Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hunting Spot: Bukit Kiara Arboretum

Not far from Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, lies a nice patch of green called the Bukit Kiara Arboretum. On second thought, it might actually considered inside TTDI. How to get there is very easy, even if you are not well verse with the TTDI intricate road networks. It is a huge place to hunt macro subjects and also well known to mountain bike enthusiasts.

Coming from any direction of LDP, take the turn into the VADS building (previously known as the IBM tower). It is the tallest building in that area so if you somehow manage to miss it, forget about finding spiders. As you pass with the building on your right side, go straight until you see a traffic light. The go straight again up to a T-junction and turn left. The road ends at the entrance to the arboretum and you can park your vehicle by the roadside.

The entrance has a guard post and starts with a rather steep climb. Please keep to the left as there are plenty of joggers whom might get annoyed if you are obstructing their run. The tarmac road will curve to the left and after about 200m from the entrance you will notice a trail entrance on your left. You may want to start here but alternatively there are plenty other trails branching off along the road. Please be careful in these trails as they are also used by mountain bikers. If you see them coming, do give way.

This arboretum is mainly made of old rubber estate. Actually you might stumble into rubber tapers there although I am quite curious about their legitimacy, professionally speaking. You know what it means- when there are rubber trees, there are mosquitoes. So wrap yourself up and bring along some insect repellant. You all know how difficult it is to get an accurate focus in macro and having mozzies swarming your ears certainly won’t help. Another thing to be cautious is snake as I have seen rat snakes several times among the undergrowth. In one trip I also noticed a whip snake between low reaching branches and an unidentified green snake among the grass.

Cyclosa sp.

Nevertheless this place is a good place for spider hunting or other sort of macro photography due to its diversity. I have seen the jewel spider Gasteracantha kuhli a few times just by the tarmac road which is, fortunately, not so infested by mosquitoes. Related to G. kuhli, Cyclosa spiders can be found almost everywhere here. There are 2 common physical appearences of Cyclosa sp.- long cyclindrical abdomen like C. bifida and almost flat colourful abdomen like C. insulana. You may want to take a peek between the shrubs to find weird looking theriidids like Chrysso and the social spider Theridula caudata.

Myrmarachne sp. guarding her nest.

Male Viciria praemandibularis.

Inside the trail you may find interesting looking jumping spider such as the colourful Viciria praemandibularis and Phintella vittata. Deeper into the trail I have seen and photographed ant mimic spider Myrmarachne guarding her nest. A lot of spiders do perform their motherhood duty by tendering the eggs and youngs, at least the first instar. Female lycosid carries the spiderlings on her back and if that is not enough, some araneid mothers stop eating and guard their egg sacs until they die out of starvation. This is very interesting to elaborate but I think it’s better to write the details of spider upbringing in another entry.

Leucauge decorata.

Opadometa fastigata.

As the trail goes further, it will curl by the edge of a cliff on your left side. There are ferns and low shrubs on your right and it would be a good idea to check these out. Among the tall grasses and ferns, it is likely that you can find some small tetragnathids such as Leucauge and Opadometa. As far as I can tell they both look more or less the same except for the colours and the latter has pronounced curve hairs at the fourth femur called trichobothria. You can easily find them as they both weave orb webs of up to 2 feet in diameter. The webs are usually almost horizontal and the spiders are always hanging upside down at the hub. Photography can be tricky if your lens has a very close working distance. Of course you would not want to disturb the spider or its web, henceforth getting the right angle can require some yoga posture.

The beautiful female Herennia ornatissima.

Another orb weaver which is common here is the ornate orb weaver, Herennia ornatissima. Just like most spiders, the female of this species is many times bigger than the male. You can find their webs at the tree trunks inside the forest although most of them build their web a bit higher than our reach. An interesting thing about H. ornatissima is the habit of the male to plug the female’s genital with his pedipalps just after copulation. It is believed that this will ensure that the female can only get pregnant with that particular male’s sperm hence ensuring his genetic code to be passed on to the next generation. Seems like chastity belt is not yet out of fashion.

Linyphia urbasae, female.

Deeper inside you might encounter some interesting linyphiid including the attractive Linyphia urbasae. The female has a bright yellow abdomen with black markings while the smaller male is plain orange and four black spots on the dorsal side. Spiders from this genus weave a complex web between the sides of a large leaf and hides upside down. Males can sometimes be seen courting a mature female in her web, often waiting at the edge for an opportunity to mate.

The arboretum is definitely large and I have never completed a total coverage in one day. There are plenty of trails and a good variety of species to be found. On a lucky day you might even find a giraffe weevil at the shrubs along the tarmac road. I hope the arboretum will remain there as it is for a long period of time and survive the rampage of housing development around it.

Hazards: Plenty of mosquitoes. Trails are slippery after rain and beware of cyclists going down the slopes. Snakes have been spotted in several locations.

Families encountered: Theridiidae, Linyphiidae, Oxyopidae, Tetragnathidae, Salticidae, Araneidae, Scytodiidae, Lycosidae, Pholcidae, Thomisidae, Clubionidae.


  1. Red,
    I think by now, after years of macro shooting, you should already be a yoga expert. Those yoga people think they are so cool doing all their moves, give them a DSLR with flash mounted, im sure they will be thrown off balanced already !!

  2. hey sir,
    out of curiosity, how did you manage to know the names of the spiders? and I'm sure most spiders are venomous right? but if you don't mind me asking, are these "malaysian" spiders any danger to our lives? hehe.. :)

    ps: good eyes, i love your pictures.

  3. Hi Robin,

    Good thing I did some gymnastics and martial arts during my younger years. Those trainings happen to be very helpful for doing macro. No joke.

    I haven't been doing much outing in the past 3 months and mostly work to get my fitness level up again. In due time hopefully I can explore more of the jungle and mountain spiders which have been elusive so far.

    Hey Pet,

    I have a few books I refer to and there are several websites which are helpful. Yes, most spiders are venomous but to the best of my knowledge none of the spiders native to Malaysia is to be worried about. The venom does not work well to harm mammals and most of them have fangs too short they cannot even penetrate our skin.

    However there is a relative of the Black Widow recorded in our area, Latrodectus hasselti, although there was no recent sighting.

  4. omg your shot of the cyclosa sp is wicked...

  5. Amir,

    Great photos, and very interesting blog!

    I took a photo of what I think is an orb weaver last week, in a rubber estate near Bukit Manchung (near Bukit Beruntong). The pedipalps of this very cool spider was orange.

    Any ideas what it might be?


  6. That is a female Nephila pilipes.

  7. Hi Amir,I am thinking of keeping a huntsman spider and let it run around the house to kill cockroaches and other unwanted insects. I am living alone and am out of the house most of the time. I think a huntsman spider would make a good pest controller. What do you think?