For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bark Mantis

We have about 185 known Mantis species here in SA and I am always finding new ones. Many of them are either called "leaf" or "bark" as this is what they look like.

Just as well that I went for an early walk this morning as the wind came up a bit later and I would not have been able to take even one picture. I went around the yard and at the small garden near the pool, there is huge cycad growing. I started peering under the leaves to see if I could find anything, maybe spiders....... This is a juvenile Bark Mantis (Tarachodes) and if it was not for his legs, I would have missed him.
It is of medium size and move about the trunks of trees in search of caterpillars and other prey.
It is fairly flattish to resemble bark. His total body length is about 1 1/2 inches and what was interesting to me, besides the way he blended in, was the fact that he does not have a long neck as most mantids do.
He has incredible eyes and as he was starting to get restless, I dashed to the house to find something to catch him in so that I could get better pics of him as it was rather dark under the tree and cycad.
All his limbs have these fine hairs on them in order for them to blend in better with the bark of trees as it breaks the solid line of his legs.
They eat caterpillars and other insects found on the trees.
The females of this species are quite maternal and will spend up to 70 days looking after her egg case.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A plastic bug, 6 legged zebra and sunshine

Now I am guessing that you are wondering at the strange title of this post what all these have in common ........ the truth is ..... nothing except my camera. :) I do not have enough information on any of these to do a post on its own, so I decided to lump it all together.

When I first saw this Millipede Assassin Bug, I thought it was a plastic one until I found it in my book.
Please see Ted's wonderful post on this interesting bug as he has great information on it.
These spiders are called 'flatties' as they are indeed flat. This little fellow is about 2.5 inches in width.
He had come to visit me at home and was waiting for me when I woke up. His coloration reminded me of a zebra and I noticed he had lost two f his limbs.
Our rain is mostly over but these clouds do gather some evenings when I go and sit outside. It is so pretty, or would be if there were not all those telephone lines around.
What a pity to spoil an otherwise great view.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Natal Mahogany (Trichilia emetica)

It is the seeds of a tree or just seeds would have been okay too. :) I am glad this one turned out to be a good one and not as easy as the rest I have been posting. :)

This riverine tree is found along the larger permanent streams and rivers occurring at medium to low altitudes, in woodland, in riverine forest and in coastal forest. It grows to a height of 8 - 20 m (24-60 feet), with very dense foliage.
The larvae of several species of butterfly feed on this tree and baboons, monkeys and certain birds eat the seeds.
Human uses - The wood is used to make furniture, fish-floats, dugout canoes and musical instruments. It is also used to make some of the carvings that are sold along the roads of the Lowveld. The wood should be treated against borer attack. The bark is used for medicinal purposes. Oil is extracted from the seeds, and used for medicinal purposes.
During January and February, the fruit bursts open to expose red seeds (which are poisonous). (45 x 30 mm)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Mystery Monday - Part 15

I only need to know what the object is not specifically what kind or species? I am making it easy today. :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Montecasino - Bird Show - Part 5 Final

This is the last of the photographs from the Bird show. It was great to see it and I hope you enjoyed seeing the photographs too.

Jackal Buzzard - They nest between May and October in by building a bulky pile of sticks on a cliff ledge or sometimes in trees especially pines. The bowl is lined with leaves and usually two eggs are laid which are chalky white splotched with red-brown.

They hunt by stooping from flight or gliding from a perch, taking small mammals up to the size of a dassie(hyrax), birds up to the size of a francolin, reptiles, insects, road-kills and carrion.

After the show I went to a small extremely dark room in which they keep frogs and tarantulas. You are not allowed to take photographs there but I sneaked in a few. Most of them came out very dark as I did not want to use a flash, so excuse the bad pictures. All of those below are not from SA but from South America. They were all in glass cages so there is a lot of reflection off that too.
This is a Tomato Frog and you can see where it got its name.
This frogs skin is highly poisonous
The secretion from these frogs skin is used on the tip of poison arrows.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cotton-stainer Assassin (Dysdercus nigrofasiatus) Pyrrhocoridae

Assassin bugs are ambush predators that move slowly towards their prey before rushing out and grabbing with the forelegs, injecting a secretion from the rostrum that has a quick paralytic action. The prey is then sucked dry. The bite is very painful to humans.

They are large, about 1 inch, in length.
The eggs are laid in a ring around a plant stem.
Will the real Cotton-Stainer please stand up. :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Close-up of a Plum Dung Beetle (Anachalcos convexus) Scarabaeidae

The Plum Dung Beetle (Anachalcos convexus) are large and nocturnal feeding off carrion as well as dung.
Males and females jointly roll balls of dung away from the scource, burying them in shallow burrows.
After and egg is laid in the first brood ball, several balls are introduced into the nest.
Females, sometimes accompanied by males, care for the young until they emerge as adults.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who will win?

