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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Great Bee Rescue - (Apis mellifera) Apidae

We have been having nothing else but rain for nearly three days now. I found this little fellow drowining in a puddle outside my office door.

So I gave him a finger to climb onto....

but he kept on nearly falling off....
He eventuall managed to drag himself onto dry hand....(LOL!!)
..and sat there, totally exhausted!!! (sorry this is not a good pic)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rabbit or hare?

So which is it? Here are some facts to help you:

Although rabbits and hares belong to the same family and look so much alike that they are mistaken for each other, there is a difference between them.

The easiest time to notice this difference is at birth. Rabbits are born blind, without fur, and cannot move about. Their eyes open in about a week, and when they are two weeks old, they are able to leave their nest.

Newborn hares, however, are born with their eyes open. They have a full coat of fine, soft fur, and can hop about within a few hours after their birth.

As both animals grow, hares become larger than rabbits, and have longer hind legs and bigger ears.

Rabbits, when frightened by enemies, can leap 10 feet or more and run as fast as 18 miles an hour!

Rabbits burrow their homes into the ground while hares make theirs on top of it.
This rabbit has a varied diet. It follows me home so I can give it bread plus it eats all the fallen fruit and leaves in the graden. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cranefly (Nephrotoma) Family Tipulidae

Cranefly (Nephrotoma)
They very much resemble large mosquitoes and the larvae live in water or moist soils and lawns.

They may feed destructively on the roots of garden plants. Adults never feed.
The life cycle of crane flies usually consists of a brief egg stage (1-2 weeks), 4 larval stages, and a short pupal stage (1-2 weeks) before emergence of the short-lived adult. Summer as well as winter diapause of certain stages is often noted and, depending on the species and the environmental conditions, the entire cycle may be as short as 6 weeks or as long as 6 years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Where do vegetables originate from?

A very good friend of mine got me wondering about the origin of fruit and vegetables and when I started browsing for information, I came a cross some very interesting information which I thought I would share with you. Let’s face it, most of us think that veggies come from the supermarket but they had to start somewhere!! :)

I have always been under the impression that all of them were wild plants many years ago which were later cultivated but my question was, if that is the case, why do we not still find them in the wild? Yes, I know some things are still found there but have you ever seen carrots, lettuce, tomatoes etc growing anywhere besides in a garden? No, I haven’t either.

During my research, I first came across a site called “The origin of vegetables” and this is the information they had there:

The cucumber was originally a tropical vegetable.
The walnut is a native of Persia, the Caucasus and China.
Capers originally grew wild in Greece and northern Africa.
Pears were originally brought from the East by the Romans.
The clove is a native of the Malacca Islands, as is also the nutmeg.
Cherries were known in Asia as far back as the seventeenth century.
Garlic came to us first from Sicily and the shores of the Mediterranean.
Asparagus was originally a wild seacoast plant and is a native of Great Britain.
The tomato is a native of South America, and it takes its name from a Portuguese word.
Parsley is said to have come from Egypt and mythology tells us it was used to adorn the head of Hercules.
Apples were originally brought from the East by the Romans. The crab apple is indigenous to Great Britain.
The onion was almost an object of worship with the Egyptians 2,000 years before the Christian era. It first came front India.
Cloves came to us from the Indies and take their name from the Latin clauvis, meaning a nail, to which they have a resemblance.
The cantaloupe is a native of America and so called from the name of a place near Rome, where it was first cultivated in Europe.
Lemons were used by the Romans to keep moths from their garments, and in the time of Pliny they were considered an excellent poison.
Spinach is a Persian plant.
Horse-radish is a native of England.
Melons were found originally in Asia.
Filberts originally came from Greece.
Quinces originally came from Corinth.
The turnip originally came from Rome.
The peach originally came from Persia.
Sage is a native of the south of Europe.
Sweet marjoram is a native of Portugal.
The bean is said to be a native of Egypt.
Damsons originally came from Damascus.
The nasturtium came originally from Peru.
The pea is a native of the south of Europe.
Ginger is a native of the East and West Indies.
The gooseberry is indigenous to Great Britain.
Coriander seed came originally from the East.
Apricots are indigenous to the plains of America.

Next I Googled for carrots and came up with an interesting site called “The World carrot Museum” (I did not know carrots could be in a museum!!). :)

The following pictures and information is from their site in an abridged version. Please click on the link if you are interested in learning more.

The Carrot is the second most popular vegetable in the world after the potato.

Orange colored carrots are the most popular but are also commonly available in White, Yellow, Red and Maroon. The Maroon colored varieties are making a big comeback in English stores. The black one is a rare Spanish variety.

The carrot is a member of the parsley family which includes about 2,500 species such as dill, caraway, cumin, chervil, coriander, fennel, anise, parsley, parsnip, and celery. It also includes poisonous species such a poison hemlock, water hemlock and fools parsley.

Carrots were originally purple or red, with a thin root. The orange color did not become popular until the 1500's when Dutch growers developed the vegetable by selective breeding to make it less bitter than the yellow varieties. The first carrots were grown for medicinal purposes, perhaps the medicine tasted good!

Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that pigments in these colorful carrots, which taste just like regular carrots, may help prevent heart disease and cancer, and reduce cholesterol. Studies examining the health benefits of fruits and vegetables are revealing the disease-preventive powers of the pigments that give plants their distinctive colors. Orange carrots get their color from beta carotene, a pigment the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency, although rare in the United States, poses a major public health problem in developing countries second only to protein malnutrition.

Then I got curious about tomatoes: for more information go to Wikipedia - Tomato

The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a herbaceous, usually sprawling plant in the nightshade family that is typically cultivated for its edible fruit. (As far as I know Nightshade is a poisonous plant).

The tomato is native to South America. Genetic evidence shows that the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit with a center of diversity in the highlands of Peru. The first domesticated tomato may have been a little yellow fruit, similar in size to Cherry tomatoes, grown by the Aztecs of Central Mexico. Aztec writings mention tomatoes were prepared with peppers, corn and salt.

Many historians believe that the Spanish explorer Cortez may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe after he captured the Aztec city of Tenocht√≠tlan, now Mexico City in 1521. Others believe Christopher Columbus, an Italian working for the Spanish monarchy, was the first European to take back the tomato, as early as 1493. The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared in a herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist, who named it pomo d’oro, golden apple.

Aztecs and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking; it was being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas by 500BC. It is thought that the Pueblo people believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination.

Now everyone know coffee comes from Brazil – or does it? For more information go to Wikipedia - Coffee

It is thought that the energizing effect of the coffee bean plant was first recognized in Yemen in Arabia and the north east of Ethiopia and the cultivation of coffee first expanded in the Arab world. The earliest credible evidence of coffee drinking appears in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of the Yemen in southern Arabia. From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe, to Indonesia, and to the Americas. Coffee has played an important role in many societies throughout history. In Africa and Yemen, it was used in religious ceremonies. As a result, the Ethiopian Church banned its secular consumption until the reign of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. It was banned in Ottoman Turkey during the 17th century for political reasons, and was associated with rebellious political activities in Europe.

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted seeds, commonly called coffee beans, of the coffee plant. They are seeds of coffee cherries that grow on trees in over 70 countries. Green (unroasted) coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. Due to its caffeine content, coffee can have a stimulating effect in humans. Today, coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide.
And lastly, Sugar cane.
Sugar cane originated in New Guinea where it has been known since about 6000 BC. From about 1000 BC its cultivation gradually spread along human migration routes to Southeast Asia and India and east into the Pacific. It is thought to have hybridized with wild sugar canes of India and China, to produce the 'thin' canes. It spread westwards to the Mediterranean between 600-1400 AD.Arabs were responsible for much of its spread as they took it to Egypt around 640 AD, during their conquests. They carried it with them as they advanced around the Mediterranean. Sugar cane spread by this means to Syria, Cyprus, and Crete, eventually reaching Spain around 715 AD.

Around 1420 the Portuguese introduced sugar cane into Madeira, from where it soon reached the Canary Islands, the Azores, and West Africa. Columbus transported sugar cane from the Canary Islands to what is now the Dominican Republic in 1493.
Sugar production:
Sugar cane was originally grown for the sole purpose of chewing in southeastern Asia and the Pacific. The rind was removed and the internal tissues sucked or chewed. Production of sugar by boiling the cane juice was first discovered in India, most likely during the first millennium BC. Cane sugar is now grown in more than 70 countries mainly in the tropical zone, but also in some sub tropical areas.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bat-eared Fox

One unusual characteristic of the Bat-eared Fox is their teeth, it possesses extra molars and a bat-eared fox could have up to fifty teeth. Their diet consists of insects, and termites comprise 50% of the diet consumption.
A Bat-eared Fox breeds just once in a year, and the cubs are born at the start of the rainy period. The Bat-eared Fox would take care of their newborns in just one place for a long time, and the gestation can last around ten weeks. There exists a high infant mortality rate, and you know why? Sadly, there are just four nipples of the female Bat-eared Fox, thus, she might be forced to kill some of the young so that at least 4 would hold better odds of surviving. When six months have passed, the kits would have grown, and she could leave the protection and nurturing.
They are monogamous, and they are capable of living in threes, that is, one male and two from the distaff side. If found in pairs, it could be observed that they play with each other, and generally aid each other. These kind of foxes are being hunted both for the meat and for their pelts. Without meaning to, mankind has actually helped them, the clearing of grasslands have permitted the increase of termites, and these foxes naturally are happy with that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Warmbaths - Part 3

The first day there threatened to be wet, soggy and not at all time to do photography, but by the afternoon it had opened up and was beautiful. I spent a lot of time at the swimming pool just soaking up the sun and would limit myself to early morning and late afternoon sessions of bug hunting.
This was a most interesting seedpod and the wind would blow it along like tumble weed. It is about 1 inch in diameter.
Can anyone guess what this is? Believe me when I tell you it is an insect!! They are called Wax Scales belonging to the family Coccidae or Soft Scale insects.
Soft scales can vary greatly in appearance but in many of them the female is covered by a thick, soft waxy covering. They are plant suckers and a number of species are agricultural pests in South Africa. It is about 10mm in diameter.
This is a Fluted Scale and is a pest on cirtus trees. This bug is imported from Australia and can be controlled by certain types of ladybugs/ladybirds.
A tiny jumping spider was asking for this picture to be taken. He is about 4mm long.
This is some kind of Horse Fly but I cannot find its name.
This Red-veined Dropwing kept landing on the side of the swimming pool but I only had my 300mm lens with me so could not get a more detailed shot of it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A meal for many

Yesterday I found this centipede being dragged along by some ants to their nest. Note how few ants are on it at this stage. From when I noticed it and took the first picture, this process took about an hour.
First they took it past their hole and tried to back it in.
Then they reversed it and tried the other way.
Maybe they decided that they could not manage and took it around the corner to a SMALLER hole? Weird!!
On this side there are two holes, each much smaller than the first and can be seen at the left and right in the picture below.
Firstly they tried to take it in head first......
...then decided that this was not working and backed it up to the next hole.(Enlarge this and try to count the ants now!!)
Nope!! That didn't work either!!
Back to the other hole and in the meantime other ants were taking off the legs and other parts of the body and carrying them off one by one.
Eventually after a lot of going backwards, forwards, trimming and turning it around, it slowly dissapeared down the hole. I am sure it is going to supply them with food for quite a few days to come. It was interesting to watch their drive and determination to get this centipede down the hole and the longer they took to do it, the more ants joined in.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How it grows - litchi / lychee

To most of you living in the northern hemisphere, the litchi or lychee would be an exotic fruit and totally unknown to you, but for me it grows here in abundance and is one of my favorite summer fruits which I gorge myself on.

The lychee (usual English spelling) or laichi and lichu is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family Sapindaceae. It is a tropical and subtropical fruit tree. It is a fragranced fruit with a sweet taste.

It is a medium-sized evergreen tree, reaching 15–20 m tall.
The fruit is a drupe, 3–4 cm long and 3 cm in diameter. The outside is covered by a pink-red, roughly-textured rind that is inedible but easily removed. They are eaten in many different dessert dishes. The inside consists of a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh, rich in vitamin C, with a texture somewhat similar to that of a grape only much less moist. The edible flesh consists of a highly developed aril enveloping the seed. The center contains a single glossy brown nut-like seed, 2 cm long and 1–1.5 cm in diameter. The seed, similar to a buckeye seed, is not poisonous but should not be eaten. The fruit matures about 100 days after flowering.
The Lychee contains on average a total 72 mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams of fruit. On average nine lychee fruits would meet an adult’s daily recommend Vitamin C requirement.

A cup of Lychee fruit provides, among other minerals, for a 2000 Calorie diet, 14%DV of copper, 9%DV of phosphorus, and 6%DV of potassium.

Lychees are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Most of the energy in a lychee is in the form of carbohydrate (sugar). Lychees are high in heart-healthy polyphenols, containing 15% more than grapes, a fruit commonly referenced as high in polyphenols.
Lychee fruit has many health benefits because it contains different types of nutrition in the fruit lychee. vitamin and the most prominent in the fruit is vitamin c. lychee degree to 71.5 mg vitamin C per 100 grams of pulp. eat 100 grams of fruit lychee, can meet the needs of more than 100 percent of vitamin C per day. Vitamin C is the natural antioxidants that are very useful for attacks against free radicals, causes early old process, and various cancer diseases.
Copper minerals (Cu) can form a complex enzyme system with antioxidants Superoksida Dismutase (Sod), which play a role in neutralism radical superoksida.
Lychees treat coughs and can be trusted to have any effect cure gastralgia, tumor, and gland swell.
Fat content in the fruit lychee very low, so very good to be consumed by all age groups, including those who are diet to maintain or lose weight. Therefore, there is no limit how many lychee that should be consumed each day.
Consume fresh lychee fruit every day to refine the skin. The fruit is also believed to lychee can enrich the blood and improve physical strength. Therefore, for those who completed the recommended treatment because of illness consume fruit lychee to help restore power.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Warmbaths - Part 2

Now I am willing to bet you did not think that many more species of bugs could be found in that small orange orchid but you are wrong... :) there were many, many more...

A Stinkbug was peeeping out from between the leaves
and a Robberfly was quietly laying in way for some unwary bug to come closer.
The bees were having a ball collecting pollen and slurping up the sweet nectare.....
...but dont ask me what this Blowfly wanted?
A spider had built a nest curled up in one of the leaves........
...and was laying in wait for dinner to come within range. I could just see its legs sticking out to the one side of the nest.
The flowers were starting to develope into fruit.....
It just goes to show how much insect activity there can be in a small orchid like this of maybe 20 trees......

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peters Thread Snake (Leptotyphlops scutifrons) Leptotyphlopidae

I found it in the garden yesterday. It is about 5 inches (11cm) in length and pencil-thin, silver with the black markings. Its head is not snake-shaped and it does not rear up as snakes do when you touch it. It does look as if it has scales though but is too small to take a better picture and it also does not keep still so I can use another lens.
The head.......

Close-up of the skin...