feminine side I made appeal;
I made her pirouette on my hand.
A super model I made her feel,
posing next to a rubber band.

At last satisfied, she was off
to a world of fame and glory.
With a twinkling of silk thread
launched off the table twelve-storey.

posing next to a rubber band....

posing next to a rubber band....

Immediately I raised my feet
so as not to crush her.
All the way outside the door
my cheers and waves followed her.

So whenever you are tired or bored
just call my eight-legged friend.
If you promise not to harm her
she’ll entertain you no end.

She’ll teach you a thing or two
about space, agility and time.
She’ll cock a elegant leg at you,
even teach you how to rhyme.

launched off the table twelve-storey....

launched off the table twelve-storey....

I have added some snaps over here
so that you’ll recognise when you see her.
Be careful of my little spider dear
of gorgeous looks, and good humour!

Photo credits.

Sigh, all mine including the blurry ones!

Searching for scorps and other creepies!

19 September 2009

One evening last month, two bright young lads, supposedly studying zoology in College but actually doing research in their own way, invited me for a scorpion walk. They agreed to provide the instruction while I agreed to provide the college campus  in Dapodi, Pune.

Meet Chintan (Solifugi-phile) and Aamod (scorpio-phile). Or rather both are Arachnophiles.

Aamod Zambre

Aamod Zambre

Chintan Sheth

Chintan Sheth

[To read about Scorpions in ‘The Butterfly Diaries’ read “My Secret Garden” and for more about Solifugids, see my post “Solifugids ko Salaam“].

So late that evening, my daughter Aditi and I accompanied them and went in search of scorpions. They had Petzl forehead lamps – small circular discs on a forehead band which blazed white with diode light. These were very interesting to me as I had never seen them before.

For an hour we turned over stones, boulders, twigs and rubble in the large, mostly barren plain behind the student officers quarters with intermittent plants and trees interspersed. Yours truly and mine own had plain yellow torches. We could not find any scorpions.

This is a phenomenon not many realise, the desertification of urban surrounds. The plants were there but the invertebrate life was a miniscule fraction of the average wild area! Worrying.

Anyway, few ants, beetles, millipedes but no scorpions. 😦

Aditi remembered that the patch behind the basketball court in CME is wooded and slightly wild being neglected. So there we went. This time it was open woodland with knee-high grass and shrubs. But there were no scorpions on the ground. CME is a fairly moist area and scorpions generally prefer dry areas. But there was nothing on the woodland floor.

A few hundred metres into the woods we came across a large dry tree-fall with what appeared to be termite mounds around it.

“Aha”, cried the youngsters. “Ideal place to search for Hottentota pachyurus“.

They now brought out a ‘magic lamp’. When switched on it gave an eerie bluish light. This was a Ultraviolet light of a particular wavelength.
If pointed at a scorpion, it will shine a bright yellow-green.

A scorpion under a 'blacklight' glows eerily.

A scorpion under a 'blacklight' glows eerily.

This is because the cuticle of scorpions contains fluorescent chemicals. Strangely, this has not yet developed in the case of juveniles. The chemical, now thought to be a beta-Carboline, helps locate scorpions and a handheld UV light is now the main item of equipment while hunting for scorpions.

'Villiam' captures the hero!

'Villiam' captures the heroine!

It took but a minute of concentrated examination til we heard sounds of success, Aamod scrabbling after a scorpion. It was Mesobuthus pachyurus, or more correctly,   Hottentota pachyurus as Mesobuthus is a synonym.

(Please refer revision of Hottentota in Euscorpius by  Frantisek Kovařík in 2007. Find it here).

A not uncommon scorpion in Pune region, we had found a female.

Patiently he explained,

“It’s a Hottentota because  its a very common genus in South Asia distinguished by a set of characters such as the lyriform configuration of the carapace and keels on the metasoma.”

“It’s pachyurus because of the uniform black body colour expect on fingers of chela which are red in color.”

“It’s female because  of the relative thickness of the manus of the chela.”

Greek or Latin? Sounded like that to me. Not to mention that I felt like the ‘chhela’ of this marathi ‘mannoos’!

We went on to find four more female H. Pachy’s on that tree stump wich were collected peered at and released.

Juvenile Hottentota pachyurus

Juvenile Hottentota pachyurus

A wide circle revealed no more scorpions. Though it was overcast, no rain came and the dark red light reflected off the clouds by Pune city guided us. It as a bit like Mordor!

You would expect a wooded area, akin to a protected area, more than 400 metres in each direction from civilisation with adequate shrubs and grass to have a good insect life! But the same thing happened here too – our wild areas are becoming virtual deserts with an odd oasis in between. Just some vegetation and protection over a few hundred acres gives a nice place but not quite  a biodiversity hotspot. Loss of biodiversity occurs not at far away places but far closer to home.

Though our visit was also rewarded by a lizard – The Termite-hill gecko – and the Cricket frog, the rest of the night we circled fruitlessly around and came back to where our vehicles are parked.

Its amazing that almost 104 years after Pocock published his Arachnida volumes as part of the Fauna of British India series  (download them from here) ,  we still don’t have any kind of guide to the Scorpions of India. Even more amazing, these young lads took up the study of these creatures despite the complete lack of literature.

Just shows in India, there is always hope!

As long as we have young men like Amod and Chintan willing to push the envelope, all is well with Indian biodiversity.