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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Here is an interesting one!!

Update: Thanks for guessing everyone.

This is actually a beetle of the Cerambycidae (Longhorn) family - Orange Coffee Longhorn (Dirphya nigrcornis). It is about 1/2 an inch in body length.
They can be pests in coffee plantations. The antenae are swept back and they lay their eggs in the crack of wood or in dead timber. The larvae feed as it burrows in.

Now what do you think this is? I will insert the name tomorrow..... :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cycads 2 - Eastern Cape Cycad Encephalartos altensteinii Zamiaceae

The cycads were very pretty this year and always remind me of someone very special. When the seed pod starts to develope it seems to be protected by the small shoots around it.
The pods of this particular species are low on the ground and surrounded by leaves.
It gets to be a tall pod and at the bottom of each seed are what look like spores. Maybe someone knows and can tell me what they actually are.
At first I thought they might be bug eggs but I watched them carefully and never saw anything crawling on them.
The summer progressed and the pods became dry and eventaully died off. I have taken a few home to see if I can cultivate them.
For more information on cycads, please click on this link.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Warmbaths - Part 4

This is a big lizard about 1' in length and has the most wonderful colors. I caught sight of him climbing up a wall looking for some dinner (insects).
What a lovely grasshopper. Even though the has the same shades as the grass, he was still easy to spot.
The eyes are amazing.
Red roses for a blue lady? Yes!!
The stinkbug was trying to hide under a flower but I know their tricks and where to look for them. :)
In a hole of a tree the millipedes had mad a breeding site for themselves and were crammed into the small space available.
A bagworm had made its home of the handiest material around and that was the thorns of a tree. How neatly it all fitted together.
What a catch!! This hunting spider had caught himself something to eat and was holding onto it for dear life. He had made his nest across the corner of the swimming pool which I think was a great place to catch water insects.
Another millipede in search of dinner. I liked the color of the leaf next to him.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If all else fails....

... go out into the rain soaked garden and see what you can find to take pictures of. This poor earthworm was trying to get out of the mud and find a drier spot.
A very pretty leaf still with raindrops on it.
A Canna with two lovely contrasting colors.
A Sparrow looking to see if there was any dry seed still available.
Gorgeous Hibiscus in yellow....
.... and red.
The flowers of a tree.
A pretty moth clinging to a wall.
And an Inch Worn doing stretches......
....and bends. So you see, even on the dullest day, there is always something to take pictures of. :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pilansberg - Wild flowers - Part 6

This one is very pretty when in full bloom as the centre unfolds as the orange flower opens.

I could not resist taking pictures of this lovely dragonfly as it posed for me.
What a face!!
I have never seen a spider like this with each half of him a different color. He was tiny about the size of the head of a cigarette.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Silk weaving - Part 2

The finer threads are put together into reels.
The brown ball is from the Mopani worm, the white is raw and spun silkworm wool.
These balls are taken and dyed into the most wonderful colors. Gaelyn bought some and I am surious to see that she is going to knit with it, so get on with it please my friend. :)
Patterns for the weaving are obtained from various staff members, each putting forward their ideas and it being discussed. There are various looms in the one room, some with a large single piece being woven....
...and yet other which have multiple pieces on it.
Various colors are incorporated and as you can see, it is all done by hand.
I love the knobby thread of this silk and it makes such a wonderful, rich texture for weaving and knitting being soft and warm too.
Some of the finished products are this scatter cusions on display all with true African designs on them.
Fine silk woven in places like China are for sale there too like these beautiful scarves.
Going through the process with the lady escorting me was extremely intersting and I would like to thank her for the time she took in explaining it all.
Tucked away, this old sewing machine was on display but not for sale. What a wonderful old piece. I am sure that even after all these years it still works which is more than we can say for all our modern equipment.....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Although everyone here knows the Drakensberg Mountain range and I had driven past some of it before, I have never taken pictures of them. During Gaelyn's visit, she wanted to go for an overnight hike there so I stayed in camp, taking pictures of them and the insects.

There are many hiking trails which include places beautiful scenes and waterfalls, with wonderful places to stay in the area. In winter, these are one of the few mountains high enough to get snow and for a brief period, people go skiing there. Covering an area of 240,000ha the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is dominated by sheer cliffs, deeply incised valleys and crystal clear rivers.

San Art
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is one of the richest rock painting areas in the world. Many enthusiasts and experts have searched for paintings in the park over the last 40 years. During this time 30 000 individually painted images in 520 different rock shelters have been recorded.

There are a number of prime destinations in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park to see these paintings and have their cultural and spiritual significance interpreted for you. The Main Caves Museum at Giant's Castle is an easy half hours walk from the Giant's Castle main camp and the Battle Cave is relatively close to the Injisuthi camp. There is a new rock art centre at Kamberg with guided walks to Game Pass shelter and in late 2003 a magnificent San rock art centre is due to be opened at the new Didima Camp at Cathedral Peak.

Mountain Biking
At Cathedral Peak mountain bikers can enjoy the awesome views of the Drakensberg as they traverse the existing network of tracks originally put in place for forestry purposes in the sixties. A simple 14km mountain bike trail has been established in the beautiful Lotheni valley in the Southern Drakensberg. Mountain bikers have the opportunity to stop at the historic 'Gelib Tree' site and on a warm day there is the opportunity to swim at the magnificent 'Cool Pools'. The 75km Giant's Castle Mountain Bike Challenge is a major annual mountain biking event. This event combines the majesty of stunning Drakensberg views with the opportunity for mountain bikers to pit themselves against South Africa's toughest mountain bike challenge.
Yellow irises grow in profusion on the alpine meadows of Lesotho within metres of the escarpment edge. The 'suicide lily' clings to its precipitous habitat on the damper basalt cliffs and from uder its leaves to the foot of the little berg is a spectacular variety of flowers making this a superb destination.

