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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 10 Part 1

Dawn in the African bush is amongst the most spectacular sights in the world.
The moon has disappeared and the rosy glow of the sun spreads across the horizon. The once unseen road I am traveling on becomes a long ribbon to the horizon and the dark shapes of the trees start to reflect warmer colors in their leaves. The quiet of nighttime is broken by the sounds of the birds awakening and the jackal yelping in the distance as it makes its way home after a night of looking for food to take back to its little ones in their den.
The leopard growls softly as it finds a cozy branch to rest up on during the daylight hours. His stomach is empty as it was not a successful night for hunting.
As the sun lifts its head, the last of the evenings mist can be seen across it. Soon the rays will be warm enough to dissipate their moisture and the day will be so hot it takes your breath away.
The sun rises further and brings a promise of a beautiful day full of fun and adventure for those of us lucky enough to be in the bush.
A Kudu bull is still but a lonely silhouette against the brightening skyline as it slowly makes its graceful way from one bush to another while foraging. One wonders what the night has been like for him? Did the leopard in the tree see him? Was his night fraught with the dangers of predators or was he lucky enough to have an uneventful few hours of darkness?
We will never know. The only thing we are sure of is that he survived to see another day.
The bird’s cacophony of sound rises with the sun. After finding a safe roost for the night, it is another day of finding food for them and it is better done in the cooler hours of morning before it gets too hot.
The day in my beloved African bush has began……. Please join me on my journey……..

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Caterpillar and Scarab Beetle - not for the squeemish

found this beetle larvae at work and as usual put it in my lunch box in order to take home and get pictures of.
It is about 3-4 inches in length. Luckily I took some pictures of it as later on I found a Scarab beetle in put it in the same box.
A while later, I look in and found to my dismay that the beetle had attacked the caterpillar.
A white, almst jelly-like substance came out of the wound and no matter how the caterpillar twisted and turned, the beetle held on.
The longer the battle went on, the more fluid came out and it got me thinking as to what it was. It was not thin like you exprect blood to be.
After about 30 minutes, the battle was still going on although it seemed as if the caterpillar was slowing down some.
It eventually crawled into this leaf which had curled up and the beetle fell off.
On closer examination I found that both the beetle and the caterpillar had died. In order to ward of predators, this fluid must be a poison it exudes. You can see from the picture below that the Scarab has huge mandibles and this is what helped it to hang on. I do question why hit never let the caterpillar alone once the fluid started coming out. Surely it senses that it is a danger to him? I wish I knew more about things like this.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 9

Believe it or not, it is a WASP!! Yes I know, it surprised me as much as it does you!! To make it worse, they are called Velvet Ants (Mutillidae family). Talk about confusion!! LOL!! The female of the species are wingless and vastly different in color and appearance to the males and are the size of a normal ants. They mostly lay their eggs on and parasitize larvae in large, multi-celled mud nests of wasps.
It bites its way into a cell, lays an egg on the host’s larva or pupa then reseals the cell before leaving. Stings from females are very painful.
This has to be the funniest beetle I have every come across. It came into my room as the light was on without me seeing it. I was laying in bed reading and kept on hearing this strange clicking sound.
I eventually got up and say this one laying on his back in the floor. Every now and then, it would arch its body making a clicking sound and the contraction would make it hop into the air.
It is a Common Brown Click Beetle (Cardiotarsus acuminatus). I felt very sorry for it trying to right itself so I moved it over onto its feet. It was hardly upright before it contracted its body again with the same noise, flew into the air and landed on its back again, so I repeated the story and so did he. LOL!!
Laughing, I tried about six or seven times with him jumping up and landing on his back again before I decided that he must be quite happy as he was, picked him up and put him outside. LOL!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Guessing game

Can anyone tell me what this is? Look very carefully at the picture and even enlarge it if you want to. I will give you the answer tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Orchid Show - Part 4

