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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

African Common White (Belenois cerona severina)

Males have a wingspan of 40-45mm. They are found mainly along the east coast and northern regions.
Male top of wing

Male wing below


Monday, October 29, 2012

Robber Fly (Microstylum)

Family Asilidae
These are large Robber Flies, about 2-4m in length with black marks on top of the last 2 segments of the abdomen. They mostly feed on beetles and grasshoppers but as all Robber Flies, are cannibalistic.
Thanks to Jason for the identification and info from FGISA.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Interesting facts about bees - Part 1

Honey bees' wings beat 11,400 times per minute.

Bees' flight speed averages only 15 miles per hour.

Bees possess five eyes.

Honeybees can perceive movements that are separated by 1/300th of a second. Humans can only sense movements separated by 1/50th of a second. Were a bee to enter a cinema, it would be able to differentiate each individual movie frame being projected.
 Bees cannot recognize the color red.

Honeybees' stingers have a barb which anchors the stinger in the victim's body. The bee leaves its stinger and venom pouch behind and soon dies from abdominal rupture.

Africanized Honey Bees (killer bees) will pursue an enemy 1/4 mile or more.

Honeybees communicate with one another by "dancing" so as to give the direction and distance of flowers.

A single hive contains approximately 40-45,000 bees.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dumpy Longhorn (Tetradia lophoptera)

Family Cerambycidae
 These beetles are of medium size and found mostly in the northern and eastern areas of SA.
 As with most Longhorns, they bore into trees and timber.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Crowned Crane

The Grey-Crowned Crane - Balearica regulorum
The claim to fame of the Grey-Crowned Crane is that it is one of the only cranes to roost in trees and the most primitive crane – it is thought to resemble the many pre-Pliocene fossils from North America and central Asia. "The first crane-like birds, which appeared in the age of dinosaurs, were somewhat similar in body dimensions to a modern crowned crane or its smaller and more aquatic relative, the limpkin" (Matthiessen 2003).
The Grey-Crowned Crane is globally restricted to Africa where the South African population, and the populations of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, make up the smaller population of the two subspecies. They require a mixture of wetlands and grasslands for summer breeding and foraging although they are increasingly found in man-modified habitats (agricultural lands). The overriding conservation challenge is therefore to develop sustainable management alternatives for their co-existence with agriculture on privately-owned land. This species faces widespread degradation of its breeding and feeding habitats and is still persecuted by landowners in some areas – who think that the bird is eating crops whereas they are more likely to be eating insects on those crops (McCann 2002). Over the past two decades, Grey-Crowned Crane numbers have declined by about 15% due to increased human-induced impacts.

Grey-Crowned Cranes nest within or on the edges of wetlands where they build a strong nest from the tall wetland plants, cleverly concealed from predators and the prying eyes of people. They like to forage in open grasslands adjacent to wetlands where they eat grass seeds, insects and other invertebrates – they have also taken to agricultural lands including pastures, fallow fields, maize crops, cabbages and harvested croplands. This generalist feeding strategy has allowed this species to adapt to human settlement better than the Wattled or Blue Cranes and it is regularly now found in this transformed habitat. Unlike other crane species, this crane roosts in trees – its voice has considerable harmonic development and can be heard for miles – cranes use many different calls to communicate and can be very boisterous upon returning to the roost (Cooley 1993). Non-migratory, they do move around locally and in the winter months, large flocks of non-breeding Grey-Crowned Cranes can be found dancing and calling before the onset of the summer breeding period. Intensification of agriculture, tourism development and industrialisation are threatening grasslands at a terrifying rate and indigenous species like cranes are being forced into smaller territories. Wetlands also are alarmingly threatened by human impacts and forcing the Grey-Crowned Crane into populated areas where danger lurks.
Grey-Crowned Cranes also reach maturity at the age of three to four years and once they have found a mate, they usually lay 2 – 3 large smooth eggs in a wetland nest surrounded by tall reeds, secluded from predators. These spring and summer breeders incubate their eggs for about 30 days and take their chicks out onto a nursery area of flattened reeds before they venture into the real world to forage. Chicks fledge at 3 – 4 months and leave their parents when almost a year old to join one of the non-breeding flocks where they look for a mate.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yellow Weevil (Lixus aemulus)

They think that there are 48,000 species of Weevils (family Curculionidea)in the animal kingdom of which we have about 2,500 species. Mostly they are brow / black in color but I was lucky enough to find this lovely yellow one. He is about 1 inch in body length and are plant eaters.

