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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Snout Beetle

Besides the name: Curculionidae Brachycerus conquestus, I could not find out anything more except that they feed on lilies.
This is quite a large beetle of about 2 inches in body length.

Some specimens I have found are still small like this one.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Warmbaths - Part 7

There were moths that I had never seen before with the most wonderful colors and patterns.

This might be one called a White Monkey (Phiala incana) but I would not swear to it.

...... and the predators were waiting.....
This one has his meal for the night.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Waterdrops - Part 1

Trying to find something to post, I came across these photographs which I took a while back. The first two are of the crystals formed on the grass hairs early on a winters morning.....

These were taken after the rain. The little cups where the petals fell out are filled with water.
The reflections of the trees behind me.
This is the prettiest weed with its pink color. I took this after a storm too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Medicinal Herbs - Part 2

Curry plant
The plant produces an oil from its blossoms which is used for medicinal purposes. It is anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and astringent. It soothes burns and raw chapped skin. It is used as a fixative in perfumes and has an intense fragrance.

Although called "curry plant" it has nothing whatsoever to do with the mixture of spices used in Indian cooking, nor with the curry tree (Murraya koenigii).
Potential Anti-Ulcer Herb Medicine: Rocket 'Eruca Sativa'
ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — A research group from Saudi Arabia studied the anti-ulcer properties of the salad herb Rocket, also known as Arugula, species name Eruca sativa. They found that Rocket extract possesses antisecretory, cytoprotective and anti-ulcer activities against experimentally-induced gastric lesions in rats. The anti-ulcer effect is possibly through prostaglandin mediated activity and/or through its anti-secretory and antioxidant properties.
Benefits of Strawberry
Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, and contain a large amount of fruit sugar. They are an excellent spring tonic, and are delicious when juiced.

They can be considered an eliminative food, and are good for the intestinal tract. Strawberries have an alkaline reaction in the body. Because of their high sodium content, they can be considered "a food of youth." They also have a good amount of potassium.

Many people complain about getting hives from strawberries. This is usually because they are not ripened on the vine. If you are allergic to strawberries, try this: run hot water over them, then immediately follow this by running cold water over them. This takes the fuzz off the outside of the berries, which is believed to be the cause of the hives.

The seeds of the strawberry can be irritating in cases of inflammation of the bowel or colitis.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.
This plant should be ranked among the acronarcotic poisons, along with the Oenantha crocata, and the Cicutas. Boileau, Lepine, and others have found it useful as a remedy against elephantiasis of the Greeks (leprosy). Devergie, Cazenave, Waring, Hunter, etc., have derived benefit from it in chronic eczema and other cutaneous maladies, in scrofula, secondary syphilis, ulcers, and chronic rheumatism. It is an active agent, large amounts inducing headache, dizziness, and stupor, as well as bloody passages from the bowels. Itching of the skin is said to be occasioned by it also. As the root is very hygroscopic, and is not well preserved in powder, its best form for administration is in infusion, or syrup, 1 ounce of the root to 1 pint of fluid, and which may be given in doses of from 1/2 to 1 fluid ounce, repeated 3 or 4 times a day. An alcoholic extract may likewise be used in doses of from 1/4 to 3/4 of a grain. Notwithstanding the favorable reports concerning the efficiency of this plant, it has fallen into disuse, and is seldom employed at the present day.
Angelica Archangelica
Habitat: It is native to North America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Description: The roots of the Common Angelica are long and spindle-shaped, thick and fleshy - large specimens weighing sometimes as much as three pounds and are beset with many long, descending rootlets. The flowers, small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in color, are grouped into large, globular umbels.
Uses: Angelica is largely used in the grocery trade, as well as for medicine, and is a popular flavoring for confectionery and liqueurs. The herb is also used to combat digestive problems, gastric ulcers, anorexia, and migraines.
The synthesized essential marjoram oil is formed of a number of active substances such as terpinen, terpineol, carvacrol, ursolic acid, beta sistosterine. Along with the essential oil, tannin, bitter and sistosterine elements, marjoram is also rich in vitamins A and D. Because of these compounds, marjoram stimulates digestion, increases diuresis, absorbs gases, increases food appetite and it is recommended in nervous states or cases of insomnia.

