“And tonight,” said our guide, “we’re going on a night hike through the jungle.” Now, if you know me, then you know that I’m really not the biggest fan of anything that has more than two eyes, more than four legs, is attracted to light or has a carapace. He started us off easy with a beetle and a grasshopper, neither of which were terrifyingly huge.
Next we saw a colony of leaf-cutter ants. These guys climb trees and snip off neat sections of leaves which they then take back to their nest. The leaves provide food for a type of fungus that the ants then live on. They largely ignored us as they kept to their path, diligently bringing chunks of leaves that were larger than they were back home.
We also happened on a rather large katydid, and a not-so-large frog before the real terror set in.
It turns out Aragog from Harry Potter (a giant spider) lives in the forests of Ecuador. This Black Tarantula was only about six inches long, and seemed more scared of us than we (read: I) was of him. He sat motionless while we photographed him, and it was only when someone got close with a stick that he scurried into his hole. We’ve seen tarantulas in the wild before, and they always seem to prefer to hide rather than sink their spider teeth into a nice juicy human.
Meet the Whiptail Scorpion Spider. This guy is somewhat misnamed as it’s neither a scorpion nor a spider, and doesn’t have a tail, let alone something it can whip.
Personally, I think this nightmare-fodder should be named a “Giant I’m-Gonna-Eat-You-In-Your-Sleep-and-Laugh-While-I-Do-It Bug.” Despite looking like something you’d find in a Stephen King novel, it turned out to be quite docile, and everyone (except me) took turns holding it and letting it crawl all over them. Yeuccch!
We next saw another large spider and a very attractive moth that was “only” about four inches long.
One more spider was sitting in his web waiting for dinner. Our guide Elvis obliged by sacrificing a cricket, and we watched the spider paralyze his victim and wrap it up for later.
Our final night friend was a lion cricket, or something of that nature, I really don’t remember. I was too busy trying not to run screaming into the night. (In the end I decided that it was better to stick with the group than blunder into the jungle at night.) It’s hard to tell from the photos, but this thing was easily over six inches long. I’m just glad he wasn’t singing like crickets do in an attempt to lead us into his lair and feed us to his family.
All in all, the night hike was pretty fascinating. There is so much going on that we humans never see. I think, however, that I’m Okay to leave the Amazon rainforest to the insects at night.