27 June 2008
I wrote this post to provide some answers for Mr Andrew Ngin, a scriptwriter currently working on an upcoming drama about friendship amongst 3 boys who lived through the 60s. Andrew studied at the same secondary school as I but is 8 years my junior. As he is doing some research on spiders, he left a comment here and there, asking several questions about spiders.
Q1. Did you catch any spiders back in the 1960s
A: Although I have never played with or caught any spider in my childhood before, I have seen my neighbours' kids play with them before. Below is a brief description of a typical spider fight. I also did some research for you by googling and also asked a self-proclaimed "spider expert" called Moo. (I call that "moogling". Haha.)
The spider owner, usually a boy, will house a lone spider in an Elastoplast box. It is a rather flat (about 1 cm thick) rectangular metal box that is red in colour. (Elastoplast, as you probably know, is a brand of plaster or self-adhesive bandage as you would call it now. This brand may still be available today but the packaging is probably different.)
The boy will put a leaf or two in the box, probably to make the spider feel "at home". It also gives the spider some places to hide.
For boys with in-born gambling instinct, they will wage bets on a spider fight. The stake could be anything from a 10-cent ice ball for poor kids like me or up to a dollar or two for well-to-do kids.
When it is fighting time, the outside surface of the closed box will be the fighting arena. One kid will hold the box with one hand while another spider belonging to another kid will be placed on the same box. The 2 spiders soon see each other because the space on the box is quite limited and each spider has several eyes to see with, so it's hard to miss an opponent.
They will then face each other and start their "fighting dance" routine. Both will hold out their arms and move from side to side. They will make contact every now and then.
After a few minutes, the winner and loser will have been decided. The loser will run frantically around the box with the winner chasing close behind it. That's when you know that the fight has ended and it's also time for the winning owner to chase the loser frantically round the block for payment. ;)
There are usually no fatalities but sometimes injuries are sustained. Although a spider is too small to be examined for minor injuries and it doesn't bleed red blood, you can certainly tell when an arm or two have fallen off and the spider is limping.
Fighting spiders are usually male. If a male meets a female, they will probably not fight but do the other "f" thing, quite naturally. Fraternising that is, what were you thinking?
According to this website, females also fight each other, but "the combat does not show the same degree of vigour as in the male-to-male fray". They probably just pull at each other's hair.
Q2. What were the best methods and techniques you used in catching them?
A: According to this website, "the spider builds a nest by binding two leaves together with vertical strands of silk, perpendicular to the leaf surfaces". So look for leaves that are stuck together, peel them open slowly and be ready to catch any escaping spider.
Q3. Where did you find them in Singapore?
A3. Certainly not in city areas where I live. Maybe in countryside kampongs like Lorong Kinchir.
Q4. What do you feed them with?
Any small live insects that are made half-dead by a little squishing with our fingers. Click here for more information from a real spider expert on how to properly rear spiders.
(Moo says that you also have to cater to their sexual needs, i.e. catch a sexy female spider and let it spend some quality time with your top-ranking fighter. If you are lucky, you may be blessed with hordes of baby fighters. If you care for your prized spider properly, it will live happily for several months and die not in battle but from old age.)
Q5. What were they called?
Thiania bhamoensis of the Salticidae family... Oh you mean the colloquial name? I heard one species was called Orh Pao (Hokkien for "black panther".)
Q6. Do you know anyone who was/is a spider expert?
Yes, more than one. Besides the real expert Mr Joseph K H Koh, there is the self-proclaimed one, Mr Moo. If you would like to interview Mr Moo, please let me know how I can contact you. (If you would rather interview the real expert, I will see what I can do.)
There, I hope I have answered all your questions satisfactorily, Andrew. In return, I would like to ask you just one:
Do we get to have our names mentioned in the film's credits as "spider consultants"?