In a previous post I told how we use a beating sheet -- a sheet stretched with tent poles to catch spiders that fall from vegetation we've shaken or beaten. Whenever I do this, more falls onto the sheet than just spiders. Insects, centipedes, earthworms, crabs, onychophorans, dead leaves, and sticks are among the other things that land on the sheet. Earthworms? Yes, there is often soil and litter that accumulates between branches. Crabs? Yes, a terrestrial crab fell on my sheet a few days ago.
The most memorable things landing on my sheets over the years in various tropical places are these:
A poison arrow frog, Dendrobates. Very cute, but I did not encourage it to linger on my sheet.
A poisonous viper, Bothrops. See the story on the Beaty Museum's blog.
Ant colonies. This happens several times a day. There are many tropical ants that make their nests in trees, and when the tree is shaken, the whole colony lands on the sheet. Or, half on the sheet and half on my head. Then I start counting 1, 2, 3, .. By 10, I've usually felt the first bite or sting. Of many.
Wasp nest. The rule: drop the beating sheet and run the other direction. Then, hope you can return in 10 minutes to retrieve the sheet.
And the new addition to this list from Mulu: a bat. The other day I beat a plant and saw this tightly bundled bat on my sheet. I called over Edy and Alex, who took this photo. Right after the photo, the bat turned over and flew away, perhaps in shock, but apparently unharmed:
Previously in this series:
Text and images © W. Maddison, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY)