Archive for the ‘Creatures Great & Small’ Category

Bushtrail surprise sighting

February 2nd, 2010, posted in Creatures Great & Small

A bush trail is about spending time in the bush observing nature in every form from the large animals to the small, getting insight into how it all comes together, the trees, soil, rivers and flowers.  Think of it as a nature walk with your own personal guide, pointing out things you and I could easily miss.

Yesterday afternoon, we braved the elements and took a gamble on the weather, the thunder was rolling in but rolled down into the next valley, leaving us without rain and although the lighting was beautiful, I only had my phone camera with me as normally happens on impromptu walks! So the pictures are not of good quality, sorry.

Our bushtrail allowed us a close-up sighting of a Winged Predatory Katydid, that’s a Clonia wahlbergi for all those entomologists who read my posts!!! It was a female – laying her eggs in the sandy ground.

The Winged predatory katydid has a very slender but long body (40-65mm in length); it is an apple green colour with fine markings as though it were carefully painted making such a veracious predator look quite beautiful!

Since our sighting did not allow us to view its wings, we returned back to read more – the wings are fully developed and the anal area of the hind wings is whitish with brown bars. It is wide spread in bushveld, forest margins and grasslands, so taking a bush trail when next you can on a game reserve could result in you also sighting this fascinating insect!

Leaf Mantid – Africa’s Sci-fi character

November 23rd, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

Today’s story is about a Leaf Mantid, Phyllocrania paradoxa, found on a bush walk on the game reserve in the northern parts of South Africa.

I personally believe the insect world inspires the science fiction movies of today, taking a closer look at their heads and eyes; they definitely resemble the general alien look!

Triangular head, leaf mantid

Triangular head, leaf mantid

l-mantid

This insect is large with a body length of about 44mm. Sexes differ in appearance. Males are slender and mottled brown with dark shoulders and have a darker cross on their hind wings. The photos below indicate a male leaf Mantid. These insects are a superb mimic of dead leaves, remaining motionless while waiting for prey to within grasp. These Phyllocrania paradoxa are found in sub-tropical vegetation and along forest margins which is where we found this odd creature!

looking like a leaf

looking like a leaf

keeping still

keeping still

up-side-down

up-side-down

Some people wonder if life out in the African Bush can become a bit boring, rather it is quite the opposite and a careful study of peculiar insects like the Hymenopodidae family or even the whole order Mantodea can produce hideous discussions as to why they have extraordinarily mobile heads, large compound eyes that are set high on their upper corners and heavily spined fore legs!

For an almost 6-year old boy the thought of such a small creature being predatory results in an unrelenting series of questions, how do they catch their prey? The Leaf Mantid uses its spiky legs to ambush and grasp live prey.

leaf-mantid7

peek-a-boo

peek-a-boo

leaf-like legs

leaf-like legs

phyllocrania paradoxa

phyllocrania paradoxa

x-files

x-files

Wasp Brood Hut

November 5th, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

One lazy Sunday afternoon, we watched a wasp build a mud hut, she would fly to a nearby mud puddle, pick up some sand and then dip it into the water, carrying this ball of mud to it’s newly found corner of our outside windowsill. This carried on for hours and eventually there was only a tiny round opening left.

mud house of a wasp

mud house of a wasp

placing the worm into the mud capsule

placing the worm into the mud capsule

last worm, visible through opening

last worm, visible through opening

Then, one by one we watched her bring in a spider and six bright green worms, push them into her mud hut and then after a brief rest, she laid her eggs into her mud nest.

This wasp is Delta emarginatum and can be found throughout South Africa.
Delta emarginatum is a large wasp with a body length of 24-35mm, it is long waisted, dark brown to black with dark red markings on head, thorax and waist.

laying the egg

laying the egg

felmale wasp inserting her abdomen into the mud nest

felmale wasp inserting her abdomen into the mud nest

sealing the house

sealing the house

Nursing Dung Beetle

October 20th, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

The Nursing Dung Beetle (Copris mesacanthus) has a 17mm body. It has a long rhino-type horn which is why some people confuse it with the Rhinoceros Dung Beetle. The adults fashion soil-coated brood balls from dung.  These are taken down burrows below or beside fresh dung pads.  Some dung is retained as food.

The Male Nursing Beetle

The Male Nursing Beetle

The Name was given to this species of Dung Beetle because the female stays in the nest with its progeny until they are big enough to collect their own dung!

Late afternoon sighting of a male Nursing dung beetle

Late afternoon sighting of a male Nursing dung beetle

Just look at the size!

Just look at the size!

Crab Pincers

October 15th, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

It was a relaxed short walk down to the waterfall, there is something calming about the sound of running water, Joshua leapt from rock to rock and then found a crevice in which to wedge himself, climbed under a rock and then excitedly pointed to parts of a crab’s exoskeleton. The sun bleached ‘claw’, appendages and pincer had captured his attention and for the next hour Joshua began asking questions about crabs. To which I had to rack my memory to find him answers!! Are crabs white? How many legs do crabs have? What do crabs eat? Where do crabs live? How big are crabs? What can pincers do to people? etc etc.

Joshua holds the crab pincer to show the world!

Joshua holds the crab pincer to show the world!

Joshua points to the little crab leg

Joshua points to the little crab leg

Python dies

July 13th, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

Ranger out in the field came across this 7m pyhton, sadly it was dead.

toktokkies

July 13th, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

Toktokkies are Joshua’s favourite insect.  Whether it’s the way they; tap tap tap to find a mate, or their shiny black exoskeleton and white legs, we are still not sure, but these beetles fascinate Joshua and keeps him busy for minutes (he’s a very active boy and concentrating for more than 30 minutes at any give time is a major feat!).

 
 
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