A Cymbidium orchid is a great starter orchid to try your green thumb if you live in coastal California, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or the Mediterranean. Originally from a higher altitude in Central and Southeast Asia, and all the way to Australia, the standard Cymbidium enjoys a cool climate and strong light with partial shaded conditions. But the smaller-flowered terrestrial and tropical species live in different environments, so even if you do not have perfect Southern California weather, you can still grow these beauties. Let me tell you a little bit more about the different types of Cymbidium.
Cymbidium has retained its status as a celebrity orchid for thousands of years since the time of ancient China. Why do people love them so much? Cymbidium orchid hybrids produce up to 30 flamboyant and sometimes fragrant blooms on a single spike, and the flowers last couple of months. The Cymbidium I received for my birthday (boyfriend, here’s your acknowledgment!) in January still looked pristine in April. But wait, there’s more! Even if you cut those spikes and put them in a vase, the flowers will last just as long. No wonder Cymbidium is one of the most popular orchids for corsages. And even though there are only 44 species, thousands of hybrids have been developed to satisfy people’s demand for variety.
Standard Cymbidium Orchid
“Standard” Cymbidium refers to the large-flowered species from the Himalayas and China. These well-loved plants produce large, attractive flowers that come develop plants that produce the fullest looking flowers. Even though they are tolerant of extreme temperatures, to thrive and to produce flowers, they require frost-free cool nights (below 53°F/12°C) and warms days.
Cymbidium demands a little more fertilizer than most other orchids, so be sure to apply fertilizer twice a month at half the strength that is prescribed on the instruction label. You can also use the slow-release fertilizer once a year and forget about it for the rest of the year.American Orchid Society provides a good one-page free culture sheet on standard Cymbidium, so you can print one out as a reference.
Lady Slipper Orchids
Paphiopedilum orchids are the most commonly grown lady slipper orchids because they are more adaptable to cultivation than other kinds of ladyslippers. People who love Paphiopedilum are truly nuts about them, and some even believe it should be considered a separate family of its own. That’s quite understandable. The bizarre pouch- like lips are nothing like other flowers.
The bottom sepals are merged to form a synsepal. The dorsal sepal is large and showy. In many slipper orchids, the two petals are quite flamboyant (imagine if Elton John were a flower); they can be so long as to reach 3 feet (1 meter) long in the case of Paphiopedilum sanderianum. It’s an awesome sight when the curly petals flow with the wind. Some Paphiopedilum even have warts and hair that are irresistible in a different way.
The 60 Paphiopedilum species are native to India, southern China, New Guinea and the Philippines. The first Paphiopedilum hybrid was registered in 1869, and now the genus is by far the single most hybridized orchid. These 13,000 wonderful hybrids are available in myriad colors, sizes and shapes. They can easily be grown at home, and each flower can provide you weeks, if not months, of enjoyment in many different colors.
Information supplied by Everything Orchids.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 8

Every morning I would be up before sunrise and go outside to watch the sunrise. It was amazing how far north it traveled in the two weeks I saw there.
The first thing I saw on my walk was this grasshopper who seemed to know he was almost invisible amongst those leaves.
A nice close-up of him showing his beautiful eyes but I could not find it in my book so I do not know what it is called.
An egg sack of something but have no clue as to what laid it. It is about 1 inch in length.
A Dusky Copper (Lycaenidae family) is small, about 1 inch.
They are found over a large portion of the country and usually seen together in colonies.
There is not much more known about them so it would be something to study the next time I am in the area.
A Handmaiden moth? I am not sure but it does look like it. They have an unusual shape.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Feeding mantis Sybyllid sp

I kept this unusual mantis in order to take photographs of it at my leisure and found it some moths to feed on. What was interesting to me was that it stayed still for ages until the moth flew within a certain range before pouncing on it and holding it down with its sharp claws.
It then proceded to first take of the wings and ate only the body part. Maybe the wings are too dry and do not give them any nourishment whereas the body gives them moisture too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 7

Every second morning the route for my walk would take me through the riverbed where I would check out what fresh animal tracks there were. Although I often saw new leopard ones, I never saw him. Today, I found many interesting dragonflies, damselflies and as always was astounded at the beautiful rocks.
This little grasshopper was less than half an inch in length and judging by the colors, is going to grow up to be a very pretty one. As you can see, it is just starting to develop its wings.
A Red Tip butterfly (Colotis antevippe gavisa) female is fairly common for this area and found the year round in higher rainfall areas.
Thanks to Johan Marais who identified this snake for me as a Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica). Their venom contains both cytoxic and neurotoxic components.
It is quite common in the area where I was on vacation and can be identified by the pink underside with the black bars. I am not sure what killed it but it had a big gouge out of one side of its body.
A Wandering Glider. A fairly common dragonfly whose range extends into Asia, America and Australia. Now if you add Africa, it seems like it is all countries starting with an A. :)
This damselfly with its red eyes was very attractive. It is a Riffle Sprite and found in our northern areas.
By sheer chance and luck I managed to get a shot of this Piedspot in flight!! I have tried a few times to get a shot like this but they never come out right. Now, I was not even trying and I get it. LOL!!
This is a female and they are found in semi-tropical areas not far from streams and pools.
I really struggled to get a picture of this. It is very small, maybe 3mm and would not stop running around. It is one of the wingless Stoneflies. They are always found near water in which they breed.
The mandibles of the Antlion is really made for gripping its prey. I would hate this to be bigger and land up in them. This is a different species to what I showed earlier on.