They are not endemic to SA and do a lot of damage to plants.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hover Fly (Asarkina africana)

Family Syrphidae
These are medium-size and have very large red eyes. Hovers very accurately and conspicuously n patches of sunlight in forest gaps or even gardens.
 Proboscis can be extended considerably to reach into flowers.
Information: Field Guide to Insects of South Africa

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

African Goshawk

This large Goshawk is a common resident of our forest and dense riverine areas.
They are usually found solitary or in pairs and captures its prey in flight.
Its food is mainly birds but also eats small mammals, lizards, snakes, frogs and crabs.

This one landed almost at our feet and had caught a crab which it proceeded to eat.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Crab Wall Spider (Flatties)

Anyphops and Selenops species: Family Selenopidae
I have seen these in mostly dull colours but the pink in this one made it quite attractive.

There are two southern African genera, Selenops and Anyphops. Some species occur sympatrically (in the same area) but in different microhabitats (habitats with different environmental conditions e.g. one may be moist while the other will be drier). In the Kruger National Park one species was found to live on the ground while a second was found on the bark of pine trees.

Their broad flat, oval bodies are about 5-23 mm long and the legs spread outwards (latrigrade). They are cryptically coloured in cream to yellow or grey with mottled grey, brown or black markings and the legs are usually banded or mottled which may be distinct or indistinct. As with many spiders, their coloration varies and with the Selenopidae, the colouration can vary from one habitat to another, some resembling the lichen of their rock habitat or colour of the tree they occur on. These spiders do not have the ability to change colour but may result from a process of natural selection where those that did not blend in with the environment ended up as prey items. Selenopids normally appear sedentary and will stay motionless for long periods but they are able to move with great agility in a smooth flowing motion, their latrigrade legs enabling them to move rapidly in any direction. When moving normally their movement resembles that of the Sparassidae.
 The Selenopidae are commonly referred to as wall crab spiders or "flatties" because of their dorsally flattened bodies. This family is named after the Greek moon goddess, Selene, due to the moon-like appearance of the eyes. These spiders are harmless to man.

Selenopidae are well represented in the Afrotropical region. They are nocturnal and free-ranging spiders and are well camouflaged on their usual habitat of rocks and trees where their flattened bodies enable them to retreat into small cracks and crevices. They are also common in houses where they are easily seen, usually inverted, on walls and other surfaces. Here they retreat to small crevices such as those behind skirting boards and picture frames.

The eyes are arranged in two rows with the wide anterior (front) row of six eyes situated near the anterior edge of the carapace and the posterior row of two large eyes situated one on each side. In Selenops the four median form almost a straight row and with Anyphops they form a recurved row.

The smooth, papery egg sacs are disc-shaped and about 15 cm in diameter and are secured against the substrate.

These spiders are useful in controlling insect pests such as mosquitoes, moths and cockroaches. Research has shown that Selenops radiatus can be an effective controlling agent of the potato tuber moth in potato sheds in South Africa.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bark Mantis Nymph (Oxypiloidea tridens)

