ANOTHER STRANGE VISITOR

Before these pictures get ‘lost’ in the depths of my archives, I must introduce you to a visitor who arrived unannounced on (should I say at?) my front door near the end of July. I first saw the shape of the visitor as I walked down the passage … and gingerly opened the door to see my visitor face to face… it was a very large stick insect (Phasmida).

There are a variety of stick insects in this country and I think this is only about the third time I have seen one in our garden. From the pictures I have perused, it might be a Cape Stick Insect (Phalces brevis) but I am not putting my head on a block about the accuracy of this identification. This is what its head looks like:

The tail end looks like this:

Our visitor remained on the outside of our front door – barely moving its position – for three days before it left. I ‘safely’ measured it against my hand from the other side of the glass and found it was a lot longer than my hand. Actually, despite their size, stick insects are not harmful to humans.

INSECTS ON PLANTS

We tend to admire flowers and other plants for the beauty of their shape and colour. Look at plants more closely and you might be surprised by what else you can find. The other day I was intrigued to see weaver walking unsteadily across the top of a lavender bush. It would fly up only to land again to continue its purposeful, yet unsteady, progress … then it caught a large praying mantid in its beak and flew off – mission accomplished. This set me off on a mission of my own, the results of which are shown below:

BREAKFAST VISITOR

I thought a leaf had fallen onto me while I was breakfasting outdoors this morning – something green caught my eye while I was watching birds at the feeders. Then I felt movement and looked down …

… a praying mantid was walking across my lap. That was fine … until it decided to head towards my face! It was promptly removed and placed where it blended in with its surroundings:

WHAT THE CAMERA SEES

I posted this picture recently:

It was part of a series showing flowers I had seen growing along the road side. Nothing particularly outstanding about it, you might say and I wouldn’t blame you. It’s just a plain yellow flower against a stony background … true. However, when I was checking that blog post something about the petals caught my eye at about four o’clock on the daisy. There appears to be a wider gap between the petals there than elsewhere on the flower … and a yellow lump between two of the petals. Don’t be perturbed if you cannot make it out – I had the benefit of blowing up the picture to fill the screen. This is what I saw:

Out in the middle of nowhere, I had inadvertently happened upon a yellow spider chomping an unsuspecting bee that had been going about its business collecting pollen – only to end up as Sunday dinner!

COTYLEDON ORBICULATA – ANOTHER REPEAT

I cannot help revisiting this lovely indigenous succulent that grows in several places in our garden as well as in large clumps in the surrounding countryside. This is because while the flowering season of the Cotyledon orbiculata should be long over, there are still a few blossoms out. Again, I think this may be thanks to some late unexpected rain. I will skip the details given in an earlier post about them and focus on different aspects of them instead. When you see paddle-shaped leaves featuring such tiny buds …

… could you imagine that before long the plant would look like this? This one grows outside my kitchen door and, on this occasion, hosts a male Greater Double-collared Sunbird that spent a long time probing the tubular flowers to get at the nectar.

As the flowers open, they curl up at the bottom so that the stamens stick out – making them an easy target for beetles and bees.

A closer look at another plant, this one is growing next to our garage, reveals that the flowers are sometimes attacked in more vicious ways so that the intruders can feed on their precious nectar. In between the raindrops, you will see parts of the flower have been eaten away even before they have opened properly.

These insects (black bean aphids?) don’t look either strong enough or mean enough to wreak such damage, although they would be able to suck up the sap from within.

Aha! Having noticed holes at the base of some of the flowers, I took a closer look using my trusty cell phone: ants!

Not only are they walking all over the plant, but are digging around inside the hole – doubtless to get at the ‘good stuff’.