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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giant Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus validus) Gerrhosauridae

This first picture is of the mother and is easily 2'6" in length. The others are the baby, only about 6-7" in length.
The Gaint Plated Lizard is the largest member of the plated lizards and may attain a total length of more than 80cm. Adults are vlackish-brown above with yellow stippling that may form lines down the body and straw yellow bars on the sides.
Males have plenty of orange on the face and neck. Juveniles are black overall, but brightly marked with yellow sots on the head, back and tail with yellow bars down the neck, sides and tail. The lips, neck and throat may have whitish markings.
In South Africa, this lizard occures in the northern parts of the country and lives in horizontal cracks on rocky outcrops, usually in family units. These generally shy lizards quickly head for cover but they grow accustomed to people. They feed on plant matter including flowers and soft fruit as well as invertebrates.
The can be opportunistic feeders and will also take small lizards, rodents and the odd bird if they can.

Females lay 2-5 large white eggs in summer and the hatchlings measure about 15cm.

Information supplied by: What's that reptile by Johan Marais.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Skulls and tracks

Many times while walking in the bush, I come across skulls of animals which have died. This one is rather small and I think it may belong to a duiker (a small buck)
 A Blue Wildebeest skull which has been nicely cleaned by the ants and other insects.
 Now how would you like to wake up in the morning and see tracks like this outside your door?? I found these one morning after it had rained and belongs to one of the nocturnal (night) snakes, probably a adder of some kind.
 This one really had me puzzled!! It is almost as large as my open hand and as we do not have lions walking around there, I could not think what it could be. Also the second toe is larger.

Update: getting an e-mail from a good friend of mine set me thinking about this track and I realized that I had the clue all the time!! The long toe!! It is an Ostrich track!! :) Thanks Andrea!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Milkweed (Asclepias fruticosa)

It is often planted in gardens (it is frost-sensitive, requires full sun and well-drained soil and should be regarded as invasive), particularly because it attracts butterflies (Monarch and Swallowtail), but also crab spiders, ladybirds/bugs, bees, wasps, ants and moths. Some feed on the nectar and the plant itself while others feed on the insects attracted to it.

Milkweed not only provides food for the adult Monarch but also a nesting area for eggs and larvae. It can have a deep root system once it becomes established and is then difficult to eradicate from gardens.

The plant is quite toxic because it produces a group of toxins known as cardenolides. The poisons protect the plant against herbivores. However, some animals and the ostrich, are capable of eating the plant without ill effect.

Thus the Monarch caterpillar is among a select few creatures able to graze on the leaves of the milkweed. It manages to sequester and store poisons so that the butterfly into which it develops is protected from predators.
The female Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of the leaves where they hatch in about 5 days. The young caterpillar chews itself out of the shell which it then eats as its first meal.

Stems contain a strong, silky bark fibre formerly used for sewing. The milky latex reportedly effective in removing warts. Seed hairs formerly used as tinder and to stuff pillows and mattresses.


A leaf infusion, taken by mouth, is used to treat intestinal troubles (diarrhoea and stomach pain) in children and, given per rectum, as a purgative. Dried powdered leaf is inhaled as a snuff for the relief of headache, coryza and tuberculosis.


In view of the possibility of cardiac, uterotonic and antihypertensive activity, preparations of this species should be used with caution, on prescription from a competent traditional practitioner.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mud Dauber Wasp (Sceliphron spirifex) Sphecidae

Females build large multi-celled mud nest attached to cliffs, tree trunks and buildings.

The cells are provisioned with several spiders (which they paralyze with poison) and sealed with mud.

Adults collect nectar from flowers to feed on.

Most of this family of wasps are solitary and vary greatly in size.

