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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Red-veined Dropwing (TrithemisArteriosa)

Red-veined Dropwing's are very common and found throughout Africa and into the Mediteranean and for this reason I thought that I had done a post on them before but find that I only posted pictures of the male.
As you can see by the male below, they are very different in looks but both have the red veins from which they get their names.
 It is customary for them to land on a stalk of grass and fold their wings forward as above.
 One of the things to use in identifying them is the eyes of the female which is brownish-red above and white below.

 Both male and female have distinct markings on the side and top of the tail.

 Some males get very dark red but I am not sure if this is an indication of age.
 The one below is a young male and although the coloration is similar to that of the female, it can be seen that the eyes are turning completely red as in the adult male.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Yellow Pansy (Junonia hierta) female

Family Nymphalidae
This species is found throughout Africa and South East Asia.
They are of medium size and the males are distinguished by a dark dot on the lower yellow circles.
The color of the underside of the wing serves to camouflage them well when they settle on open ground.
Males establish and patrol territories.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi)

Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi)

Their names is derived from the Afrikaans word “bles” meaning the white “blaze” markings on the face.

They are medium size antelope with a shoulder height of about 90cm.

Both male and female have horns which are heavily ringed and curve first backwards then outwards.

 Originally they were endemic to the eastern and northern parts of South Africa but are now found on most game farms throughout the region.

They are seen in grassland habitats where they feed mostly in the early hours of the day and late afternoons preferring to lay in the shade during the hottest hours. They are more active in cooler weather and during thunderstorms, take shelter under trees or bushes with their backs to the direction of the rain and their heads held low.

 During the rut, very large bachelor groups are formed consisting of mainly young males or older ones not able to compete for territories. The rutting season takes place just after the rainy season, usually March/April.

A male will on average have about 10 females in his harem but can be as many as 25 and they will actively defend them against other males. These fights can be vicious and cause serious bodily harm or end in killing the opponent.

Territories are held by males and marked by leaving a secretion from the preorbital gland on vegetation. Females and the young perform the same ritual but not for the same reasons.

 Males also use feet stamping, defecating, vigorous head shaking and snorting as territorial displays.

Blesbok favour newly sprouted grass after veld burning and large, mixed herds can be found feeding together.

Although they are mainly grazers they will browse on bushes occasionally but they are dependent on a nearby water supply.

 During the rutting season, males use a courtship display with their heads held forward, the horns laying back and their tail over their backs while advancing on the females with stiff legs and move in a semi-circle around them.

Females will give birth during the November/December period to co-inside with the rains after a gestation period of about 240 days giving birth to a single young.

The females leave the herd to give birth but do not eat the afterbirth as many antelope species do.

 Babies are about 6-7 kilograms at birth and can stand to start suckling within about 20 minutes. They are capable of running at the same time.

Calves suckle for about 4 months but remain with the female for about 6 months before venturing about on their own. Female calves remain up to two years with their mothers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lunate Blister Beetle (Decapotoma Lunata)

Family Meloidae
They are medium sized beetles whose body is covered by fine black hairs and three yellow bands across it.

They feed on flowers, vegetables and fruit and are considered to be a pest by gardeners.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Drakensberg Crag Lizard (Pseudocordylus melanotus)

Family Cordylidae
Crag lizards are distinguished from Girdled lizard by having a less spiny skin and are also larger.

They have bright markings on their body during breeding season as can e seen in this picture.
They live in rocky areas where they sometimes excavate under boulders and use these instead of crevices.

They spend early mornings and late afternoons basking on top of a rock to regulate body temperature.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A close-up of a slug

This is one of the biggst slugs I have seen, about 4 inches (10cm) in length.
Slugs and snails are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female sex organs. They lay their eggs in masses of up to 100 eggs in soil, under debris, rocks and plants. The eggs are large, 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter, and are white or colourless.The eggs take from two to four weeks to hatch but will not do so unless their is moisture present.
A single slug can lay up to 400 eggs in a year, and they start doing so at the tender age of three months. Slugs can live up to 2 years and the common brown garden snail may live in your garden for up to 12 years.

