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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tropical Tent Web Spider (Cyrtophora citricola)

Family Araneidae
The female moves around in the central area of the web and there also attaches the egg sac.
 The web is often found in plants such as aloes.
 They are medium-size spiders with eight eyes in two rows.
 Often seen with legs retracted, they do not look like spiders at all and are easily overlooked in the clutter of the nest.
 When attacked these spiders will drop to the ground where their colour helps them to blend in and become almost invisible.
Info from: Goggo Guide

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spotted Hyaena/Hyena (Crocuta crocta)

Family Hyaenindae
With jaws that are the strongest of all animals, they are capable of biting through the thigh bone of a buffalo.

They have an acute sense of smell and have been recorded detecting a carcass nearly two kilometres away.

Thought of as cowards because they are usually seen slinking about with their tails between their legs, in certain areas, hyaenas have been known to attack man and to chase lions away from their kills, thus dispelling the cowardly theory.
 The Spotted hyaena is the largest of the three types of hyaena found in Southern Africa. The other two species being the Brown hyaena and the Stripped hyaena.

Many times these creatures can be seen lying in the mud in order to cool themselves when it is very hot.
 Their forefeet are much larger than their hind feet as it has to carry the extra head and shoulder weight.

The best time for sighting these animals are the early hours near sunrise and then again just before sunset.
 As with most animal species, their behavioural pattern depends on many things such as availability of food, etc. In certain areas hyaenas are strictly scavengers but in other areas, they scavenge as well as hunt for themselves.

In areas where food is scarce, hyaenas are reputed to dig up bodies to survive.
 During a patrol of their territory they might come across another pack of hyaena. In order to make themselves look more ferocious, they will raise the hair on the back of their necks thus increasing their actual size.

See also:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Flowerpot Wasp (Bembecinus laterimacula)

Family Sphecidae
 Females hunt spittlebugs (Ceropid nymphs) and grasshoppers. They dig their nests in sandy soil.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stink Bug (Caura rufiventris)

Family Pentatomidae
 They are well armed with stinkglands which open on the top of the abdomen in nymphs. They are medium-sized, easy to distinguish and recorded eating on indigenous potatoes (Solanum) plants.
Information from: Field Guide to Insects of South Africa

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fruit Chafer (Cheirolasia burkei)

Family Scarabaeidae
I am looking for a book on beetles which is out of print. If anyone has a copy they are not using, please can you contact me on: natureswow at gmail dot com
The book is called: Fruit Chafers of Southern Africa by HOLM, E. and MARAIS, E. 1992.
 There were dozens of them all mating in the trees. There are many of there Fruit Chafers with the same coloration but the patterns are different so without a good book, they are not easy to tell apart and identify.
This was I.D. by Andrew Deacon on iSpot. Thank you Andrew!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

African Veined White (Belenois gidica abyssinica)

Family Pieridae
The first two pictures are of the male and the last of a female.
 This butterfly has a restricted region where it is found – only along our east coast and the northern borders.

It is easily confused with Meadow White (Pontia helice) but is overall more brown on the lower side of the wing and the wing tips are more rounded.
They are fairly large, about the same size as the Monarch.

Although found throughout the year, they are more commonly seen in the summer where they frequent all types of habitats.

It has a wet and dry season difference in coloration as well as the differences between the sexes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Agave Weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus)

Family Curculionidae
 Riaan kindly supplied me with the following information:
"Alien from Middle America. In South Africa since 1975. Quite a severe pest of most (?all) species of Agave. Very serious pest of fibre sisal plantations and tequila plantations in Mexico. In South Africa destructive of fibre sisal, ornamental agaves, and our now-defunct Karoo "tequila" industry. "
Identification by Riaan Stals

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Platycorynus dejeani)

Family Chrysomelidae
 These are medium-size bettles and very commonly seen in the summertime. As their name suggests, they feed on Milkweed plants (Asclepias fructicosa)
 They are found in the eastern and northern areas and easily identified by their metalic colours.
Identification by Riaan Stals

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis)

Like all hyraxes, it is a medium-sized (~4 kg) terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and tail. The closest living relatives to hyraxes are the modern day elephants and sirenians. The rock hyrax is found across Africa and the Middle East, in habitats with rock crevices in which to escape from predators. Their most striking behaviour is the use of sentries: one or more animals take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators.

The rock hyrax has incomplete thermoregulation, and is most active in the morning and evening, although their activity pattern varies substantially with season and climate.