Some species excavate burrows in the ground and at the beginning of the summer season, they are hard at work building a new or repairing an old nest.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rainbow Skink (Trachylepis margaritifer)

No pictures could show you the actual colors in these skinks as it changes according to how the sun shines on them and is really beautiful.
Rainbow Skinks are olive to brown with pearly white spots and light stripes. Females and juveniles are dark brown to black above with three distinct bluish-white stripes down the back and an electric blue tail.
They occur mostly in the northern parst of South Africa. These alert lizards may live in large colonies on rocks and are extremely fast moving. Their diet includes grasshoppers and other invertebrates.
Females lay 6-10 eggs in summer and the hatchlings measure 7-8cm.
Info from: What's that Reptile by Johan Marais. Please follow the link and see all the books on reptiles he has done. They are packed with wonderful photographs and information. I for one just love his books!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hippo Fly (Tabanus biguttatus)

Hippo Fly (Tabanus biguttatus) Family Tabanidae

These flies are huge - must be at least an inch in body length if not more. They attack large animals such as cattle and hippo's driving them to spend the night underwater to avoid being bitten.

 The larvae live in mud pans, constructing mud pillars above the surface to avoid dehydration. They feed on insect larvae and tadpoles.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prickly Pear

In South Africa the prickly pear is a very popular fruit in summer and it is also made into a wonderful and refreshing health drink.
 Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) is a flower- and fruit-bearing cacti plant that has been used for centuries by indigenous Mexican tribes to treat a variety of ailments and conditions. In the wild, prickly pear cactus grows in desert-like conditions, but it is now grown commercially in many European countries.

As a dietary supplement, prickly pear cactus is available in powder or pill form. Prickly pear cactus is also available as a food item in North American supermarkets.

 What Does It Do?

And What Scientific Studies Give Evidence To Support This?

Prickly pear cactus is a rich source of flavanoids, including kaempferol, quercetin, kaempferol 3-methyl ether, quercetin 3-methyl ether, narcissin, dihydrokaempferol (aromadendrin, 6), dihydroquercetin, and eriodictyol. These flavanoids are responsible for its health-enhancing benefits.

Traditional Mexican indian tribes have used prickly pear cactus as a food item and a medicinal plant. Mexico has a hot, arid, desert climate, and this makes agriculture difficult in the absence of irrigation technologies.

Thus, very few plant species can survive under these dry conditions. Out of necessity (and in the absence of other plant life), prickly pear cactus has been used as a food item by Mexican Indian tribes. It has been used to make jellies, soups, pickles, and even cheese products.
Medicinally, prickly pear cactus has been used to heal superficial wounds (cuts and scrapes), and, like Aloe Vera, is usually applied topically.

Information suppled by: 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Emerald moth (Prasinocyma pictifimbria) Geometridae

A beautiful green moth.

 It is fairly small in size and has no identifying marks but I think it belongs to the Geometridae family.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Marshall Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus)

The Marshall Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) is the largest of all the raptors and found throughout Sothern Africa. These pictures show a juvenile and an adult in full plumage.

They are usually silent and found in almost all habitats where there are tall trees or power pylons for nesting sites.

Normally they are seen singularly or in pairs and soar to great height.

They hunt by scanning the ground while in flight or from a perch and eat smaller birds, small antelope, mongoose, hares and reptiles.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Millipede Assassin Bug (Ectrichodia crux) Reduviidae

 They are medium sized and found throughout South Africa with metalic bluish black or dark brown with red, orange or cream markings.
 The females are wingless and look similar to the nymphs.
 They come out at night to feed, eating ants and possibly millipedes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga) - Part 2

The Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) escarpment is a place of pine forests, beautiful vistas and many waterfalls.

In any trip done to South Africa, this area is a must. The first three pictures are of the Bridal Veil Falls and the beautiful rock formations surrounding it.

It is set deep in a forest but with easy access from the parking lot and on a hot day, they spray of water is always welcome.

One of the waterfalls not to be missed is the Macmac. As you can see but the way it has carved a niche in the top of the rocky mountain, it has been here for millions of years. All these pictures of this trip were taken In August which is still winter for us so there is not much water flowing over the falls. During the rainy season, the noise is deafening.

Another must-see in the area is called God’s Window. It is on the edge of a plateau and one can see for miles around.

Be sure to have your hiking boots on as there is a steep climb to the top from the parking area but well worth it when you reach the top.

For those who do not like heights, barriers are set around the main viewing platforms.

In some ways but naturally on a smaller scale, this area is much like the Grand Canyon.
 The Blyde River twists and turns through the mountains and has carved out a deep canyon.

The Three Rondavels is across the way from the spectacular view of the Canyon.

Part of the river is dammed up and there is a wonderful holiday resort on its banks offering many kinds of water sport.