What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Ed. Note:  We think they do.  Do you?  Let us know.

Subject: Tanzanian butterfly
Location: Arusha Tanzania
April 8, 2013 4:35 am

Mating Common Bush Blues
Mating Common Bush Blues look like Jumping Spider

Daniel,
What caught my eye with these Cacyreus lingeus is that I also saw a pair mating, and after a bit of maneuvering and jostling about, they settled down into the one position for about 5 to 10 minutes or so, and the pattern of the “eyes” on the wings of the joined butterflies, as well as the final configuration of both showed a distinct mimicry of a jumping spider.
In the brief research that I have done, I have not seen anything written anywhere of two separate insects actually using mimicry as a defense mechanism before, although they were still for quite a while so were fair game without some defense system.
Have attached the photo to see what you think?

That is an awesome and astute observation Simon.  They really do look like the face of a Jumping Spider.  Perhaps it is time for you to write a paper.  We will be adding this photo to your original submission as well as making it a unique posting that is a feature.

Jumping Spider mimics Mating Blues

Jumping Spider mimics Mating Blues

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Arusha, Tanzania
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9 Responses to Simon Asks: Do Mating Blues mimic Jumping Spiders?

  1. Helen W. says:

    That is a brilliant idea! The lines along the wings can read as legs, and the little sticky-off bits at the back of wings could look like pedipalps… Seriously, write a paper! Do more research! This could be a pretty significant scientific discovery!

  2. Steve Woodhall says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble here – but why would they mimic such a small predator as a Salticid spider? The purpose of the false heads on lycaenid hind wings seems to be to trick birds into pecking the wrong end of the butterfly. Any such bird would probably relish a Salticid spider even more than a butterfly – more meat!

    • bugman says:

      Dear Steve,
      Our bubble is not burst. We understand the accepted explanation of the oculi and filaments on the hindwings of Gossamer Winged Butterflies, but even the most jaded reader can’t deny the resemblance between the mating Blues and the Jumping Spider, even if it is purely coincidental.

  3. Simon says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for the input and there is definitely no chance of bursting my bubble, as no bubble exists at the moment.

    This was just purely an observation that I made when I saw these butterflies recently. The configuration of the pair whilst mating immediately gained my attention. Initially they were dancing round the flower, and it was two to three minutes before they actually settled into this pattern and remained stationary in this position for well over 10 minutes, enough time for me to head to the house a hundred meters away and change the lens to a macro. Which I why I thought I would post here, as to see what others with more knowledge and experience thought of this particular case.

    The allusion to a jumping spider was only apparent from a horizontal viewpoint and when the butterflies were in a vertical stance and now on reflection I can’t help but wonder if this was not also a reflex reaction to my presence, as the jumping spider configuration was definitely directed at where I was kneeling. Not only the oculi and filaments gave this impression but the irregular pattern on the underside of the wings as well as coloration also immediately drew similarities to some of the few jumping spiders I have seen here.

    In trying to name this species I did do some research over the last few days and did note that it is accepted that the oculi and filaments on the extremities of the wings are to confuse predatory birds and thus in losing only a small portion of the extremity of the wing can escape relatively unharmed.

    Although after taking this photo, I did have a couple of thoughts on that. Firstly if this mimicry was to protect against birds only, then it actually would fail because most birds would be observing from above the horizontal plane and at acute or obtuse angle, hardly any predatory birds would be on the plane where this mimicry would have greatest affect. Although I have noticed that the Brown-headed Tchagra seems to be the most dangerous for flying insects here and these do hunt on the ground and from low bushes and tree branches, but as you have mentioned I don’t know if this posture would deter the Tchagra from a quick butterfly snack.

    I also noted in some of the reading I have done over the last few days of other butterflies mimicking jumping spiders, in particular metalmark moths of the Brenthia genus mimicking jumping spiders, which is one of their predators, and jumping spiders responding to Brenthia with territorial displays, indicating that Brenthia were sometimes mistaken for jumping spiders, and not recognized as prey. These were individuals though whereas in this case it was apparently a pair of Cacyreus lingeus coordinating the deception.

    I have seen other butterflies taken by spiders, as per the photo here, which triggered the thought process that this configuration was aimed at deterring predatory jumping spiders whilst the mating Cacyreus lingeus were at their most vulnerable, and being stationary for over ten minutes would seem to be that case, hence the observation that this could be a deterrent against jumping spiders rather than birds.

    Simon

    • bugman says:

      Very nice Simon. We are ready for that paper from you. It is truly in the spirit of early naturalists who learned so much from patient observation.

  4. Helen W. says:

    Steve,
    I thought of that too. The thing is, there’s really not much that a tiny butterfly could do to keep a comparatively large predator like a bird away. However, even if a bird did attack what it thought was a jumping spider, it would still end up with a mouthful of wings, meaning the mimicry would have served the purpose you stated. Additionally, this mimicry could be effective against smaller predators, such as spiders.

  5. Anonny says:

    Your site has displayed a related post which also appears to have spider eyes, “Mating Reakirt’s Blues”:

    http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2012/11/03/mating-reakirts-blues/

    • bugman says:

      This eyespot pattern is visible on many Blues and Hairstreaks. The mating position is similar, so this visual similarity to the eyes of a Jumping Spider will be evident in many mating Gossamer Winged Butterflies.

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