A FUNKY LOOKING BUG

This funky looking bug settled on a sheet of paper next to my computer. It has an interesting antennae.

In what looks like a slightly pointed rear are tail wings that seem to be used akin to the rotor of a helicopter.

Here it is in walking motion.

Despite the blur of its wings, you can tell from the letters alongside how tiny it is.

NUPTIAL FLIGHTS

The conditions were perfect yesterday for the air after lunch was warm and humid; not a leaf moved it was so still. My attention was drawn to a slight ‘rubbing’ noise akin to stockings rubbing together or a coarse polishing cloth being used around the corner from where I was sitting. When I looked up the air was filled with winged ants.

These flying ants, known as alates, emerged from at least three places quite close to each other – hundreds of them. I watched as several of them poked their heads through the gaps at a time, shook their delicate wings and flew off. Onward and upward seemed to be the clarion call.

The ground around the openings was crawling with tiny white termites, newly emerged alates and discarded wings. Careful observation occasionally revealed two ants (these would have been males and females) flying joined together in their nuptial flight. Although they emerge at the same time, the queens release pheromones to attract males before mating and usually mates with several males if they can.

I wasn’t the only one watching for even the Laughing Doves and the Speckled Pigeons were ready for a feast:

Red-winged Starlings swooped down to catch as many ants in one go as they could:

Black-collared Barbets preferred to catch the flying ants on the wing as they flew passed them perched on the higher branches:

We have a number of lizards and geckos all over the garden. The two on the wall closest to the origin of this feast scuttled back and forth catching unsuspecting flying ants on the trot until their bellies were fully extended.

At a higher level, they were being caught by Fork-tailed Drongos and White-rumped Swifts. It is thus easy to understand that appearing in such large numbers at once provides the flying ants with a degree of protection from potential predators.

YELLOW PANSY

It was a very travel-worn Yellow Pansy (Junonia hierta) that landed at my feet in the middle of the drought-stricken veld the other day.

These attractive butterflies occur over much of South Africa in grasslands and scrub as well as in gardens, where they tend to fly low and rather fast. Judging by the tattered wings of this specimen, I am surprised it could still fly at all! Their habit of returning to more or less the same spot meant that, having spotted it fluttering about, I could wait – fairly patiently – until it returned for a photograph.

I am fascinated by the naming of species and in http://www.dispar.org/reference.php?id=14 discovered that the Juno part of the scientific name comes from the Roman goddess, Juno, who possessed a chariot drawn by peacocks.

These birds were sacred to her. For those interested in Roman mythology, she was the wife of Jupiter and was the goddess of marriage and childbirth. Her son was Mars, the god of war. You can read more about her in https://www.ancient.eu/Juno/.

Back to the butterfly, the wing patterns of which resemble a pansy – hence the common name. You cannot miss seeing these butterflies, which fortuitously often settle on the ground with their wings open. This one still looks beautiful despite its tattered condition.

ALOE POLLINATORS

Several aloes are still blooming in different parts of the country as the winter stretches out. Their bright colours attract a variety of pollinators, of which these are only a few:

This female Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa caffra) is an efficient pollinator that visits the flowers for nectar and pollen. The males are completely covered in yellow hairs.

The silhouette of the sunbird below belongs to a Greater Double-collared Sunbird. I only know because I saw it beforehand.

Bees and hoverflies play a role in pollinating the aloes too.

One can tell how successful the season’s pollination has been by the swollen fruits that appear later.

NOTE: Click on a photograph for a larger view.

MOTH V

As you can tell, we have been visited by a variety of moths lately. We are heading towards a much colder spell of weather, so this will be the last moth that I will be showing you for a while:

The wings of this one looks as though it has been decorated with a silky fringe. These are actually fine hairs or a projection of scales that is known as the cilia.