CASSIONYMPHA CASSIUS

The Cassionympha cassius butterfly, also known as the Rainforest Brown, is commonly seen in the Western Cape through the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal as they flutter around dense bushes or along forest fringes. This one was in a patch of bush near the road.

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WAS THAT AN EGG?

Large ants scurried underfoot in the Bushveld. Being part of the landscape, they were largely ignored.

They were largely ignored until I spotted this one from a distance carrying something large and white. Was that an egg? I bent down for a closer look.

The ‘egg’ had a stalk attached.

It was no egg, but what could it be? I looked around for similar objects and saw none until the following day when I happened upon a cluster of them lying on the ground.

The mystery was solved. These were fruits from the Karee trees that lined the dam.

DUNG BEETLES

An iconic sign along roads in the Addo Elephant National Park is this one:

It depicts a dung beetle rolling a ball of dung and warns motorists to watch out for dung beetles in the road – very few are actually rolling dung at this time of the year, but the strong implication is that drivers should also avoid driving over mounds of dung as there may be dung beetles harbouring within.

Dung beetles remain in a torpid state during winter and are generally more visible during the warmer weather, especially after the first rains.

This is a typical view of a dung beetle on the road:

They can also be seen in the veld, such as this one:

It would be too much to expect it to actually face me for a portrait shot! I hope to get one later during the summer when there are more of them rolling balls of dung.

HONEY BEES

Bees are a critical part of our food cycle and with the growing publicity given to the adverse effect of diseases on many of the bee species of the world, more people are beginning to appreciate the important role they play in our gardens and in agriculture as a whole. It has often been stated that while bees are indispensable when it comes to our food security, loss of habitat and the increasing use of pesticides in agriculture are also to blame for the current plight of the honey bees.

Sadly, last year we had to have an enormous beehive removed from our roof as several members of our family are allergic to bee stings and the bees had started behaving aggressively whenever we happened to be in the garden. The apiarist was determined to find the queen bee to put in the boxes of bees which he transported to an area out of town where a large number of aloes and other wild flowers grow. In the process he collected buckets filled with honeycombs.

Bees require a diverse habitat in terms of flowering plants, which is why farmers are generally encouraged to maintain natural vegetation and flowering plants near their crop lands. Gardeners are likewise encouraged to plant a range of flowering plants to attract bees. We have always done so and in winter find that the variety of aloes are particular draw cards. Here is a bee visiting one such aloe:

A close-up view shows the pollen sacs on its legs.

Several hundred beehives were destroyed in the recent devastating fires around the areas of Knysna and at Plettenberg Bay. Not only that, but much of their forage was denuded by the fires, which meant that the surviving bees had no food. It has been heartening to read of efforts to provide new hive stands as well as pollen and nectar substitutes for feeding in the short term. I was interested too to find out that plans are afoot to plant both basil and borage – fairly quick growing plants that produce a lot of pollen and nectar.

MOUNTAIN DRIVE

The road up Mountain Drive is narrow and rocky.

In places it is very rocky.

Yet, it so worth the trip for the magnificent views across town from the top!

There were butterflies aplenty skimming the top of the grass, chasing each other, or landing briefly on flowers, trees or even on the stones – where I photographed this orange beauty.

Other insects were burrowed into some of the flowers waving in the wind.

Several termite mounds show signs of repair – note the different coloured mud.

The Cussonia spicata (Cabbage) trees are in bloom, their greenish-yellow terminal double umbels of 8-12 spikes per unit dominant on the skyline.

Other interesting flowers are the bright red Burchellia bubaline (Wild pomegranate)

As well as the beautiful orange of Leonatis leonurus (Wild dagga / Lion’s tail)

 

ELEGANT GRASSHOPPER

The Elegant Grasshopper (Zonocerus elegans) reaches a length of around 5 cm. Its vivid colouration is so successful in deterring predators that these grasshoppers have no real need to escape – hence the underdeveloped wings. The Elegant Grasshopper also relies on its accumulated toxins for protection from predators, producing a yellow liquid through its exoskeleton. Although pretty to look at, these grasshoppers are considered a pest by farmers as they attack various crops such as soya beans, cotton and groundnuts.