Marjoram tea
Taken in normal doses (one teaspoon of herbs per 200 ml of water), marjoram tea stimulates appetite, digestion, eliminates gases and calms stomach pains. The tea is prepared by boiling one teaspoon of marjoram powder in a cup of water for 15 minutes. In an interval of two hours the consumption of two to four cups of marjoram infusion is recommended. The same treatment is efficient for overcoming the incipient state of the cold and, at the same time, prevents flu. To obtain a strong tea, add two teaspoons of marjoram to a cup of cold water and keep it macerating for 24 hours. After filtering, honey can be added. If the doses are increased (six teaspoons to 200 ml of water), marjoram produces a calming and antidepressive effect, induces somnolence and even a slightly euphoric state. During summers when the temperature is hardly bearable, marjoram tea is recommended especially to people with blood circulation problems because it has an adjusting effect on the body temperature. For hair revitalization, replace the washing water with a marjoram infusion obtained from 20 g of herb to one liter of water.
Description: Dill usually has one upright, hollow stem with waxy or powdery leaves divided into filaments. Umbels of small yellow flowers appear in summer, which are followed by flattish and oval seeds.
Uses: Carminative, aromatic, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, galactogogue, calmative, diuretic, stomachic. Dill is an excellent remedy for flatulence and the colic that is sometimes associated with it. It is the herb of choice for colic of children. Chewing the seeds helps to clear bad breath.
Description: It grows to a height of 8 to 12 inches from a small, elongated, bulbous root. The leaves are hollow, cylindrical, closed at the top and dilated to surround the stem at the bottom. The otherwise naked stem bears a terminal globose cluster of reddish-blue or purple flowers in June and July. The fruit is a three-sided black seed.
Uses: It is a great improvement to salads - cut fresh and chopped fine-and may be put not only into green salads, but also into cucumber salad, or sprinkled on sliced tomatoes. Chives are also useful for cutting up and mixing with the food of newly hatched turkeys.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Snails - Part 1

Did you know that a snail only has one foot. So how does it move?

A snail moves with a series of muscular contractions like waves that pass along the bottom of the foot.

To help it to move, the snail produces a trail of slime from a gland under its mouth. You can often see these slime trails on paths, plant pots and even on windows.
Snails are very slow moving creatures and most people find them to be boring. However, there are some very interesting facts about them that can help you to see them in a new light. They aren’t brainless creatures as many people think.
Many species of snails actually hibernate during the colder months of the year. They cover their bodies with a thin layer of mucus which prevents them from drying out. Sometimes snails are also able to hibernate in the summer to survive if they are faced with a severe drought. They live off of the stored up fat during this time of year. This process is one of the many reasons why they have been able to survive for more than 60 million years.
The life span for snails depends on their habitat and the species. Some of them only live for about 5 years. However, others in the wild are believed to be at least 25 years old. Many researchers believe the life span of snails is decreasing due to humans destroying their habitat and due to pollution.
The largest land snail recorded weighed only 2 pounds and was 15 inches long. It was discovered in 1976. Others are extremely small being only a few centimeters long when they are adults and weighing just a couple of ounces.
As snails move they leave behind slime. This slime is like a powerful form of suction for them. This is why they are even able to move upside down, around corners, and other comical situations. It is a myth that this type of slime is going to make humans ill. Many people worry that snails being in their garden will ruin the foods grown there and make them unfit for consumption but that is all false.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Peacocks were introduced to South Africa by the first British settlers and became a status symbol for the rich and famous. They are large, colorful pheasants (typically blue and green) known for their iridescent tails. These tail feathers, or coverts, spread out in a distinctive train that is more than 60 percent of the bird’s total body length and boast colorful "eye" markings of blue, gold, red, and other hues. The large train is used in mating rituals and courtship displays. It can be arched into a magnificent fan that reaches across the bird's back and touches the ground on either side. Females are believed to choose their mates according to the size, color, and quality of these outrageous feather trains.
The term "peacock" is commonly used to refer to birds of both sexes. Technically, only males are peacocks. Females are peahens, and together, they are called peafowl.

Suitable males may gather harems of several females, each of which will lay three to five eggs. In fact, wild peafowl often roost in forest trees and gather in groups called parties.
Peacocks are ground-feeders that eat insects, plants, and small creatures. There are two familiar peacock species. The blue peacock lives in India and Sri Lanka, while the green peacock is found in Java and Myanmar (Burma). A more distinct and little-known species, the Congo peacock, inhabits African rain forests.

Peafowl such as the blue peacock have been admired by humans and kept as pets for thousands of years. Selective breeding has created some unusual color combinations, but wild birds are themselves bursting with vibrant hues. They can be testy and do not mix well with other domestic birds.
Their lifespan is about 20 years and on average weigh 8.75 to 13 lbs (4 to 6 kg) with the males tail growing up to 5 feet.

Did you know? A male peafowl is one of the largest flying birds when the combined length of its train and its large wingspan are considered.
The picture below is of a young male just starting to get its green feathers on his back. I find the combination of colors interesting.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Odds and ends - Part 10

He sure is lumpy!! If it was not for the legs I would think him a nut of some kind.
Mating season for the beetles on Acacia flowers.
A pretty corner of someones garden.
The Hibiscus always make a wonderful show here and they come in the most beautiful colours. Click here for some interesting info and more pictures of them.
What a gorgeous rose!!
A wild flower, small and so perfect.
This butterfly is tiny, about the size of a 1c piece.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Better than "Sex in the city" - spider courtship

Although this information is not new too me, I thought it was well written and wanted to share it with you. The extract is from Filmer’s Spiders.

“When it comes to reproduction, most people would say ‘I’m glad I’m not a spider. Spiders have earned a reputation for cannibalism following mating, and arachnid reproduction can indeed be dangerous for the male, and is also highly complex – both in the courtship phase and in the actual mating process.

