ACANTHACRIS RUFICORNIS

You might remember the brown grasshopper perched on the aloe I showcased last month (https://somethingovertea.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/grasshopper-on-aloe/). It looked at me unblinkingly then and paid no attention to my cell phone coming ever closer to capture its image. Significantly, it was on its own and I thought nothing more about it. Since then I have seen it – or another solo traveller – on our back path. These large brown grasshoppers are commonly found in gardens and are recognised by the dark brown spots on their wings – and are quite fearsome when observed closely.

Less welcome was seeing it – or a pal or a pal of that pal – in the flower bed I am trying to nurture against all odds. At first I admired how well it blended in with the dried leaves that the Berg Wind has piled up in the corner.

Then I noticed it was nibbling a leaf of a calendula seedling I had planted less than a week ago. Given that some countries north of the equator have been devastated by swarms of locusts, I was pleased this was a single one – and they do have to eat after all. What is one leaf when there are many more?

It was only when I looked at these photographs that I realised how much of the plant had already been eaten. Today I see the entire calendula plant has been nibbled to within an inch of its life – only the base of the stem is left with not even a vestige of leaves in sight. If this is what a single grasshopper can do, imagine a swarm of hundreds of them chomping their way through your garden – never mind your crops!

NO BEES

Bees have been very scarce in our garden for a while now. I am thus concerned that the few flowers we have enjoyed this winter have fallen foul of the lack of pollinators.

BUT WE HAVE THESE:

While looking at the stunted, yet very pretty, self-sown cosmos I noticed it being visited by this insect:

A much closer view reveals it to look like this:

It moved to the next flower and was joined by this one:

Both have a long proboscis. There are a lot of ordinary flies about too, so I realise I need to stop thinking about bees, butterflies, moths and beetles being the only pollinators – nature makes sure there is a variety.

IT KEEPS ON GIVING

The Cape Honeysuckle is a plant that keeps on giving. We look forward to its bright orange blooms every season, usually appearing at a time when the garden is looking rather drab. This blaze of colour is in our back garden, which tends to be neglected during winter.

Seen close-up, you can appreciate why the blossoms would be popular with pollinators such as ants, bees and butterflies.

There is plenty for everyone.

The tubular flowers are a favourite among the sunbirds. Here a Greater Double-collared Sunbird slips his perfectly formed bill in to reach the nectar.

Weavers generally peck holes in the base of the tube, or snip the flower off its base to get the sweetness they desire. This explains why so many flowers end up on the ground even on the finest of days. Once the flowers are over, one might be forgiven for thinking there would be nothing more to offer. This plant keeps on giving though: its seeds are sought after by, amongst others, Streakyheaded Seedeaters.

Recently I have spotted several bees on the leaves. I cannot be sure what sustenance they are finding there, but I see a few of them out almost daily.

MORE MOUNTAIN DRIVE FLOWERS

I was enticed off the road by one of these flowers growing in the short grass:

Seen close-up they look like this – note there are at least three insects on this one:

This pretty little flower vied for attention too:

While this yellow flower, growing on the edge of the road, has clearly been feasted upon:

Imagine my delight when I came upon this still unopened Protea thriving some distance from the road:

SOME MOUNTAIN DRIVE FLOWERS

I mentioned that the thick grassy covering along Mountain Drive hides a number of tiny wild flowers and insects – much more visible to the walking eye than to the driving one. The size, colours and shapes of the flowers are intriguing – as is their tenacity to survive on this cold and windy ridge. Perhaps the grass provides them with shelter. Then there are the insects, finding sustenance where they can – what better than a flower for them!

As tiny as they are, the bright yellow of these Senecio spp stand out next to the road and peep out among the winter bleached grass. Most hosted at least one insect; this one has three.

Easier to spot are these long-stemmed white flowers waving in the grass. If you look closely on the left you will see that it too sports an insect.

Much more difficult to see are these tiny pale lilac flowers highlighted by the late afternoon sun.

Also difficult to discern between the thick grass cover are these beautiful flowers – this one already discovered by an ant.