Returning after a busy day for a cup of coffee I noticed a spider on the granite pillar which leads to my house. When I built my house I got these local rough granite pillars from granite quarry in the nearby town of Karkala. 16 such tall stone pillars stand supporting roof of my pathway to my house. They are safe heavens for potter wasps who love to build nests. I had several social wasps building small hives before their larvae being eaten by neighboring potter wasps. Being rough it is a nice playing ground for Calotes lizards. That day I spotted a spider which was perfectly camouflaged to the granite background on that pillar. I could spot it only because it was holding a dark dead bee in its mouth and feeding on it. Later I could identify it as Two-Tailed Spider (Hersilia)
I quickly grabbed my Canon EOS 5D mark II flitted with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. For illumination I used Canon Speedlite 580EX II fitted with ExpoImaging Ray Flash Adapter. For closeup work I use this setup as the Ray Flash Adapter produces nice diffuse light which does not give out harsh highlights. Only drawback I see is that you can see the reflection ring light as white ring on the reflective parts of the subject. After using Rayflash adapter I have nearly stopped using Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash which I have.I think I need to start using macro twin light flash again with some diffuser so that I can reduce the reflection of ringlight and make the picture look natural. As the spider was stationary feeding on the bee, I had plenty of opportunity to photograph the spider from all the angles.
Being very well camouflaged for life, these spiders have an interesting way of capturing prey. The members of Hersiliidae family are flat, medium sized spiders that have a cryptic appearance and are usually found on tree trunks. These are very fast running, active hunting spiders. The most easily distinguishable feature of Hersiliidae is the extremely long posterior lateral spinnerets, which are often longer than the abdomen and sometimes approaching the total body length, hence the name two- tailed spiders. The body coloring is brown to match the color of the dry bark that the spider is normally resting on and camouflages well. The flattened body allows them to lie very close to the bark without casting any shadow or enables them to hide in the narrowest of cracks.
They are occasionally encountered on walls and rocks. When disturbed, the spider runs very swiftly to the opposite side of the tree with the spinnerets raised like a pair of horns. The spider sits on the tree trunk and spreads the silk over the nearby area. When a small insect comes close, the insect disturbs the silk and the spider senses this. The spider will quickly run around the insect in circles, with the insect in the center. The spider will also lay more silk at the same time, until the insect is entangled in it. They are active hunters living on tree trunks, old walls or under stones and at most spinning a scanty web of irregular threads. A total of six species of three genera are reported from India so far. Next day I saw the same spider with another grasshopper as its victim. I had another photo session with it which you can see in the last two photos on this page.
Hersilia Lucas 1836, is commonly called Two-tailed spider. Distributed throughout India, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka. Cephalothorax is flat and almost circular, slightly broader than long, with a prominently high clypeus. Anterior and posterior eyes are strongly recurved, anterior laterals positioned half way between the anterior and posterior medians. Legs, except the third pair, very long and slender and are armed with three claws. Tarsi of legs I, II and III two-segmented. Abdomen is flat, almost circular, slightly broader than long. Posterior lateral spinnerets are very long, much longer than the abdomen. The colour is greyish with a darkish lanceolate cardiac area and dark transverse margins posteriorly. Legs and spinnerets annulated with dark rings.
It lives on tree trunks, often spotted on trunks of coconut palms in a head down position. It feeds on moths, ants and other smaller spiders. Cocoon is generally laid in the crevices of trees. It runs round the tree when disturbed. It is a very common spider in our tree barks and exhibits colour variation according to the substrate on which it is found.