Campus sweep (a.k.a. an early Xmas)

If any of you readers follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I have a slight bias towards collecting arthropods by sweeping with an insect net. It lets you collect an incredible diversity of arthropods in a small area and with minimal effort. Sure, it helps that I live somewhere with an incredible biodiversity, but I still prefer sweep samples over all other collecting methods. (Next in the top three are light traps and active collecting). So after an afternoon of presenting theoretical projects on experimental design, we (my labmate and I) were ready to relax for a bit. We headed towards a little area of my U’s campus armed with nets and a small jar of alcohol, and after 10-15 min of walking around and getting asked what we were doing by people passing by, we ended up with a nice jar full of bugs.

Sure, it’s finals week, and we only have exams, projects, jobs and a plethora of other responsibilities, but I couldn’t help but sorting through the samples as soon as I got home. I was hoping to find what we dubbed “the mantis fly”, a fly with raptorial front legs belonging to the family Ephydridae (Ochthera sp.). My labmate found two in some sweep samples she did when we went to the field last year, and she then found another one in a sweep we did on campus, so naturally I had collector’s envy.

So I turned up the music, grab some coffee and start sorting; not two minutes after that I saw it: I had finally found one! Just look at those amazing forelegs!

A shore fly, Ochthera sp.

A shore fly, Ochthera sp.

I was pumped, so I kept sorting. I was surprised not only at the amount of crab spiders (family Thomisidae), but at their striking color patterns. Online I usually see white and yellow females, and I’ve found one or two males with green forelegs and stripes on the cephalothorax, but nothing like this! At first I thought that only the males were so boldly colored, but several female specimens proved me wrong.

Crab spider diversity with bold color patterns

Obviously, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Colorful specimens with weird shapes are a collector’s dream. Then I stumbled onto something that looked like a crab spider, but something was off; the abdomen was much slimmer, and when I looked at the eyes, the arrangement was nothing like the traditional thomisid pattern, which is 8 eyes (all more or less the same size) arranged in two almost parallel rows.

Lynx spider, family Oxyopidae

Lynx spider, family Oxyopidae

I think this is a lynx spider (family Oxyopidae) that has two greatly enlarged pairs of forelegs. This convergence isn’t unheard of in spiders; jumping spiders of the genus Lurio also have similar forelegs, but this is the first time I see it in lynx spiders.

I also found a few other interesting specimens, such as a parasitic wasp with a sculptured thorax, a myrmecomorph rove beetle, a spotted orb weaver and an iridescent tortoise beetle. All in all, this was a fantastic sweep, and I hope future visits hold even more surprises!


Tiny orb weaver with a striking color design

Small ant-like rove beetle (Staphilinidae)


Tortoise beetle (Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae)


A parasitic wasp, Orasema sp. (Eucharitidae). These are parasites of ant larvae.


One thought on “Campus sweep (a.k.a. an early Xmas)

  1. Pingback: Mimicry. Oh, the mimicry. | They go "Crunch"

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