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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Autumn Walk - Part 3

There are days when you just can’t seem to get the picture you want and all you end up with are either butt shots…….

Or the insect hiding away in a place where you cannot get a decent shot. J

Galls are outgrowths on the surface of lifeforms caused by invasion by other lifeforms, such as parasites or bacterial infection. Plant galls are abnormal outgrowth of plant tissues and can be caused by various parasites, from fungi and bacteria, to insects and mites. Plant galls are often highly organized structures and because of this the cause of the gall can often be determined without the actual agent being identified. This applies particularly to some insect and mite plant galls. In pathology, a gall is a raised sore on the skin, usually caused by chafing or rubbing.

Insect galls are the highly distinctive plant structures formed by some herbivorous insects as their own microhabitats. They are plant tissue which is controlled by the insect. Galls act as both the habitat and food source for the maker of the gall. The interior of a gall can contain edible nutritious starch and other tissues. Some galls act as "physiologic sinks", concentrating resources in the gall from the surrounding plant parts. Galls may also provide the insect with physical protection from predators.

Insect galls are usually induced by chemicals injected by the larvae or the adults of the insects into the plants, and possibly mechanical damage. After the galls are formed, the larvae develop inside until fully grown, when they leave. In order to form galls, the insects must seize the time when plant cell division occurs quickly: the growing season, usually spring in temperate climates, but which is extended in the tropics.

Lets face it, Stink bugs, Assassin bugs etc are definitely more attractive than their name. Probably their way of making up for that unpleasant smell they put out.

From the side, it is almost colorful.
Information on Galls supplied by Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It doesn't matter

How often do we say “It doesn’t matter” to things which really DO matter but we are too afraid to speak about or mention. For example, if someone says something which hurts you and you become quiet and they eventually ask “What’s the matter” We answer with “Nothing” or “It doesn’t matter”.

Are we so afraid to speak of what is on our minds or is it just that we want to keep the peace? What if the hurtful words were not meant to be hurtful at all but maybe just a sentence said in a way we interpreted incorrectly? Isn’t it better to mention how we feel? Instead we say “It doesn’t matter” and allow it to build up inside us and the other person does not have a single clue what he/she said or did wrong.

We humans are the strangest animals of all. Maybe words should never have been invented as they can be interpreted in so many ways and not always correctly. So you put on your pretties dress and your partner walks in and says “Is that what you are wearing to go out to dinner?” Maybe in our minds we are uncertain about if the dress is the right one for the occasion or not so we interpret his words to mean that the dress is not suitable. In the meantime he is thinking as it says it “That’s a pretty dress”. How words can confuse the issue!!

On the other hand if he does not comment on the dress, we assume that he did not comment on it because he did not like it. See what I mean? By saying something or nothing, it can still be wrong. There is just no winning sometimes.

Someone recently said to me “So you don’t write.” Now how do I interpret that? Does this person mean I use words incorrectly? Does it mean I do not write e-mails and letter? Does it mean “why aren’t you writing to me.” After all, I write business letters and e-mails every day and for my blog too. I am left to come to my own conclusions and maybe they are the wrong ones!!

So what is the point I am trying to make here? Maybe it is that we should never jump to conclusions. Maybe we should never put other meanings to words but accept them exactly as they are said. Maybe the whole problem with us is that we learnt to use our brains and think, so maybe we should not think and then where would we be? Well, whether we use our grey cells or use words, we would still be the most complicated creatures on earth? Animals use their instincts, shouldn’t we?  


Friday, May 27, 2011

More bugs

This green Spittle Bug had just climbed out of its hiding place and offered a good photograph. They are very small, less than ½ and inch in length. Only the nymphs live in these balls of spittle.

An unknown and mysterious bug….. I cannot find the likes of it anywhere so if someone know what it is, I would appreciate you letting me know.

A Shield bug which I cannot find a name for…….

Now this is not the place to go and sit down. It is a Euphorbia and grows almost as a creeper. Many of the same species are trees which grow to a great height.

On the very tip of a thorn I noticed these amazing eggs. Do enlarge the picture to see the neat ring around the base of them. Although there was a tiny fly on it, I think it was just feeding and could not have either laid or come from those eggs.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Autumn Walk - Part 2

Coming out of my driveway, the giraffe looks to see if I am a threat or not and will allow me to get just a certain distance to him before he takes off.

The zebra does the same but this one stays a bit longer than his mates. I wonder if he was trying to impress the ladies by how brave he is? Do animals do the same silly things humans do? J

Now we have all heard the expression of “putting your head in the sand like an ostrich” but to be honest, I have never seen one do it so I wonder where the expression came from. Anyone know the answer?

As much as I hate the thought of winter coming in and all the plants dying off, the dried ones sometimes make a very pretty picture.