Family Hymenopodidae
 In many cases it seems easier to find the nymphs or babies of mantis species than it does the adults. Maybe it is because they are more active and move areound more so are noticable.
Thank you Barry and Hilary Blair for the identification.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Blowflies belong to the Calliphoridae family and have to rank amongst the least loved of all our insects.
Calliphoridae adults are commonly shiny with metallic colouring, often with blue, green, or black thoraxes and abdomen. Antennae are 3-segmented, aristate. The arista are plumose the entire length, and the second antennal segment is distinctly grooved. The characteristics and arrangement of hairs are used to tell the difference between members of this family.
The current theory is that females visit carrion both for protein and egg laying, but this remains to be proven. Blow-fly eggs, usually yellowish or white in color, are approximately 1.5 mm x 0.4 mm, and, when laid, look like rice balls. While the female blow-fly typically lays 150-200 eggs per batch, she is usually iteroparous, laying around 2,000 eggs during the course of her life. The sex ratio of blowfly eggs is usually 50:50, but one interesting exception is currently documented in the literature. Females from two species of the genus Chrysomya (C. rufifacies and C. albiceps) are either arrhenogenic (laying only male offspring) or thelygenic (laying only female offspring).
 Hatching from an egg to the first larval stage takes about 8 hours to one day. Larvae have three stages of development (called instars); each stage is separated by a molting event.The instars are separable by examining the posterior spiracles, or openings to the breathing system. The larvae use proteolytic enzymes in their excreta (as well as mechanical grinding by mouth hooks) to break down proteins on the livestock or corpse they are feeding on. Blowflies are poikilothermin, which is to say that the rate at which they grow and develop is highly dependent on temperature and species. Under room temperature (about 20 degrees Celsius) the black blowfly Phormia regina can go from egg to pupa in 150–266 hours (6 to 11 days). When the third stage is complete the pupa will leave the corpse and burrow into the ground, emerging as an adult 7 to 14 days later.
 There are 1,100 known species of blowflies, with 228 species in the Neotropics, and a large number of species in Africa and Southern Europe. The most common area to find Calliphoridae species are in the countries of India, Japan, Central America and Southern United States.

The typical habitat for blow-flies are temperate to tropical areas that provide a layer of loose, damp soil and litter where larvae may thrive and pupate.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spiny Leaf Beetle (Dicladispa)

Family Chrysomelidae
This one was tiny, about 4mm called a Spiny Leaf Beetle (Dicladispa) belonging to the Chrysomelidae family. The larvae are leaf miners and are well hidden within the leaves.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Robber Fly (Neolophonotus sp)

Family Asilidae
Both the robber flies in these pictures are females of the Neolophonotus species. (Thank you Jason for the identification.)
 According to FGISA the larger and more common species occur in the southwestern Cape where they prey on honeybees. Larvae kive in rich humus at the base of maize plants.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Centipede in my bath

Today I want to try something new and see if it works ........

This is my first attempt to video something with my new camera and it turned out to be an interesting subject but one I would have preferred to find outside and not in my bath!! :) I caught it and put it in my fishtank in order to take pictures and this video of it.

This centipede is about 5 inches (14cm) in length. They do not have 100 legs as their name suggests but average,30-50. They are estimated to have been found 300 million years ago which makes them amongst the oldest land living arthropds. Centipedes are equipped with two poison pincers on the sides of its head which are used to incapacitate its prey but these are not harmful to humans. They mainly feed on nocturnal insects such as cockroaches but some species of centipede are specialist feeders and actively hunt scorpions and spiders.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Longhorn Beetle (Phyllocnema mirifica)

Family Cerambycidae
Besides finding out that this beetle has been noted in Natal and Louis Trichardt, there is no information available on it.
Photograph courtesy: Dorothy Venter (Natal)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sungazer Lizard (Cordylus giganteus)

Family Cordylids
This is the only one of this species found here. It is larger and more spiny than any of the other Girdled Lizards.

Juveniles have a distinctive coloration with bars and blotches of yellow to orange, interspersed with blackish brown on the body and black and yellow bands with orange spots on the tail.
They get their common name from their characteristic posture of basking with their head and foreparts raised as if gazing at the sun.

They feed mostly on beetles, millipedes, bugs, ants, grasshoppers and butterflies but will occasionally eat small rodents. Sungazers feed for about 8 months out of a year and in the winter remain dormant underground in burrows which they excavate themselves.

They produce 1-2 live young in the late summer probably only every second year.