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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Red Bugs (Cenaeus carnifex)

Family Pyrrhocoridae
These are small, about 9mm in body length and are found along our eastern coastal regions of lush vegetation forest margins and gardens.
 They are encountered in groups on seed heads of herbaceous plants, often in mated pairs.
Information from: Field Guide to Insects of South Africa.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cape Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus capensis)

Family Gekkonidae
The Cape Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus capensis) is found in the woodlands and forests of central and southern Africa.
 Length (snout to vent length) is 39 mm for males, 43 mm for females. Throat is stippled with grey or brown while the belly is cream coloured. The back is grey-brown with dark streak from snout to shoulder or beyond. It is sometimes seen as a pet.
Information from:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum Chrysostigma)

Family Libellulidae
 Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, dry savanna, moist savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical moist shrubland, river, intermittent rivers, shrub-dominated wetlands, swamps, freshwater lakes, intermittent freshwater lakes, freshwater marshes, intermittent freshwater marches, and freshwater springs. The adults prey on various flying insects, with the bodies of the males being vivid blue and those of the females a bright green color.

Information from:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cavernous Crystalwort (Riccia Cavernosa)

I found this growing on a rock in the Olifants River a long while back and have never been able to identify it. It is about 2.5cm in diameter and a type of Liverwort. A very nteresting find for me.
Thanks to Nigel from for telling me what it is.
 What is a liverwort?

A liverwort is a flowerless, spore-producing plant - with the spores produced in small capsules. The introductory WHAT IS A BRYOPHYTE? page noted that bryophytes have a gametophyte stage and a sporophyte stage. The spore capsule (possibly with a supporting stalk, or seta) is the sporophyte and this grows from the gametophyte stage.

The aim of this page is simply to describe the features you can see in a liverwort. You will see much, but by no means all, of the variety to be found in the liverworts. While the identification of liverworts often requires the use of a microscope, you can learn a lot just by using your eyes and a hand-lens that magnifies 10 times. In the reference button you’ll find some books with good colour photographs of Australian liverworts. Looking through them will give you a good introduction to liverwort diversity.

The division of the liverworts into leafy and thallose is very useful and is used by all bryologists. However, it is important to note that there are a few liverworts, classified as thallose, which come very close to leafy in appearance. The liverworts show a great variety of gametophytic form (far greater than that shown by mosses or hornworts). Regardless of whether a liverwort is leafy or thallose, the gametophyte is the dominant stage - in terms of both bulk and longevity. Sporophytes are fairly ephemeral. This is markedly different to the flowering plants where the sporophyte is the dominant stage.

All liverworts produce mucilage, which helps liverworts absorb and retain water. The mucilage is produced by the gametophytes, either internally in slime cells or externally in slime papillae. The latter are simply very tiny outgrowths, possibly stalked, from the gametophyte. Amongst the thallose liverworts there are genera (such as Riccardia, right) in which the mucilage is produced by slime papillae and genera (such as Marchantia) with internal slime cells. In the leafy liverworts mucilage is produced in slime papillae, which may be found on stems or leaf tips, depending on the species. Liverworts produce mucilage at the growing points and this mucilage protects the growing points from drying out.

Since liverworts are photosynthesizing plants, their cells contain chloroplasts. In addition to chloroplasts, the cells of about 90% of liverwort species contain oil bodies . These vary in size, shape and number per cell, depending on species and are therefore useful for identification. While often colourless, brown and blue oil bodies are also found. There are species in which the oil bodies are found in the majority of cells, while in others they are confined to isolated cells. In some cases the oil bodies are persistent and can be found in dried, herbarium specimens but in many species the oil bodies disintegrate when a specimen is dried for storage in a herbarium and the oil bodies are then permanently lost. The compounds found in these oil bodies are various terpenoids and the amount produced various between species. In many cases the functions of these compounds are unknown, but they do give distinctive aromas or tastes to various liverworts.

Another feature common to virtually all liverworts is the presence of rhizoids. These are anchoring structures, superficially root-like, but without the absorptive functions of true roots. Liverworts in the genus Haplomitrium lack rhizoids and have a rhizome-like growth, with both erect and subterranean stems. As a rule liverwort rhizoids are single-celled, with just a few species having multi-celled rhizoids.

The male and female gametes (sperm and eggs) are produced on the gametophyte (in antheridia and archegonia, respectively) and a fertilized egg will develop into a spore-bearing sporophyte. Thus the spores are part of the sexual reproduction cycle. There's more about this in the REPRODUCTION SECTION.

Information from:  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ground Beetle (Cypholoba graphipteroides)

Family Carabidae
I have for a long time been looking for someone to identify this beautiful beetle and this was done by the friendly Simon van Noort who is the Curator of Entomology at Iziko South African Museum.
This beetle is about 2cm in length.

Thank you Simon, it is greatly appreciated.
 The following information is an extract from:
 These beetles are conspicuous elements of savanna and woodland ecosystems, where they are typically found running in bright sunshine over bare ground, or in short grasses (Fig. 1; Marshall and Poulton 1902).
 Like most other members of the tribe Anthiini, species of Cypholoba have the ability to excrete formic acid from their pygidial glands as a defensive behavior (PĂ©ringuey 1896).
 Most species in this genus are black and many species have white setal patches or setal tufts (Fig. 1) that are thought to have evolved through mimicry of Mutillidae, Formicidae, and other stinging Hymenoptera (Marshall and Poulton 1902).
 These beetles are of potential interest to entomologists and evolutionary biologists studying phenomena such as mimicry, aposematic coloration, and the evolution of chemical defenses.
 Species of Cypholoba, like many other Anthiini, also show close associations with particular ecosystems or vegetation communities and their activity patterns are closely tied with environmental variables such as temperature and rainfall, and overall climate patterns such as seasonal monsoons (Schmidt 2001; Mawdsley et al. 2011).
Given the relatively large adult body size of most Cypholoba species (length 15–33 mm), their diagnostic color and setal patterns (Strohmeyer 1928) and their conspicuous activity patterns and behaviors (Schmidt 2001), these beetles could easily be incorporated into environmental monitoring programs which track overall ecosystem condition, status, and trends.

additional info from Riaan Stals (iSpot)
"This species belongs to the same tribe as the 'oogpisters' of the genus Anthia: That is in the tribe Anthiini.

Cypholoba graphipteroides is a species that is not uncommonly encountered from Zululand to the northern provinces of South Africa. In the Kruger National Park [this observation], this species is the most abundant and most frequently encountered member of the tribe Anthiini. Adults emerge in the early rainy season, are typically found near flowing water, and are active both by day and by night. They have characteristically brisk walking behaviour."

Thanks Riaan

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hawk Moth (Nephele comma)

This is a medium-size moth belonging to the Sphingidae family.


Throughout Africa south of the Sahara as well as adjacent islands.
 Pollinates a variety of long-tubed flowers including:

• Caricaceae

Carica papaya (Papaya, Papaw, Pawpaw). A cultivated species, pollinated by hawkmoths, including Nephele comma. Martins & Johnson (2009) in a study conducted in rural Kenya, found that natural habitats were important in sustaining hawkmoth populations because they contained the larval hostplants needed in completing the life cycle. Hence, papaya plants grown near natural habitats were more likely to be pollinated than those isolated from natural habitats.

Information from:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Field Slug (Deroceras leave)

All slugs of the Agriolimacidae family have been introduced to SA from Europe and can be serious pests.
 They are found in all habitats including vegetable gardens.
 Deroceras are capable of reproducing by self-fertilization and thus, one slug can become a whole colony.
Info from: Field Guide to the Land Snails and Slugs of Eastern South Africa (Dai Herbert & Dick Kilburn)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hoverfly (Phytomia natalensis)

Family Syrphidae
 These Hoverflies are common in most countries of the world.
 Because of their colouration, they are often mistaken for bees as they also feed on pollen but are harmless to humans.
 The larvae mainly feed on aphids.
Identification from:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Generation gap??

It has been a long time since I have done a post on anything philosophical (or ranting) as I guess I have been too busy to think about other things but today thoughts of differences in living standards and values has been on my mind. Maybe I am just too old and the “generation gap” really exists but it seems that things are done very differently today.

Years ago, a person’s word was their bond. Huge deals for millions in monetary value were sealed with a handshake and people/companies kept their promises.

Now, none of that exists. My greatest beef is with the people and top companies who, with every advert, spout words like “environmentally friendly” “echo friendly” “free range” “green” “save the environment” and yet when push comes to shove NONE of them actually DO anything about it except charge you double the price for items with those labels.

Are any of them actually trying to educate the ordinary Joe on the street as to what those words mean? The answer is an unequivocal NO. They will rather offer millions as a prize for a race on foot or bike, a rugby or cricket match than spend one cent on environmental education. What a crock!!!! How two-faced of them!!!!!!

And what a pity too that they cannot put their money where their mouth is and live up to what they spout as buzzwords in order for us to think them “good people/companies”. It makes me sick!!!!!!!!!!! And YES, this post is aimed at all our top companies ...... do you need me to name them? Just check out every advertisement and you will know who I mean!!!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lily Weevil (Brachycerus labrusca)

Family Curculionidae
A large, flightless beetle, about 2cm in length and are fairly common in the Pretoria and Pilansberg areas although I do not know where else in SA they are found as there is no distribution map available.
Not much information can be found about them except that they feed on certain lilies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chrysomelidae - Leaf Beetle larvae

I found the most unusual critter and have been trying for a very long time to find someone who could tell me what it is. Now, thanks to Riaan, I eventually know what it is.

This is a very small creature, about 3-4mm in length.
"The larvae of leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae) are very diverse, mostly varying along with their taxonomic diversity. Some live inside plant material (e.g. subfamily Bruchinae in seeds and tribe Hispini as leaf miners), but most feed externally on their host plant (above ground on any possible plant structure, even dead material in some instances, or underground on roots). Some chrysomelid larvae are case-bearers.
 The larva in this observation seems typical of several leaf beetle groups that feed externally on leaves. The body is slug-like, shiny, sometimes slimy, but typically crinkly, and there is a well-sclerotised (hardened) head capsule with powerful mandibles. And they always have three pairs of thoracic legs.

Beetledude, SANC"
Thank you Riaan from for the identification and the interesting information. It is greatly appreciated.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sooty Blue (Zizeeria knysna)

Family Lycaenidae
These small butterflies are found throughout SA. The males upperwing is a dull violet-blue whereas the female only has the blue colour near her body.
 They are found the year round and often seen on lawns feeding on weeds which grow amongst it. They are found in all habitats including wetlands and grasslands.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wattled Plover

These birds who have a loud, strident call are found northwards of Natal.
 They are seen in large groups in all habitats where the eat insects and seeds.
 Their wattles and coloration make them easy to identify.
 Their breeding season is from July to January where they nest in soil to which is added dry plants and small stones. Clutches consist of 4 blotched eggs with black, brown and grey colours.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

African Thief Ant (Carebara vidua)

Family Formicidae

We have over a thousand ant species in South Africa and only a few of them have names. This was a large one, about 2.5cm (over 1" inch) in length and was hanging on for dear life to this twig.
Females have a black abdomen and the male and queen a brown one. The body is covered with pale hairs.

They nest in the walls of termite mounds and are usually seen only after the first rains of summer.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beaded Weevil (Protostrophus)

Family Curculionidae
These are medium-sized beetles and are flightless. The larvae live in soil.
They feed on a variety of plants including ornamentals, cotton and tobacco seedlings, young wheat, sweet potato and groundnut plants.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Marsh Sylph (Metisellam meninx) – Skipper

Family Hesperiidae
The sexes are very similar. In the photographs, the first two are of the female and the last two, the male.
These skippers have a very small distribution area which covers the New Castle area, the western Mpumalanga and Gauteng then are only found in flatlands and wetlands.
Females lay a single white to pale blue egg on certain marsh grasses.

Info from: Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa (Steve Woodhall)