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28 August 2020

Fluttering and Scuttling

Ranger Tammy

Hi everyone! Welcome back to another blog.

Fluttering here and there, rarely staying in one place long enough to be photographed, Butterflies are one of the most challenging subjects to photograph as they usually fly off the minute a camera focuses on them.

If you love butterflies as much as I do and you want to get at least a few decent photographs of them, I have found the best approach is to just sit very still and quietly near some flowers, preferably ones that have nectar, with your camera primed and ready and wait for them to come to you. Photographing butterflies requires a lot of patience as you are likely to miss at least 80% of your shots if you are not quick enough with your cameras trigger BUT the photos that you do manage to get make it so rewarding.

Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet???

That’s right, they have taste receptors on their feet, this helps them to find various plants and locate food. They also live on an all liquid diet since they can’t chew. They suck up nectar using a straw-like mouthpart called a ‘Proboscis’.

Southern Round-Winged Orange Tip

Also needing minerals in their diets butterflies (usually the males) will drink from mud puddles that are rich in minerals and salts. This behaviour is called ‘mud puddling’ or ‘puddling’. The males will then pass on the minerals and salts to the female butterflies during mating which improves the viability of her eggs.

You will often see butterflies sitting motionless in the sun – this is the perfect photographic opportunity – because they are cold blooded and rely on the warmth from the sun to give them the energy they need to move around.

Quite recently, I’ve bought myself a butterfly book – Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa by Steve Woodhall – it has beautiful photographs of all 671 butterfly species found in South Africa and contains fascinating information on butterfly reproduction and their biology – all with beautiful diagrams. I have found this book incredibly interesting as not only does it detail the butterflies but it also gives you a lot of other interesting information, such as stunning photographs and descriptions of each of South Africa’s biomes and many other interesting chapters on butterfly related topics. I highly recommend it to anyone who really loves butterflies.

I know trying to identify butterflies can be daunting at times. I struggle a lot sometimes as many of them look almost exactly alike. This is when I make use of a Facebook group to help me identify butterflies that I’m not sure of and also confirm identifications that I’ve already made. The members of this group are always incredibly helpful, one of them being Steve Woodhall himself. If any of you ever need their help in identifying your butterfly photos, you can click on this link to go to their group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AfricanLepidoptera

Have you ever heard of a ‘Glow in the Dark Scorpion’? What if I told you that all scorpions are glow in the dark? (With a little help from an Ultraviolet Light that is!)

It seems impossible or maybe just difficult to understand? It’s surprisingly very simple. Scorpions glow when under UV Light because there is a thin layer in their exoskeleton called the ‘hyaline layer’ which reacts to ultraviolet light, like black light or moonlight and causes the scorpions body to glow. Even a fossilised scorpion glows if you shine a UV light on it. Pretty amazing right?

Why scorpions have this unique ability is a mystery to us all. But it does make it fun to go out searching for scorpions at night with a black light torch.

Always keep your distance though, when finding a scorpion. Scorpions with thin pincers and fat tails are Highly Venomous, and scorpions with fat pincers and thin tails are Mildly Venomous. Should you be stung by a mildly venomous scorpion and you have a weak heart for example, it could result in a medical emergency. Remember to always give wild animals the space they deserve. I find the easiest way to move a scorpion from inside your house out to the garden is to simply use a brush and pan, never use your hands. And, when you’re out camping remember to knock your shoes out and don’t leave any clothing laying on the floor of your tent, never become complacent thinking that you will never find a scorpion in your shoe, he won’t be very happy when you stomp on him.

When on safari in the African bush at some time you are bound to see some extraordinary, huge spider webs on the sides of the roads and sometimes even across the width of the road or walking trail. These magnificent webs are the handiwork of a Golden Orb Web Spider. Their webs are incredibly hardy, lasting for years if undisturbed – unlike most spider webs which only last a couple days.

Golden Orb Web Spider

The females can grow up to 30mm long, where the males grow up to a mere 5mm long. Although these spiders may look pretty scary, they are in fact harmless. Their venom is not lethal to humans, causing only redness and some blistering, which usually only happens if the spider is severely provoked as they are calm natured spiders.

The webs of these spiders are so strong that it can even trap small birds! And interestingly – and I don’t know how true this assumption may be – if the web had to be as thick as a pencil and big enough of course, it would apparently be able to withstand and repel a 747 jumbo jet travelling at full speed!

Golden Orb Web Spider

Scuttling, hidden in the shadows a Red Roman (Zeria Schoelandi) is an interesting creature. Neither a spider, nor insect this strange creature is the focal point of many horror stories. Known by many names – Sun Spider, Wind Scorpion, Baardskeerders – the Red Roman has ‘chased’ many a person running from them. Not to worry though, they are only trying to stay in your shadow.

Although they look like spiders, they are not, as they don’t possess any venom or silk glands – although I wouldn’t get too close to one as they are usually quite aggressive – They belong to their own order entirely, called Solifugae.

Red Roman

They collect hair to line their nests, trimming the hair from sleeping people and animals, sometimes leaving bald patches here and there and their target – completely unaware.

These seemingly horrific creatures prefer to live in extremely hot environments and run shadow to shadow during the day so it’s unlikely that you will see them all over the place.

Thanks for reading another one of my blogs! Remember to leave any suggestions or requests for future blogs in the comments section below and please feel free to ask any questions you may have. Thank you all for the amazing comments on my last blogs, I’m so happy that you enjoy learning about my passion and sharing in my experiences.

Remember to stay safe everyone.

Warm regards

Ranger Tammy

7 Comments:

  1. Excellent Tams and very informative.

  2. Fascinating animal and a real challenge to a veterinarian to anaesthetise. Collapse of the valves stops supply of blood to the brain and death. Once down the animal has to be given the reversal drug in few minutes to prevent the cardio respiratory collapse. Enjoy the lovely rain regards

  3. Excellent and informative

  4. You must have had a spectacular view of all those animals after the rain…I will have to find someone to take me there when in East London. Enjoyed reading your post.

    • I really had spectacular sightings! It is one of the best times to come out on a drive. It will definitely be worthwhile to come out on a game drive.

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