Prominent in and apparently unique to hyraxes is the dorsal gland, which excretes an odour used for social communication and territorial marking. The gland is most clearly visible in dominant males.

The rock hyrax has a prominent pair of long, pointed tusk-like upper incisors which are reminiscent of the elephant, to which the hyrax is distantly related (see below). The forefeet are plantigrade, and the hindfeet semi-digitigrade. The soles of the feet have large, soft pads that are kept moist with sweat-like secretions. In males, the testes are permanently abdominal, another anatomical feature that hyraxes share with their relatives elephants and sirenians.
Thermoregulation in the rock hyrax has been subject to much research, as their body temperature varies with a diurnal rhythm. However, animals kept in constant environmental conditions also display such variation and this internal mechanism may be related to water balance regulation.

Hyraxes live in herds of up to 80 individuals. These herds are subdivided into smaller flocks consisting of a few families. These families consist of 3 to 15 related adult females, a dominant male, and several young. The dominant male defends and watches over the group. The male also marks its territory to avoid any altercations.

In Africa, hyraxes are preyed on by leopards, Egyptian cobras, puff adders, caracals, wild dogs, and eagles.
 Hyraxes feed on a wide variety of different plants, including both grasses and broad leafed plants. They are able to go for many days without water due to the moisture they obtain through their food. Despite their seemingly clumsy build, they are able to climb trees, and will readily enter residential gardens to feed on the leaves of citrus and other trees.

Rock hyraxes give birth to two or three young after a 6–7 month gestation period. The young are well developed at birth with fully opened eyes and complete pelage.

Rock hyraxes are very noisy and sociable. Adults make use of at least 21 different vocal signals.

They are known as dassies in South Africa

Rock hyraxes produce large quantities of hyraceum - a sticky mass of dung and urine that has been employed] as a South African folk remedy in the treatment of several medical disorders, including epilepsy and convulsions. Hyraceum is now being "rediscovered" by intrepid perfumers who tincture it in alcohol to yield a natural animal musk.
Information from: 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sundowner Moth (Sphingomorpha chlorea)

Family Noctuidae
 These are large moths resembling a drab hawk moth.
 The adults are attracted to the smell of over-ripe fruit, beer and sherry
 Larvae are gregarious and feed on Acacia and Marula trees.
 Sundowner Moths fly at night and are attracted to lights.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tetragnatha (long-jawed water spiders)

These are very handy spiders to have as their main food is mosquitoes.
 Tetragnatha is a nocturnal and sometimes diurnal spider.
 The integument is cryptically coloured in shades of brown, cream and green for those species that occur amongst foliage. Tetragnatha has an very elongated body. The long chelicerae projects forward with long fangs folded against it. Its body length is rather small as can be seen on the picture of it on a Morning Glory below.
 The delicate orb-web, with few radii and spirals, is usually horizontally inclined over streams or bodies of water. The web is taken down and reconstructed daily and the spider is often found on an incomplete web.
 On the web the spider resembles a piece of dry grass as the front two pairs of legs are projected forward while the back pairs are projected backwards. Tetragnatha has a world distribution and is the most common genus, of the Tetragnathidae, with 14 species in South Africa. The name is derived from the Greek "tetra" means "four" and "gnathos" means "jaws".

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stink Bug (Coridius nubilis)

Family Pentatomidae
 These are large bugs and easily identified by the last two segments of the antennae being bright orange.
 They are a pest on watermelon and muskmelon plants.
 Their distribution covers all of South Africa and into Namibia where they are also found in bushveld.
Information from: Field Guide to South African Insects

Saturday, August 4, 2012

African Humming Bird Moth (Macroglossum trochilus)

Family Sphingidae
After all these years of taking pictures of our smaller critters, I have learnt not to be surprised when I find something which does not look to be what it is, as in the case of this Humming Bird Moth. You wonder how it can be classified as a MOTH when it clearly looks like a BEE. :)

Not only that, but they feed on the same kind of food as bees do eg. tubular flowers and especially lavender. They are about the same size and coloration too.
See also:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

African Wood White (Leptosia alcesta inalcesta)

 Family Pieridae
The female is larger than the male and its wings are rounder.
 This butterfly is easily recognized by the spot on the upper wing.
 It is a woodland and rain forest dweller with a slow wing-beat and stays out of the sun.

Info from: Field Guide: Butterflies of Southern Africa  By Ivor Migdoll