Buggin with Bridgey – November 2022

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Cairns Nature Tour in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.  As the months roll by, subtle changes in the seasons bring sightings of new creatures and this report aims to give people a wrap up of the current animals seen as well as provide an ongoing citizen science account of our wonderful critters that can be seen in the tropical north of Queensland.

Camouflage in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

and in the Wet Tropics

Extreme closeup of Australian Lichen Huntsman Spider on a tree trunk showing all the details and hairs helping it camouflage

Closeup of Australian Lichen Huntsman Spider (Pandercetes gracilis).  Note the hairs that help their appearance blend into the tree trunk.

We are so fortunate with rich bio-diversity in the Cairns Botanic Gardens and the Wet Tropics of Queensland and this richness has led to some incredible examples of camouflage. It’s a bug eat bug world and this endless battle of predator verses prey has lead to some evolutionary marvels as each species try to become more and more invisible to their arch-nemesis.  The results are incredible!  This Blog is dedicated to a few of the examples I’ve been lucky enough to encounter and photograph in the area over the last few years.

Australian Lichen Huntsman Spider (Pandercetes gracilis)

Many a time I’ve heard a tour participant say “How did you see that!?” when I point out a Lichen Huntsman.   These awesome spiders hide in plain sight with their long hairy legs creating an invisibility cloak around them.  As well as this they have evolved to be almost flat so they do not show any obvious body shape while they sit in ambush on tree trunks. The best time to see these spiders is at night when you can pick up their eye-shine.  We usually have numerous encounters with these all year round on Let’s Go Buggin Night Walks through the Cairns Botanic Gardens Rainforest Boardwalk.

Pictured are some of my Lichen Huntsman camouflage encounters I’ve had with Australian Lichen Huntsman Spiders and trying to capture how they can blend into the tree trunks.  Note on the below image there are two individuals.  Can you see them?  Do you notice one is guarding eggs?  Please comment below to give me your thoughts and the amount of time it took to find them both. :)

Tree trunk showing two camouflaged Australian Lichen Huntsman Spiders in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Rentz’s Treerunner Mantis (Ciulfina rentzi)

A very common species, but not often seen are these delightful mantids.  They sport a typical fatigue colour scheme that blends perfectly into their chosen habitat of tree trunks.   I will often point these one-inch sized critters out to people and they go completely unseen until they look from a certain angle and see their silhouette against the trunk.  They are so named for their ability to ‘run’ up a tree… and are named after Cairns entomologist David Rentz.    On Let’s Go Buggin Morning walks we often see them on the tree trunks, but on the Night Walks they often come down from the tree trunk and hang out on leaves.

Closeup of camouflaged Rentz Treerunner Mantis in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Rentz’s Treerunner Mantis (Ciulfina rentzi) in their typical daytime pose on the sides of tree trunks.

Moss Mantis (Calofulcinia oxynota)

What a special little mantid this is.  Evolving to completely disappear into its chosen environment of moss is…you guessed it, a Moss Mantis!   These adorable creatures are only tiny, growing to only a couple of centimetres.  I struggled to find much information about this particular species online, but can tell you that they are fairly widespread in Far North Queensland from Mt Lewis to Mt Elliot, but generally at higher elevations.  They can show this mossy green colouration and there is also a more lichen-coloured morph.  They can also change colours slightly to help blend into any changes in substrate.   Thanks very much to Matthew Connors for the I.D. and extra information on this species.

Moss Mantis camoflaged in moss covered tree

Moss Mantis (Calofulcinia oxynota) blending into a moss-covered log.

Spectacular Crab Spider (Thomisus spectabilis)

Often seen in backyard gardens inhabiting flowering plants are these Crab Spiders (Thomisidae genus).  Usually they appear white, however they do have the ability to have a yellow colour morph which enables them to blend in perfectly to yellow flowers.  I have often seen them sitting on the common yellow daisy’s that grow on the sides of roads.   They will sit on the flower, waiting in ambush for a unsuspecting pollinator such as a bee or butterfly to come along and at lightning speed capture their prey.

Yellow morph of Spectacular Crab Spider camouflaged in a yellow daisy flower
Extreme closeup of a Yellow morph of Spectacular Crab Spider camouflaged in a yellow daisy flower

Spectacular Crab Spider (Thomisus spectabilis) hiding on a roadside dandelion

Be sure to check out the dandelions as you are walking your dog along garden footpaths.  If you take your time and look closely, you might encounter one of these camouflage experts.

Camouflaged Snub-Nose Katydid insect sitting on leaves in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Pimpled Broad-Winged Snub-Nose Katydid (Mastighaphoides tuberculatus)

Katydids

The Cairns Botanic Gardens is abundant with numerous types of katydids.  I am bewildered at the huge variety and complexity of this family of insects.  The adults usually look like leaves and they camouflage beautifully with their surroundings.  In fact they are more like leaf mimics, which will be the subject of my next blog in December.

But here is a selection of some of the ‘leaf-like’ Katydids that can be found in the Cairns Botanic Gardens as well as the surrounding Wet Tropics region.

Leaf-like Serrated Bush Katydid on side of a tree

Serrated Bush Katydid (Paracaedicia serrata)

Cheers for reading this far!!  I’d love some comments below if you have any comments or questions.  Thanks so much to Matthew Connors for help with some of the identifications and information on the above species.

Would you like to see some of our camouflage critters firsthand in the Cairns Botanic Gardens on a Let’s Go Buggin Tour?  Use ‘blog’ as the coupon code for 20% discount on your tour booking.

Next Blog late December 2022.

Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses

For 15% Discount on Olympus OM SYSTEM Camera Equipment use ‘Aussiemacro’ at the online shop.