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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Groenkloof NR - Part 1

The Kei-apple (Dovyalis caffra) is a small shrub/tree, 15-18 feet (3-5m) in height and have some evil looking thorns on them.
The flowers are creamy-green and give way to delicious fruit in summer. When mature they are apricot-colored.
These trees are widely cultivated for gardens even as far as Australia and California but do not like areas where there is frost.
The fruits, harvested from November to January are made into an excellent jam/jelly.
An unknown but pretty caterpillar.
Have you ever seen a black ladybird/bug? I am afraid it is not a very good picture, but the only one I managed to get for some strange reason. It is called a Black Mealy (Maize) Bug Predator and preys on Maize bugs, aphids and cochineal insects. They are very small, about 4mm at max.
Spotted Sugar Ants are large. They nest in small colonies under stones and spray attackers with formic acid.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Robber Flies

Robber flies vary in size from a tiny 3mm to a large 40mm of which we have about 500 species.
Asilidae diversity can be attributed to their broad distribution, as most species tend to occupy a selective niche. Below: Microstylum sp
As their common name implies, robber flies have voracious appetites and feed on a vast array of other arthropods, which may help to maintain a healthy balance between insect populations in various.
Adults attack wasps, bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, other flies, and some spiders who could be up to double their size. Below: Neolophonotus sp

Robber flies are particularly abundant in arid and sunny habitats, which are optimal conditions in which to observe their many morphs and behaviors.
Some species are well adapted to desert climates, where they are known to thermoregulate in response to temperature variations throughout the day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Vacation time - Day 12 Final

My final day here before setting off back home tomorrow. I had been thinking all along that because of the extreme dry conditions I had not found much but after putting this series together, I realize that I did find a huge variety of wonderful insects but no doubt, if we had any rain, I would have found hundreds more and this vacation series would have run on forever. I definitely do need to go back there in full summer and see what more I can find.
The owners of the place where I was staying had fund and mounted this beautiful hawk moth with its eggs.
Every night dozens of insects would fly into my room and buzz around the light, one of them this Spoon-wing Lacewing.
Once again it goes to show how inaccurate and useless distribution maps are as it is not supposed to be found in the area where I was on vacation.
In the creation of my website, many people told me I should add these maps to it but over the years, with transportation being as easy as it is, there are so many ways for critters to be found out of their normal regions.
Bark Antlions are all very similar in coloration and are found throughout South Africa.
They are attracted to lights at night and will land anywhere, even on my finger. :)
Some species have short, powerful jaws and even a few internal teeth.
A species of Longhorn Beetle, family Cerambycidae. It is rather large, about 1 ½ inches in body length.
All in all, with the many unusual species I found, this was a good and exciting trip for me. I definitely need more vacations like this. Thanks for joining me on my journey.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Orchid Show - Part 5 Final

Phalaenopsis orchid is a super popular orchid because of its big, colorful and long-lasting flowers. Some of them are fragrant and some of them are miniature or compact. Its growing requirements are quite simple and they can live comfortably at home with you as long as you provide some tender-loving care. (Don’t get carried away; they don’t like you like that.) People also love them because they grow relatively quickly and could flower up to twice or more per year. They require more patience than your typical garden plants that flower in a few weeks, but for orchids, they’re pretty fast. Flower spikes tend to re-flower if you cut them back to an old node, so your Phalaenopsis can brighten up your indoors for several seasons.


Because of its appearance, Phalaenopsis is also called a moth orchid. In fact, phalaina means “moth” and opsis means “appearance” in Greek (now you can show this knowledge off to your friends). The homelands of these mostly epiphytic orchids are tropical places like India, southern Nepal, Papua New Guinea, southern China, Taiwan and tropical Australia. But chances are that the moth orchid you have at home was imported from Taiwan, which has quite a successful orchid industry. You can see that even China Airlines (an airline from Taiwan, not from mainland China) have moth orchids on their planes. Phalaenopsis Orchid Care (How not to be a Phalure!)As you may guess, coming from tropical places, Phalaenopsis orchids love a warm environment. During the day, they like to stay in the 70-86 °F (21-30 °C) range, while during the night, they like to be in low to mid 60s (16-20 °C). The day and night temperature difference is essential to set flower spikes, so the constant temperature typical in office buildings does not work for them. And because these orchids don’t have water storage organs, they like to be kept lightly moist at all times (but not drowning in water either!). Even though their light requirement is low, they do not do well in dark rooms. The best indoor place for them is by the window with morning sun or indirect sun all day. VANDA