Unique to spiders is the modification of the male pedipalps (feelers) as organs of reproduction. As remarkable is the fact that the female epigynum(genital organs) is so constructed as to accept only the configuration of her conspecific male’s pedipalp. This ‘lock-and-key’ mechanism ensures that there can be no species mixing. (Spider taxonomists rely almost entirely on the shape and configuration of the sexual organs to identify different species.)

Immature spiders are, for all practical purposes, sexless. In immature males, the pedipalps are nonfunctional, as is the epigynum in immature females. These develop into functional reproductive organs at the time the final ecdysis (shedding of the hard exoskeleton) into adulthood. Once fully mature, the male’s single aim in life is to find a female with which to mate.

Before courtship begins, the male’s pedipulps have to be charged with seminal fluid, in both males and females, the genital pore is situated on the ventral (under) side of the abdomen, between the book lungs. To transfer sperm from this pore to the pulps, the male spider first spins a sperm web (a small, triangular or square web) just above the substrata. Straddling the web, he deposits a drop of sperm at its centre. The spider then either dips his palps into the sperm or presses his palps up against the sperm from the underside of the web. Similar to an old-fashioned fountain pen, the embolus (the sex organ situated at the end of the pedipalp) draws up the fluid.
The female spider lives a solitary life devoted to catching prey and feeding. Whatever moves in her vicinity, she will attack and either kill or drive off. As a result, the male spiders have evolved a complex and amazing variety of courtship rituals, only a few of which is described here. There are two main approaches, and these are based on the visual ability of the particular species. Long-sighted spiders are mainly diurnal (daytime) maters, while short-sighted ones will mate at any time.

Once a female has been located, it is up to the male to convince her that he is a male of her species and that she should succumb to his advances. In the families Lycosidae and Salticidae, which have good vision, the males carry out and elaborate courtship dance. The lycosid male waves his pedipalps up and down in rhythmic movements while tapping the front pair of legs on the substrata. He moves slowly towards the female, awaiting a signal that she is ready to accept him and that she will not attack. There may be some leg touching and rubbing before actual mating takes place. Some salticid males are adorned with elaborate hairs – often brightly coloured – on their palps. Waving these, with the first pair of front legs raised high above his head, the spider moves in an arc around the female, waiting for her signal of acceptance. On the other hand, those spiders with poor vision do not have and elaborate courtship dance and may indulge in no more than some leg tickling before mating occurs.

For most web-building spiders, courtship is purely a tactile affair, with the male coming to the edge of the web and plucking or tapping on the silken strands to announce his presence. Some araneid males are much smaller than their mates and in Argiope the female can weigh up to a thousand times as much as the male. Obviously the Argiope male has to be extra careful to avoid becoming a meal!! In some of the larger araneid species, the male approaches the female’s web and tweaks the strand on which she is sitting. Invariably, he has to drop down on a drag line to avoid her initial rush forwards to attack, before clambering back up to the web and trying again …… and again and again and again!
Once the female is convinced that her suitor is a prospective mate and not prey, the male spins a special mating thread. He proceeds to lure the female onto this thread with more plucking and tweaking movements. Female araneid ardour is not long-lasting and once mating has occurred, the male has to beat a fast retreat or suffer being eaten. (Many spider genera do have much less complex and far more civilized mating procedures, however.)

The males of some spider families (for example the theridiids and linphids) are equipped with a stridalatory organ. Once on the female’s web, the male spider may stridulate, which causes a high-pitched vibration. The sound not only brings the female out into the open, but renders her receptive to the male’s approach.

The act of copulation can last from seconds to hours, depending on the species. In some, the courtship is greatly extended and the mating brief, while in others there may be hardly any courtship, while mating may last up to seven hours. The male inserts his pedipalps one at a time (or in the case of some more primitive spiders, both at once) into the female’s epigynum and thus transfers the sperm to her.

The most notorious spouse-eating spider is Latrodectus whose antisocial behaviour has earned it the common name “Black Widow Spider”.

There are some rather amusing mthods that male spiders use to avoid falling prey to their prospective mates. The male of some of the pisaurid species catches a fly and neatly enswathe it in silk, then, holding the wrapped gift in his chelicerae (mouth), he approaches the female. Once she has accepted it and has started eating it, he nips around and proceeds to mate with her. The males of some of the crab spiders are tiny in comparison to their mates. To overcome his size disadvantage, the male casts strands of silk to and fro across the female’s abdomen while she is laying in wait for prey, tying her down like the Lilliputians tied down Gulliver. Once she is secured in this way, he mates with her and then leaves her to her own devices. She may take several hours to extricate herself.”
My question now is "How much human behaviour do you see in the above?"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pilansberg - Wild flowers - Part 8 Final

A lovely Two-spot Beetle crossing the road. He is about 4 inches in body length.
This little turtle was so small I could easily have closed him in my hand and he had such a happy, smiling face. :)

An Elegant Grasshopper having a meal on the flowers.