Ticks!! The bane of my life!! What dreadful little things these are. I read an interesting article which said that primates do not get fleas only ticks whereas things like dogs and cats get fleas and not ticks. The reason for this is fleas need a breeding ground in the regular place dogs and cats sleep and primates sleep in different places every night so fleas don’t breed there.

This tree was interesting. In places the outer bark has come off leaving just the smooth, lighter color bark.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tree Wistaria – vanWykshout (Bolusanthus speclosus)

I have not done a tree for a long time and this has to be one of the prettiest we have.
 The Tree Wistaria grows to between 4-7m (12-21 feet) and is found in a variety of soil types.

The flowers are pea-shaped and very pretty and are blue to mauve in color normally flowering in the middle of summer. Right now, with the warm days we have had, there are still new buds to be found in a few areas.
 Local people use the dried inner bark to relieve abdominal disorders.

The wood is one of the best and hardest of indigenous timbers and has a wide variety of uses although pieces are usually small as the circumference of the tree is not very big.

This is one of the most beautiful wild trees to have in a garden and although the seeds germinate well, they do not like to be transplanted. They do well in well drained soil and a sunny position.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Both sides

Since starting the website for the identification of things, I always try to get both the lower and upper parts of things and here are two examples.

The first is Araneidae ArgiopeAustralis a Garden Orb Web Spider
 ....and this is what it looks like from the bottom. It is easy to recognise it by that zigzag pattern of the web.
 Now this butterfly was most obliging and stayed in place in order for me to get both sides.
 This Nymphalidae Jujonia hierta a Blue Pansy and the underside is quite different to the top.
 Just to round things off, I found this tiny yellow wild flower and wanted to include it in a post as it is so pretty.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Two ladybirds/ladybugs??

Or are they??
 No, as a matter of fact they aren't, even nearly the same as the top one is a beetle and the bottom is a bug. LOL!! More confusion. :)

Ladybirds/bugs belong to the Coccinellidae family. They are smallish have have a very smooth, glossy look about them. The one below belongs to the Scutelleridae family and is part of the Shield Bug family. It is almost 4 times the size of the Ladybird/bug and as you can see, it is not smooth but has indentations. This one is a Ladybird Bug. LOL!! I know, I know....more confusion. :)
 I have seen some amazing colors in Crab Spiders but this has to be the prietiest by far.
 Crab spiders belong to the Thomisidae family. They are all very small and cute.
 Now if you have to sit and wait for prey to come along so you can dine, surely there is a more comfortable place to do your waiting beside being on such a prickely plant?? :) Ah well, I guess beggars can't be choosers. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How does grass germinate?

At this time of year, all plants and trees have seeds on them and can be most attractive.

Now we all know that in order to germinate, seeds have to be planted under the soil. Right? Right!! So how on earth does grass seeds get there?

We have a theory here in Africa that at night, when everyone is sleeping, the monkeys go and plant them for us. :) But is it true? How DO they germinate? Okay, I will let you in on the secret.
 This particular type of grass like many others has a long tail attached to the seed and at the beginning of winter, fall onto the ground. They lay dormant until the first rains of spring and then Mother Nature shows how brilliant she actually is.

As the seeds get wet, they cause the tail part to contract and move. The barb on the tip of the seed will find a crevasse and get stuck there and now it can grow in the soil it is surrounded by. Do you believe this story?? Well it sounds better than the monkeys planting them doesn’t it?? :)
 Next time you come across any grass seed with long tails like that, dunk the whole thing in water for a few seconds, place it on the palm of your hand, wait a few seconds and see what happens. Eventually it will gravitate to the crevasse between your fingers and there it will stay. Clever hey? :)
 Some seeds look just like insects or caterpillars, like these black and pink ones. The pic of the black and yellow flowers/seeds is not very clear but I like the pastel shading of it.
 The Elephant grass is so tall at the moment that it is way over my head. Okay, I AM short but not THAT short. :) This is the one they cut and use for all those lovely thatched roofs we have here on some of our houses. Thatching not only looks nices but keeps houses cool in summer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Autumn Walk - Part 1

It is that time of year when everything slows down and turns dull brown colors. The days are warm but the nights get really chilly especially out in the bush where I am staying now.

No more early morning walks for me as the dew on the grass at night makes it damp and unpleasant to walk through. My walk today took me down the path leading to a small stream and along the fence.

With no more rain this passed week, the stream does not have much water in it but the foliage around it is still fairly green. With the warmer days, there are still some bugs and butterflies around.

And what is this I see?? Can you see it too?

A very small Crab Spider still to cold to move out of its resting place where he spent the night.

Getting closer to him, he crawled up onto the flower. The flow itself is about 1 inch in diameter so it shows how small the spider is.

He is so well camouflaged on this yellow background. If he never moved, he would be difficult to spot.