Kamberg Nature Reserve is the a most popular trout fishing venue for novices and more experienced anglers alike. An added attraction here is the trout hatchery. River fishing is found at Kamberg, Royal Natal, Injisuthi, Cobham, Garden Castle, Giant's Castle and Lotheni. Dam fishing is found at Coleford, Kamberg, Royal Natal, Highmoor and Lotheni. Dam fishing at Lotheni is reserved for the occupants of Sime's cottage only. Highmoor is reserved primarily for stillwater trophy fishing and is closed intermittently for several months of the year. This is arguably one of the most productive stillwater flyfishing venues in KZN and caters primarily for the more experienced angler in wilderness surroundings.
The Drakensberg has a diverse population of birds, mammals and reptiles. The more common larger mammals that can be found are Mountain Reedbuck, Grey Rhebok, Grey Duiker, Eland, Klipspringer, Bushbuck and Oribi. The main predators in the Drakensberg are Leopard (found in very small numbers) Black-backed Jackal, Caracal, Serval, Cape clawless Otter and Spotted-necked Otter, various species of mongoose and genet. Troops of Chacma baboons, porcupines and colonies of rock hyrax are also found throughout this mountain park. The Drakensberg is home to over 300 species of birds. Thirty two of the species are endemic to Southern Africa. Some of the specials that can be found are Wattled crane, Cape vulture, Bearded vulture, Orange breasted Rockjumper and Yellow breasted Pipit. The Drakensberg is also home to 25 species of amphibians, 18 species of lizard (six of which are endemic) and 21 species of snake.

The Drakensberg is rich in cultural heritage. It is home to 35% of South Africa's San rock art sites. In South Africa the San inhabited the Drakensberg from the late Stone Age times until the late nineteenth century. The San had very few material possessions and did not build permanent shelters, but lived either under sandstone overhangs or temporary grass shelters. They left some of the finest examples of rock art in the world. The most common types of paintings are animal figures (mostly eland) and human-like figures.It is truly an awe inspiring experience to view this rock art. Guided Walks to some rock art shelters can be booked at Giants Castle, Injisuthi, Kamberg, Cathedral Peak and Royal Natal.
The Drakensberg was once inhabited by the San people, also known as Bushmen. They were hunter gatherers who lived in caves and overhangs in the sandstone cliffs of the little berg. They have left us a legacy of their paintings on the sandstone cliffs and cave walls, depicting their way of life and the various animals and people they encountered. In due course, the Amazizi, a tribe of the Nguni race arrived, and occupied the river valleys and approaches to the Drakensberg mountains.

They were pastoralists and agriculturalists, while the San people never tilled the soil or kept cattle. As there was no clash of interests, there was peace between the San and the Amazizi. In the early 1800's due to a series of events in Zululand, the Amazizi were attacked by the Amangwane. The Amazizi sought refuge in the mountains which were occupied by the San people and they clashed, probably over cattle. A third Nguni tribe, the Amahlubi moved into the valleys now vacated by the Amazizi but they, in turn, were attacked by the Amangwane.

The Amahlubi were in turn forced into the mountains just as the Amazizi had been. For ten years the wars raged until the Amangwane eventually settled in the valleys, having disposed of the Amazizi and the Amahlubi. Four years later The Zulu King Shaka's troops attacked the Amangwane who fled westwards into the mountains. After this period of slaughter and destruction, relative peace returned to the Drakensberg mountains and the survivors of the various tribes came down from the mountains and re-established themselves in the river valleys. This alleviated the pressure on the San people who had been badly affected by these wars. Respite was brief as within ten years the arrival of the Voortrekkers and the English settlers led to further troubles. The clash over hunting grounds, private ownership of land, and the arrival of cattle led to increasing numbers of cattle raids by the San people. Eventually the situation became so bad that the San themselves were hunted and decimated by the settlers.

In 1849, due to the failure of various attempts to prevent the cattle raids, a series of buffer 'native locations' were established between the settlers and the Drakensberg mountains. For some years thereafter, raids, particularly in the Bushman's River area near Giant's Castle, ceased almost entirely. A brief resurgence in cattle raids followed in the late 1850's through to the 1870's after which the raids fell off sharply. The last sighting of San people in the Drakensberg mountains was in the early 1880's.
The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park offers a wide variety of educational opportunities in many disciplines. These range from vegetation and animal studies to culture, sociology and geology. This mountain range rises some 8000 ft. or 2440 m. from its base on the midlands plains with vegetation zones that reflect altitude and aspect starting at sub-alpine on the summit, down through podacarpus forest, grasslands, wetlands and valley bushveld.

The ancient rocks of basalt and sandstone and the shale beds lie exposed with the earths history of upliftment and erosion revealed for the student. All these characteristics have resulted in a host of habitats and consequent diversity of plant and animal life. The incredibly rich rock art heritage from the San people and the interesting history of the Nguni peoples` movements and conflicts that has resulted in the current tribal occupation along the length of the Drakensberg, plus the interaction of the Zulu and Sotho speaking people on the eastern and western sides of this " barrier of spears" makes for fascinating cultural studies. It is a World Heritage Site and a Ramsar Site. There are education centres at Royal Natal and at Wagendrift from which the central Drakensberg is easily accessible within one hour on good roads.