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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Banded Grass Orb-web Spider (Kilima decens)

Family Araneidae
They build their orb webs at night and hide on grass stalks by day.

They are small spiders and easily recognised by their dark and light bands on the abdomin.

They have poor vision and locate their prey by sensing vibrations and tensions in the web. Prey consists mainly of flying and jumping insects.
 Spiders are able to re-cycle and re-use  up to 90% of their own silk by eating it and is available again for use after 30 minutes.
Info from: Spiders of the Kalahari (Ansie Dippenaar-Schoeman)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dinosaur Park

Dinosaurs dominated life on earth for 150 million years. All dinosaurs lived on land, and had well developed hind legs.More than 350 different types of dinosaurs have already been identified, and many more will still be found. The biggest dinosaur is called Ultrasaurus, and was discovered in Mexico. It weighed in excess of 90 tones.
Although dinosaurs are classified as reptiles, many scientists believe that they were warm – blooded. If so, they would have been active, sociable and reasonably intelligent. Dinosaurs could move much faster than modern day reptiles. Some dinosaurs were always on the move, and must have had a fast metabolism.
The closest living animals to dinosaurs are birds. Small warm blooded dinosaurs 200 million years ago developed feathers to keep warm, and these creatures were the ancestors of birds. Like birds, dinosaurs laid eggs and had nests. Some even had communal nesting sites, and practiced parental care. Some dinosaurs had gizzard systems, like birds. Dinosaurs and birds have similar hollow bones and ankle joints
It is difficult to prove that dinosaurs had feathers, as feathers rearly fossilize, being soft tissue. Fortunately there is always a couple of exceptions to the rule, and distinctly feathered dinosaurs fossils have been found in Germany and more recently China.
Dinosaurs and crocodiles share common ancestors, and are thus related. BUT dinosaurs developed dramatically over time, crocodiles did not change much. They are perfectly adapted to survive, and can go for up to two years without having to eat at all.
They have a normal pulse rate of 23 to 24 beats a minute, And when it becomes very cold, the pulse can drop to between 2 and 3 beats a minute. Crocodiles did not become extinct when the dinosaurs died out. Dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.

A huge meteorite smashed into the earth , resulting in a massive explosion, hurtling clouds of dust, smoke and watervapour into the atmosphere. These clouds obscured the sun, and the earth cooled rapidly. Plants died. Leading to the death of first plant eating and then meat eating dinosaurs. A huge crater has been found just off the coast of Mexico, positive proof of a major impact. Some smaller animals survived this ordeal, and as the sun set on the dinosaurs, it dawned on the age of mammals.
There were mammals during the time of dinosaurs, but they were small, inconspicuous, hiding from dinosaurs at all times. When dinosaurs became extinct, the mammals managed to survive. They can keep warm, as they have fur on their bodies. They are small, and don’t need much food.
Smaller mammals tend to store up food for hard times, and they have warm burrows in which to ward off the intense cold that killed the dinosaurs. The mammals went on to become the dominant animals on land. During the millions of years that have passed since the death of dinosaurs and before man, many different mammal species have come and gone.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Little Acraea (Acraea axina)

Family Nymphalidae
 These butterflies are found in the northen regions, from Gauteng upwards.
 They are smallish butterflies with the male slightly brighter in colour to the female.
 Mainly they are found on flatlands with the males often perching on a prominant tree.
 Although their breeding season peaks in summer, young are found throughout the year.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Inside a wasp nest - Paper Wasp (Polistes fastidiotus)

On the prowl for an interesting subject, I managed to come across this paper wasp. She had built her nest high up on a black painted roof so I was not able to get a very good picture of her but after the wind blew the nest down, got some fairyly good shots of what she was guarding.

Paper wasps feed abundantly on corn earworms, armyworms, tobacco hornworms, etc.
Paper-like nests, shaped like tiny umbrellas, are suspended by a short stem attached to eaves, window frames, porch ceilings, attic rafters, etc. Each nest consists of a horizontal layer or "tier" of circular comb of hexagonal (six-sided) cells not enclosed by a paper-like envelope. The ends of the cells are open with the heads of the larvae exposed to view.