Vanda orchids produce some of the most magnificent flowers in the world. As a result, they are ranked among the top five genera in horticulture. Native to India, Himalaya, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Southern China and Northern Australia, these plants produce large (1 to 4 inches in diameter) flowers in a wide variety of colors. The plants bloom every few months and the flowers can last for up to three weeks. There is a lot of diversity within the genus. Leaves of the Vanda orchids are usually flat, broad and ovoid, by many have cylindrical, fleshy leaves. Stems sprout from the base of the leaves and can range from miniature in size to several yards tall. Spikes usually produce 8 to 10 yellow-brown blossoms with brown markings, but it is not uncommon to see burgundy, orange, red, green or white blooms. Many species within this genus hold special status. For example, Vanda Miss Joaquim is the national flower of Singapore and Vanda coerulea has blue flowers, which are very rare. Vanda orchids like daytime temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and night time temperatures around 65-75 degrees. These plants like full morning sun but need to be shaded at noon and in the early afternoon. If your plant’s leaves are light green, they are in the right amount of sun. Dark green leaves, however, mean you need to move the plant to a sunnier location.

Vanda orchids are mostly epiphytes and produce a lot of aerial roots. You can grow these beauties in a pot or in a hanging basket with medium or coarse fir bark. Potted orchids can be watered once or twice a week. Hanging basket orchids will need to be watered more often, but let the roots dry a little between waterings. Also, water your plants early in the morning, so the leaves will be dry by nightfall.

Humidity should be maintained at 80%. In the home, place the Vanda orchids in a tray of pebbles filled with water. Feed these plants all year round with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Mix one teaspoon in a gallon of water and feed once a month.

Unfortunately, many Vanda orchids are endangered, because their natural habitat has been destroyed. Vanda coerulea are in particular trouble, and it is against the law to export any Blue Orchid that has been collected from the wild.Information from Everything Orchids.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vacation time - Day 11

As the days have progressed during my stay here, so has the sun come up more to the south every morning.
This cute little frog would come into the house every night and sit in the dog’s water bowl. I guess if water is scarce, anything will do. LOL!!
There is not much I can tell you about it as I do not know frogs at all except that this is a Tree Frog of some kind. How do I know that? Why by it having long toes which he uses to climb instead of webbed feet. :)
This butterfly belongs to the family Pieridae but does not appear in my books so I am afraid I cannot give you more info on it.
They are all named “? Orange-tips”
Stumped again! In many ways this looks to be a butterfly of the Nymphalidae (genus Neptis) species but they all have white stripes at the bottom of the wing. Oh what I wouldn’t give for some kind soul to help me with these identifications!!
A cute, but very tiny grasshopper giving me the eye.
A spider-hunting wasp of the Pompilidae family – Batozonellus fuliginosus. They provision their nests with one paralyzed spider per cell.
If you see the spurs on their legs, you can imagine that they have no difficulty in catching prey.
This cute little Vervet monkey would come and sit in the tree above were I was sitting on the porch and peer at me through the leaves. :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lion Park

During a visit of my good friends from Italy, we went to visit the Lion Park near where I live. They have an enclosure where they have a lot of cubs and they are just as playful as any kittens. They ranged in age between about 6 to 15 moths.
Some of them prefer to just be on-lookers though and leave the rough stuff to the more energetic. :)
“Oh, how nice it feels to have someone scratch my back for me.”
This one thought he was King of the Castle and did not associate with those “common” types down below. LOL!!
They also have a drive-through are with 5 enclosures of bigger lions, both white and tawny.
I just loved the way this one was stretched out with her paw on the rump of another lioness. :)
Yes, those paws are huge!! Until you see them up close, you do not realize just how big they are. The pads of each have individual markings and are used by trackers to identify them.
A mating pair. This is the time to stay away from them as the males get quite aggressive during this period. The male bites the neck of the lioness during this ritual.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vacation Time - Day 10 Part 5

During the wintertime there is no need to ride around looking for animals because if you park at a watering hole, sooner or later all the animals come down for a drink.

A Waterbuck.....
Guinea Fowl....
Elephant and warthog.....