They eat: Decaying plant material, soft and succulent plants (seedlings), leaves and foliage and flower bulbs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Death's Head Moth (Acherontia atropos)

These are large moths with a wingspan of up to 11cm (about 4”) and belong to the Sphingidae family.
They get their name from the skull-like marking on their thorax.
Adults raid beehives for honey.
They can squeak through the proboscis, producing a sound that may serve as protection by mimicking the sound of the queen bee and immobilizing worker bees.
Larvae feed on potato, tomato and other nightshades such as Cape Gooseberry, Lantana and cotton amongst other species of plants.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jacobson’s Organ in reptiles

All reptiles have a sense of smell: odours are detected by sensory cells in the nasal cavity very much in the same way as mammals. Many species depend on smell for detection of prey, predators and mates, although some lizards and crocodiles do rely primarily on sight for finding their food. The sense of smell is generally more acute and important to the lifestyle of those species that are nocturnal or live in subterranean darkness and cannot rely on vision. However many diurnal species also depend largely on their sense of smell. Even tortoise appear to have the ability to locate a food source at a distance by detecting is scent.
Most reptiles (excluding crocodiles) also have a vomeronasal organ known as ‘Jacobson’s organ’. This is a fluid-filled, bi-lobed sensory organ in the roof of the mouth that also supplies the animal with sensory information on odours. This sense is analogous to, but different from, the sense of smell and is better termed chemo-reception or vomerolfaction. It is especially well developed in snakes and some species of lizard and is facilitated by the tongue of the animal. Although the tongue is not sensitive to odours, it serves as a vehicle for the collection of odour particles as it waves up and down. It is then withdrawn into the mouth and particles are transferred to the openings of the Jacobson’s organ where the odours are detected.

The forked tongue of snakes and some species of lizards means the vomerolfaction can be directional and allows them to follow scent trails. Each of the two tongue tips supplies odour particles to the respective lobe of the Jacobson’s organ and the further apart the tongue tips are held while collecting odour particles, the better able the animal is to detect gradients in the strength of the scent. Thus, it is probably the advantage of being able to follow scent trails that has resulted in the evolution of the characteristic forked tongue of snakes and monitor lizards.

Picture duplicated and information with permission of Johan Marais from ‘A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dung beetle - funny

One of the things about this kind of life I am living is that I so often see things which I find very amusing.

One afternoon on a walk, I found these two different dung beetles ..... did no one ever let them into the secret that it rolls better if it is round? LOL!!

This last one had made the tiniest of dung balls and was going so fast I could not keep up to get a decent picture. J

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cattle Egret and zebra

 “Hey, what a cool place to land! Such a nice view from here.”

 “Oh, oh, its moving!”

 “Watch that tail now buddy!”

 “Can’t you stop walking and eating? How do you expect me to stay up here?”

 “That’s it. I’m out of here.”

 Cattle Egrets are found throughout SA except for the arid western regions.

They follow all large animals around in order to eat the grasshoppers and other insects stirred up as they walk. Their diet also includes scorpions and frogs.
 They are easily identified by their black feet and legs and yellow bills.

Large numbers of them roost in trees at night around watering holes and are highly social birds.

Their nests are a small platform of stick in which the female will lay 2-4 pale blue or greenish-blue eggs. The eggs on average hatch within about 23 days and the babies fly after about 30 days.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Masai Sprite (Pseudagrion massaicum)

Masai Sprite (Pseudagrion massaicum) family Coenagrionidae
These are common damsel flies and found in still-water habitats, dam edges and ponds.

This is a male and about 5cm (2”) in length.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mauritian Tomb Bat (Taphozous mauritianus)

I definitely have to consider that some bats are cute, like this one. In fact it reminds me of a cuddly toy and I am sure that most people are not going to agree with me on this one. Please click on the photographs to enlarge them and see what I mean LOL!!

Mauritian Tomb Bat (Tophozous mauritianus) family Emballonuridae

Identification pointers

This bat can be easily recognised when roosting by its alertness and crab-like behaviour when crawling sideways on a vertical wall. The fur is greyish above with pale white or cream below (figure 7), with the white just touching the chin where a dark spot is present in males. The face is relatively hairless and ears are usually held flat against the head, which is lifted from the roosting wall in a lizard-like fashion when disturbed. Wings are pointy and narrow with light-coloured membranes; they have a fast flying pattern, keeping low over grass veldts or open spaces.

Forearm length is 60-66 mm and its mass is approximately 27-36 grams10.

 This is a female.
 Roosting habits

They don’t roost inside roofs or dark hollows as most insect-eating bats do, but are rather found to roost on the outside of walls under the eaves of a roof or in large tree trunks, rondawels (chalets) and the trunks of Chinese fan palms and royal palms. Roosting colonies are generally small groups of about 5 bats though they may occasionally grow to about 30 individuals. They appear to be constantly vigilant and awake while roosting8, 10. Seasonal migrations are suspected but not proven, and the migration locations are unknown.

Two distinct birth periods are present: November - December and February – April, when a single young is born per birth period 8, 10.


Mauritian tomb bats are moth specialists, but will also feed on flying termites and other insects.

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