REVISITING THE RAIN SPIDER

I recently published this photograph of a rain spider on its nest tucked under a roof outside our kitchen:

My attention was focused on the large spider and how protective it appears in this photograph. Some of the comments indicated much the same focus. At the time I wondered about the fluffy appearance of the exterior of the nest and I even peered into those holes, leaving none the wiser. The sharp-eyed among my readers kept silent, perhaps taking what they observed for granted. This morning I noticed that the spider had disappeared and, in its absence, peered at the nest more closely for those fringes of fluff had a definite shape to them. Hooray for the magnifying qualities of a cellphone camera:

The ‘fluff’ are clearly the skins sloughed off by the hundreds of tiny spiders that must have hatched within the nest! This leaves me wondering what their survival rate is.

WHITE SPOTTED FRUIT CHAFER

This shiny black beetle with eight white spots was easy to see against the greenery in the garden as I walked past:

A closer look revealed it likely to be a White-spotted Fruit Chafer (Mausoleopsis amabilis), which feeds on decaying plant matter, fungi, dung, and flowers. This one appears to be eating a leaf.

Although these chafers are common to most habitat types in Southern Africa, I haven’t seen many of them in my garden before. In the picture below, you might spot an insect I didn’t see at the time – a brown spiky-legged creature on the leaf in the foreground.

THE SNAIL

THE SNAIL – William Cowper (1731-1800)

To grass, or leaf, or fruit, or wall,
The snail sticks close, nor fears to fall,
As if he grew there, house and all
                                                Together.

Within that house secure he hides,
When danger imminent betides
Of storm, or other harm besides
                                                Of weather.

Give but his horns the slightest touch,
His self-collecting power is such,
He shrinks into his house, with much
                                                Displeasure.

Where’er he dwells, he dwells alone,
Except himself has chattels none,
Well satisfied to be his own
                                                Whole treasure.

Thus, hermit-like, his life he leads,
Nor partner of his banquet needs,
And if he meets one, only feeds
                                                The faster.

Who seeks him must be worse than blind,
(He and his house are so combin’d)
If, finding it, he fails to find
                                                Its master.

This poem came to mind after seeing so many snails moving about the garden and in the streets after our recent rain – a change from coming across empty shells!

FOUR BUGS VISITING

The weather has been too chilly for there to be much insect activity at night over the past few weeks. The first two featured are visitors to my study where this one came to inspect the texture of my work surface:

Followed by this one that was doing a quality check on the paper I use:

More interesting as far as their patterned wings are concerned are these two moths which have visited my bedroom recently. The first one tried to help me solve a crossword:

While the second thought it was raining inside the bottle.

MEET SONGOLOLO

There are so many songololos around at this time of the year that one has to be careful not to crush them underfoot – or to drive over them! We had one in our kitchen recently that kept appearing in the most busy area. After nudging it gently out of the way a few times, I waited for it to roll itself into a spring-like coil before picking it up to take it outdoors. Not long after it – or another one – was back!

Songololo is the delightful South African name for this millipede and comes from the Nguni for ‘roll up’ – which what it does when alarmed. Their preferred habitat is somewhere shady and humid. They are both herbivores and detritivores for they eat decaying matter such as leaves and fruit which have fallen to the ground and started to rot.