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At the present, no fewer than 260 new species have been discovered in Borneo, one third of them have been found on Mount Kinabalu alone. Tropical rainforests are the richest invertebrate’s habitats on the Earth. On the Island of Borneo a single giant lowland dipterocarp tree may support over 1,000 insect species. 


Borneo is home to around species of butterfly; about ten per cent of these are endemic to the island. The most celebrated group of butterflies on Borneo is the Birdswings: attaining wingspans up 180 mm, there are the leviathans of the Lepidoptera world. There are also exquisite beautiful, as epitomized by the famous Raja brook’s Birdwing.

It is not an uncommon species and may be encountered in both Danum Valley and lower slopes of Mt Kinabalu. More widespread are the Common Birdwing and Golden Birdwing that inhabit both low land and low montane areas. Also very similar the Kinabalu Birdwing ; as its name suggests, these species is only found in higher altitude montane forests.

The family papilionidae is large one contains also other family groups such as the swallowtails and mormons; three species are very famous: Common Rose, Red Helen and Common Mormon.Borneo is also home to the world’s largest moth, the Atlas Moth which can attain a wingspan of 350 mm.

The family Nymphaldae is another that is well represented in Borneo.Some of the most easily seen species around parks and gardens and of the edges rural areas belong to this family: The Common Tiger, the Tree Nymph.

Stick and Leaf Insects
Worldwide there are over 3000 known species; over ten per cent of these are found on Borneo. This group can be divided into two: the Sticks insects that generally have long and slander bodies; the Leaf Insects that are more flattened and fatter.

Leaf Insect

Stick Insect

The majority of stick insects are able to fly; only one third of all species are flightless. Their wings are folded over their abdomens and at the times are brightly colored, so giving a startling flash when initially they take to the air.Stick insects are primarily nocturnal and during the day they use their exceptional ability to camouflage.

The leaf insects differ from other phasmidis and are very distinctive in appearance as they all closely resemble leaves. The bodies are green and flattened, with extremities of the abdomen no thicker then a leaf. The lags are also flattened and have large leaf-like lobes on each section to further enhance their clever camouflage. They avoid detection by not moving and being insensible to any stimulation, they may also feign death; some species are even able to shed their lags to avoid being trapped.  Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu



Crevices in trees are the favored day time hiding hunts of very large hairy spider (tarantulas); at night they emerge to wait for large insects. Some species have a lag span approaching 130 mm; these giant spiders are gentle, having temperaments not at all consistent with their intimidating appearance: they rarely bite unless they are provoked. Borneo is home to the world’s smallest spiders: Patu Digua as body length less than 0.4 mm.

The enormous golden webs (nephila) may be 1.5 m in diameter. Sitting in the center of the web is the impressing female that may have a legspan up to 120 mm.

Examine the web closely and you may also see some tiny spiders: these are not another species but the male Nephila. Some female spiders have a reputation for devouring their mates after copulation, but the male Nephila make sure that such a fate does not befall him by being so small that he is literally no worth making a meal of. Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu

Centipedes and Millepedes
Centipedes and millipedes are common in rainforests. Neither group as many lags as their names suggest: thus each body segment of a centipede as many legs as their name suggest: thus each body segment of a centipede has one pair of legs, while each millipede body segment as two pairs of legs.



Most millipedes have between 100 and 300 pairs of legs. Centipedes are nocturnal predators that feed on other invertebrates. They have a powerful jaws and poison to subdue their pray. Millipedes are active during the day, and are vegetarians, feeding mainly on soft decomposing plant tissue. Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu



Scorpions are nocturnal and they are active hunters of insects. During the day they hide in crevices under stones, under bark or holes in trees. In Asian forest there are over 20 species and some are amongst the world’s largest measuring 15 mm.

They have very large set pinchers that give them the appearance of miniature lobsters, but despite their fearsome appearance, they are harmless and their sting is barely more potent than a bee sting. Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu



Leeches are abundant in lowland forests, and can often be seen hanging from the edges of the leaves by forest trail. As soon as they sense a presence of a passer-by the begin waiving to and fro, frantically trying to locate the prospective host. The bite is not felt, as they are able to inject an anesthetic and the wound continues to bleed afterwards because their saliva also contains an anticoagulant. Kinabalu Giant Leech can reach 300 mm in length; however it feeds exclusively on the blood of large earthworms. Tiger Leech are relatively smaller, up to around 60 mm, they do not have anesthetic, so their bite is felt. Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu

Ants and Bees
Ants and bees are social insects extremely abundant in Borneo Rainforest. There are countless species of ant;
Mt Kinabalu has the greatest diversity, over 640 species of ant have been identified from few hectares of forest.

Black ant

Giant Bee

The Giant Forest Ant is one of the largest species found in Borneo reaching 25 mm in length. Giant Forest Ants are very susceptible to environmental degradation and soon disappear from forests that suffer disturbance: as such they are excellent indicator species for pristine areas and general forest health.

Almost one third of all described animal species are beetle, however despite their abundance, they are not always easy to see; many are nocturnal, while others hide away in leaf litter, rotting wood, of the recesses canopy.


The Trilobite Beetle derives its name from the appearance of its larvae, which resemble the ancient trilobites that inhabited the oceans of the world 300 millions of years ago.

Amongst Borneo’s most impressive species are the Rhinoceros Beetles, found in lowland and montane forests. The most commonly encountered species are the Two-Horned Rhinoceros Beetle that has a glossy chestnut back and black head. Much larger is the endemic Three-Horned Rhinoceros Beetle measuring nearly 10 cm in length. Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu



Cicada are very difficult to see but can always be heard in Borneo rainforest. There are different types of cicadas that call during different times of the days. Only males call to try and attract the mute females. Their piercing, whining drone is produced by the rapid vibration of a membrane which oscillates several hundred times a second and amplified by a resonating chamber. Sometimes the call is detectable up to 600 m; cicadas are the loudest insect in the world. Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu


       Termites are seen as destroyer of the forest; it is true that they are the dominant arthropod decomposers in tropical forest, but by playing a role in recycling, they release nutrients for so many other species in the food web to then access. Termites live in colonies; they are based in nest and the biggest nest ever found was built in Borneo by the species Macrotermes. The number of different species in Borneo is unknown, but probably runs over 150. Place to visit: Danum Valley and Mt Kinabalu

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