I witnessed a fight between a young cockroach / pillbug (?) and an ant and who do you think won?

One of the ants had him by the leg and would not let go.
Soon a second ant joined in and they started to bite off pieces of its leg. As you can see top, just off centre, it's foot is missing.
Another ant got hold of the antennea and bit a piece of it off while another kept its hold on the leg.
As you can see, the insect is only about 1/10th of the size.
Finally, after about 15 minutes the insect was exhausted and gave up the fight. The rest of the ants came around and draged it off to their nest, by this time, more limbs were missing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tortoise - Testudines

Although the word turtle is widely used to describe all members of the order Testudines, it is also common to see certain members described as terrapins, tortoises or sea turtles as well. Precisely how these alternative names are used, if at all, depends on the type of English being used.

British English normally describes these reptiles as turtles if they live in the sea; terrapins if they live in fresh or brackish water; or tortoises if they live on land. However, there are exceptions to this where American or Australian common names are in wide use, as with the Fly River turtle.

American English tends to use the word turtle for all freshwater species, as well as for certain land-dwelling species (e.g. box turtles). Oceanic species are usually referred to as sea turtles, and tortoise is restricted to members of the true tortoise family, Testudinidae. The name terrapin is typically reserved only for the brackish water diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin; the word terrapin being derived from the Algonquian word for this animal.
Female tortoises dig nesting burrows in which they lay from one to thirty eggs. Egg laying typically occurs at night, after which the mother tortoise covers her clutch with sand, soil, and organic material. The eggs are left unattended, and depending on the species, take from 60 to 120 days to incubate. Hatchlings are born with an embryonic egg sac which serves as a source of nutrition for the first 3 to 7 days until they have the strength and mobility to find food.
There are many old wives tales about the age of turtles and tortoises, one of which being that the age of a tortoise can be deduced by counting the number of concentric rings on its carapace, much like the cross-section of a tree. This is not true, since the growth of a tortoise depends highly on the access of food and water. A tortoise that has access to plenty of forage (or is regularly fed by its owner) will grow faster than a Desert Tortoise that goes days without eating.
Tortoises generally have lifespans comparable with those of human beings, and some individuals are known to have lived longer than 150 years. Because of this, they symbolize longevity in some cultures, such as China. The oldest tortoise ever recorded, almost the oldest individual animal ever recorded, was Tu'i Malila, which was presented to the Tongan royal family by the British explorer Captain Cook shortly after its birth in 1777. Tui Malila remained in the care of the Tongan royal family until its death by natural causes on May 19, 1965. This means that upon its death, Tui Malila was 188 years old. The record for the longest-lived vertebrate is exceeded only by one other, a koi named Hanako whose death on July 17, 1977 ended a 215 year life span.

The Alipore Zoo in India was the home to Adwaita, which zoo officials claimed was the oldest living animal until its death on March 23, 2006. Adwaita (sometimes spelled with two d's) was an Aldabra Giant Tortoise brought to India by Lord Wellesley who handed it over to the Alipur Zoological Gardens in 1875 when the zoo was set up. Zoo officials state they have documentation showing that Adwaita was at least 130 years old, but claim that he was over 250 years old (although this has not been scientifically verified). Adwaita was said to be the pet of Robert Clive.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Montecasino - Bird Show - Part 4

So many of these owl shots came out nice that I could not decide which to post and so ended up with all of them...

The Cape Eagle Owl can be seen in many parts of southern Africa, but nowhere is it common. It lives in rocky, sometimes mountainous areas, in various vegetation types. Most of its diet consists of mammals, but it also feeds on birds and invertebrates. Amazingly, it can carry prey that is 4,5 kg, or 4 times its weight! It lays 1-3 eggs, and incubation lasts for 34-38 days, the female doing most of it, with the male sometimes taking over while the female feeds. After fledging, juveniles stay dependent on their parents for 2-3 months, before leaving completely.
It has an extremely fragmented range, and they are no places where you can see it easily. It prefers mountainous areas with cliffs, outcrops and gorges, and can live as high as 2500m above sea level.
Its diet consists mostly of mammals, although it varies between regions. It also eats a number of birds species, as well as invertebrates. It hunts at night, searching for prey on low perches.
It uses scrapes in the ground as nests, often on ledges, hidden by trees or rocks, in cliff recesses, regularly near streams or rivers. Females often lie in the scrape for days before laying their eggs.
It sometimes uses the same nest site repeatedly, but not every year.