Monday, March 22, 2010

Small Creatures

When yesterday I saw this gecko basking in the sun whilst eyeing me suspiciously, I "naturally" went to fetch my camera, because I wanted to record "the moment".

After some "research" on the internet I learned that the toes of geckos are are specially adapted to adhere (= cling) to most surfaces. Also that geckos are found in warm climates around the world & that there are about 2 000 different species worldwide. Apparently the name "gecko" stems from the Indonesian/Japanese word Tokek, inspired by the sound these animals make!

Inspired to "record" more small creatures, I "discovered" this mosquito in our kitchen & duly photographed it. Mosquitoes are said to be around for 100 million years (!!) & in that time have diversified into about 3 000 species. Mosquitoes apparently do not feed on blood but instead, a female mosquito requires a "blood meal" for the development of her eggs = it's only the female, which "bites" us (!!), although humans are not their preferred/favourite target; instead their more common "victims" (hosts) are mammals or birds.

Spiders are like "pets" in our home (because they are "well-represented") whilst I learned that there are about 3 000 known species from 69 families in South Africa alone! Spiders play an important role in nature yet are widely feared - even if the greater majority is harmless to humans. An interesting fact is that for a male spider, mating is an "exercise in caution": he deposits his sperm on a web, then scoops it up & transfers it carefully to the female - because normal copulation would run the risk of his being eaten by his mate.

Talking about mating - these flies weren't shy or feeling restricted in any way :)

Other insects in the garden were also "at it", like these shield bugs. Although people tend to call any offensive insect a "bug", in scientific "language" the word has a precise meaning: bugs are insects, which have sucking or piercing mouthpieces in the form of a beak.

Shield bugs are often brightly coloured & are recognised by their shape, which resembles a shield. They are also often referred to as stink-bugs, because they produce a foul-smelling liquid.

From flies to bugs to ants - I found this "hard-working" group in our bathroom dragging off a fly.

This "scene" reminded me of something I've observed twice before - of a spider-hunting wasp. I "dug into my archive" & found this duly recorded photo. Is the "victim" a baboon spider? In the case of spider-hunting wasps, their sole diet is spiders, as well as the diet of their larvae. These wasps paralyse their prey with a sting before dragging them off to a ready-made hole. I learned that here, the female lays a single egg on the spider's abdomen, then buries both, so that the emerging larvae has a ready supply of food.

Did you know that male wasps can't sting? Compare this with mosquitoes (& apparently also bees) - only the female "bites" = can sting!

Last but not least a photo I took a while ago on a beach in Plettenbergbay (Western Cape Province). This time a wasp (or is it a bee?) is the prey and not the aggressor!

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