Paper wasps and hornets are social insects, living in colonies containing workers, queens and males.
Fertilized queens occur in protected places such as houses and other structures, hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities, etc. Queens emerge during the warm days of late April or early May, select a nest site and build a small paper nest in which eggs are laid. One egg is laid in each cell. As she adds more cells around the edge, eggs are deposited. Larvae in the center are older with the younger larvae further out. It is the cells at the rim of the nest which contain eggs. After eggs hatch, the queen feeds the young larvae. When larvae are ready to pupate, cells are covered with silk, forming little domes over the individual openings. Larvae pupate, emerging later as small, infertile females called "workers."
Adult food consists of nectar or other sugary solutions such as honeydew and the juices of ripe fruits.
After being stung, immediately apply a poultice of meat tenderizer to the wound. If the sting is not deep, this will break down the components of the sting fluid, reducing the pain.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Machado's Skimmer (Orthetrum Machadoi) Female

This Skimmer is found along the Natal coast and in the northern regions.
 They are a widespread group of dragonflies which bask on rocks or twigs from which they make short forays to snatch passing insects.
 Mating occurs on the wing with males often seen leading females over the water where she whips her abdomen over the surface to lay her eggs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

White Crabspider

Nature is fascinating in the way that so many of the insects and animals are perfectly disguised in their habitat. This little white crabspider is almost invisible on the rose where he waits to pounce on visiting bees and other insects. He is maybe a 1/4 of an inch in body length. This is a very small rose he is on too.

Most crab spiders have the ability change colour depending on what flower they are on.

Their venom is such that any prey they catch dies within seconds.

Crab spiders to not spin webs and being so small, their prey is usually bigger than them so they will hide behind what they catch on the flower and suck the insides out.

They will sometimes spend their entire lives on just one plant.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelos)

They are easily distinguished by the broad saddle on their backs and the sharp pointed ears and nose and are nocturnal and diurnal, but the best time to see them is early morning or late afternoon.
During the summer, when the grass is taller than they are, these small creatures have a most amusing habit; they will walk a few feet, jump into the air to have a quick look around, and then go on their way again. This is repeated every couple feet or so.

Old antbear holes are used by them to live in and to rear their young.
When they have their young, either the male or the female will go out to find food whilst the other stays at home to take care of the cubs.
They mate for life. Normally they are to be seen singly, a pair, or sometimes a pair with cubs.
Jackals are mainly scavengers, but will kill small antelope or birds if they need to or the opportunity arises.
Most pups are born between June and November, the litter being between one to six cubs.

As they are not dependent on water, their territory can be within a wide variety of vegetation.
While pups are still young, the parents will bring back food which they regurgitate for them.
Our jackals are the same size as your coyote and fill the same space in the circle of predators and prey as they do.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Our local museum

There is an ineresting selection of pre-historic skeletons in the gardens around the museum.
While inside, a display on the evolution of man makes one reflect on days gone by.

There is a live display on how these giant crickets live and survive.
When living in the bush, the one thing you always do it shake out your boots before putting them on in the morning as the scorpions love to climb into them at night.
This petrified shell is about 18 inches in diameter.
There is a beautiful display of the shells found along our coast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spider Hunting Wasp (Hemipepsis tamisieri)

Family Pompilidae
Their prey is mostly baboon or rain spiders which they search through dead leaves or low vegetation to find.

They run around the ground in very jerk movements, flicking their wings. Each cell in their nests is provided with a spider for the emerging larvae to feed on.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Egyptian Goose babies

Let’s face it, the babies of any species of animal or bird is cute even these of the noisy Egyptian Goose. J

In SA, babies are born throughout the year but peak during August to September.

Mostly their nests are grass-lined hollows in the ground but can also be in trees, both near water. The adults will use the down lining of the nests to cover the eggs when they are not there.

The female lays up to 11 eggs and incubation is 28-30 days.