Buggin with Bridgey – February 2023

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.

Mothers in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

and in the Wet Tropics

Mother Ornate Crab Spider (Poecilothomisus speciosus) guarding egg sack and spiderlings.

Invertebrates may not be the first thing that come to mind when you think of mothers. Yet there are a number of dedicated mothers to be found in the Cairns Botanic Gardens and the Wet Tropics. Some people may have not considered parenting of arthropod but their commitment and dedication to their offspring is just as strong as many in mammals and birds.

If you look close enough there is a huge amount of mothering going on.  You can see them high up in a tree, or hidden on a leaf, they are always on duty looking after their babies.  In the Cairns Botanic Gardens and Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, you’ll find mothers in all shapes, sizes and habitats, and some that might surprise you.  All mums out there – take a bow!

Ornate Crab Spider (Poecilothomisus speciosus)

Also known as a Beautiful Crab Spider, this absolute stunner species is in the genus Thomisidae.   I’ve seen a small number of these species, and I am proud to say that I’m one of a handful of people to see a male and capture a photo.  I’ve seen them in various locations in the Wet Tropics and the majority of those observations were found in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.    To my absolute shock and excitement, I finally came across a female with an egg sack.  Not just once, but twice in the last month.   I thought I was going to see babies from this species back in 2019 when I had one on a palm leaf hanging from the neighbour’s tree until one day the landlord cut it off when I wasn’t home and so my hopes to see those babies were stolen from me.  Hurmmmf!

The fact that I haven’t stumbled across another one since, leads me to believe that these moments are rarely seen and to have two going on simultaneously, and only 50 meters away from each other was pretty damn cool!   I have been on the hunt for this scene for about 4 years!

I was able to watch this female over several days, and I observed that the process of the babies leaving the egg sack was surprisingly slow.  Babies were really seeking protection from mumma and were very slow to emerge from underneath the sack.  I believe there were still other babies in the sack as well.   On my third visit to this scene was when they were most active and on the last day I saw some of them ballooning (releasing their own silk line) into the rainforest and leave the nest.

Pretty sure mumma was just standing guard the whole time.  I doubt she ate, unless something landed close to her.  She was not going to abandon her precious bundle of beauties.

To see my previous ‘Observations’ of this species, including an very rarely seen male, check them out on my Let’s Go Buggin iNaturalist Project.   To see the full collection of this mum and her babies, check out my Instagram Feed.

Cropped images showing Ornate Crab Spider (Poecilothomisus speciosus) fiercely protecting her spiderlings


Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris)

A few years I saw these little white balls stuck to smooth crevices on tree trunks and wonder…what is that?!   There was a thought of fungi?  I posted to a couple of Facebook Groups and a lot of people said ‘Fungi’.  However, there were a few comments about Gecko eggs, which made a lot of sense but I didn’t see the gecko around these.  They were probably there, hiding in plain sight with their amazing camouflage, but I didn’t notice them.  I wanted to find one near the eggs to document the evidence of the mysterious white balls.   Eventually, I found one sitting clutching the eggs on a night walk and was able to capture this lovely mumma showing her mothering duties.

Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) guarding her eggs in a dugout section of tree trunk.

Northern Lined Hygropoda (Hygropoda lineata)

This is a very common species that I see everywhere I go in the wet Tropics. On any Let’s Go Buggin walk either morning or night we will see 20+ of this species. Over the last month the majority of the females have been sitting on eggs. It takes about a week for the babies to hatch and when they do they seem to only stay with the mother for about 48 hours and then they’re off to the big bug-eat-bug world.

I’ve been watching this lovely mama sit on her egg sack for about five days and on a Buggin Night Walks the egg sack was about to burst! I got this shot and the next day on a Morning Walk I came back to see that all the babies had come out of the egg sac and she was happily guarding them on top of the leaf.

Northern Lined Hygropoda (Hygropoda lineata) mother holding bursting egg sack, and the next day with the spiderlings hatched.

Mother Shield Bug (Bromocoris souefi) ontop of freshly emerged baby Shield Bug Instars.

Shield Bug (Bromocoris souefi)

This Shield Bug is a super common species and I had several generations hanging out in the backyard living on these palm leaves.

They are called a True Bug, a group of insects that have a proboscis mouth part and use it much like a straw by piercing it into the plant or animal and sucking up the juices!  Noice!

Because I was able to check on the mothers every day, I saw daily progress, and it took over a week between these images.  Mothers will sit on her eggs and not move!  She’s got impressive little shoulder spikes if anything gets too close!  I’m sure these prove to be quite a deterrent to some animals.

Mother Shield Bug (Bromocoris souefi) ontop her eggs, a few days later ontop of freshly emerged instars and the first day she leaves the instars to themselves.

Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis)

Okay so this is obviously a variant for a Let’s Go Buggin Blog, but Sunbirds are often seen and even more often heard in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.  These adorable little yellow bundles of sunshine flit and flee between trees singing their happy song as they tweet away feeding on the nectar of flowers. Except when they’re hunting for their chicks and that’s when they switch over their hunting from flowers to invertebrates.

These birds often pair up and will make their gorgeous birds nests around houses including garages, carport, balconies and backyard trees.

It seems the females builds the nest, which will take several days and really is a very cool design.  Complete with an enclosed basket with a lid and thatched roof, and yet will completely blend into the rainforest going unseen by many people.

The male comes in the help with the feeding but it’s the female who sits on the eggs and incubates them for around two weeks.

Firstly the male, notice the dark blue chin feathers, feeding his chicks.  The mother it seems… feeds and then waits… then takes out the dirty laundry.

Would you like to see some of these amazing mothers 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 in late March.

Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses