🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

A (Tongue-in-Cheek) Comprehensive Guide to Yellow Stripey Things


Having a backyard means getting out to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air with family and friends. Braaiing (barbequeing), lounging by the pool, planting flowers in the garden, etc. However,what usually comes with beautiful nature and fresh air, is the variety of insects and more particularly, BEES! The spring, summer and early autumn is a busy time for this wide variety of yellow stripey things. Bumblebee, Dirt Dauber, Cicada Killer, Yellow Jacket, etc … Cicada Killer? Who knew there were so many different kinds (but you just gotta love 'em all!) …where are they lurking? and are they dangerous? Let’s find out…

Carpenter Bee

Acts like it’s hot shit, but can’t actually hurt you – Has no concept of what glass is – Lives in your fence – Flies aggressively to try to scare you away.

These guys are primary pollinators and frequent visitors to suburban flowerbeds! When threatened, they show aggression by hovering in front of people/faces, but rarely sting. In fact, in many species of carpenter bees, the males have no stinger at all. The only real threat they pose is to wood structures because carpenter bees do not live in nests or colonies. They bore into wood and tend to prefer decaying or weathered wood, as opposed to new or painted wood.

Honeybee

Is the bee that needs help the most – Excellent pollinator – Very friendly – Can only sting once.

These little guys are not usually a threat – they’re just looking for nectar to make honey. A hive, however, should be dealt with especially if it’s too close to your home. If you have a bee colony you want to get rid of, an exterminator is NOT the best answer! Instead, contact a bee removal expert who can capture the queen and put the colony to good use! Honeybees rarely sting unless provoked (usually if they feel the colony is threatened) Honey bees can only sting once and then die shortly after.

Bumblebee

Also pollinates stuff really well – So fat it shouldn’t be able to fly – Will let you pet it without getting agitated – Actually a flying panda!

These slow flyers are often seen visiting flowers in a garden. Most of these fuzzy, oversized bees are black and yellow, though some also have a tint of orange. Bumblebees live in small colonies, and they defend their nests quickly by stinging and pursuing threats to save their hives. They build their nests out of pollen clumps, usually in the ground or a dense grass clump. Their stings are known to be painful -however, they rarely sting while rummaging in flowers, just in defense.

Hoverfly

Wears yellow stripey uniform to scare you – Actually can’t do anything to you – Hangs out in fields – Follows you if it likes you.

Hoverflies look like small bees and wasps. They are the helicopters of the insect world, often seen hovering in the air, darting a short distance, and then hovering again. The hoverfly doesn’t have a sting in its tail and is completely harmless. Their bright color is to trick predators, (and you!) into thinking they can sting.

Paper Wasp

Looks scary but will only attack if provoked – Sting hurts like hell – Will chase you if you swat at it – Has no concept of your personal space!

Paper wasps feed on nectar and insects, which technically make them a beneficial insect! They will rarely sting unless you get to close to their umbrella-shaped open-face nests. Nests are often found hanging from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, as well as porch ceilings, door frames, eaves, deck floor joints, etc. Their sting is known to be more painful than honeybee stings and can produce reactions in those allergic to their venom.

Yellow Jacket

Wants your food and will fight you for it – Never leaves you alone – Will sting you just for the hell of it – Is just an asshole!

These are highly aggressive insects! They develop large colonies that are intensely defended. As a result, people can be swarmed in a matter of minutes, often getting stung hundreds of times. These insects are especially fond of hunting in and around trash piles and garbage cans. They are a common invader to outdoor picnics! This still doesn't mean you should kill them, just flee!

Cicada Killer

Looks like satan's nightmares – Exclusively eats cicadas – Can sting you but usually won’t – Still pretty terrifying.

Cicada killers are only threatening if … well, if you’re a cicada. The cicada killer is a solitary type of wasp that’s often mistaken for a hornet. They’re most commonly found hunting cicadas in trees or burrowing in soft ground. Although the females have stingers, they usually reserve it for cicadas. Female cicada killers will only attack humans if they are provoked.

Dirt Dauber

Almost never stings anything unless it's a spider – Builds nests in the ground – Hoards spiders in said nests – Coolest looking of the wasps.

Daubers are solitary insects most known for their habit of building nests out of the mud. They are capable of stinging, however unlikely to do so – even when disturbed (aaaaaw!). They’re not aggressive, and they do not defend their nests as social wasps do.

However, if you do get stung, you can find out what to do HERE.


Sunday, 9 September 2018

There you will find me ...

I am the wings of a butterfly,
I am the storm clouds high above,
I am the glitter of the blue sky,
I am the ballad of a dove


I am the silver of a moon-beam,
I am the roar of the sea,
I am the laughter of a child's dream,
I am the falcon wild and free

I am all colours of the rainbow,
I am the sun at daybreak,
I am Autumn's art show,
I am the sparkle upon a lake

I am the whisper of a warm breeze
I am the flower newly grown,
I am the chatter of the swarm bees,
I am the seed freshly sown
I am the silence of an empty plain,

I am the snow on the mountain peak,
I am the roam of a country lane,
I am the burning tear cross your cheek

... there you will find me...
I am the beat that fills your heart.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Animals don't have a voice

Animals don't have a voice ...


So guess what?

You'll never stop hearing mine!

 

Thursday, 6 September 2018

This odd bird, the Hadeda ...

I know most of you expats contemplating a move to South Africa are worried about crime. But you know what you should REALLY be worried about? The Hadeda!


Yes, that’s right, a bird.  And not just any bird. The Hadeda (curiously a member of the Ibis family) will be the reason you will wake up at five a.m. on your first South African morning, convinced that someone’s killing your neighbor. Or maybe more like your neighbor’s pig. Holy S#!t! It is a screech to wake up the dead.

 A Hadeda’s plumage has a beautiful iridescent sheen

And you will think: Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding me! I cannot live in this country. Or, rather, I cannot SLEEP in this country!

For weeks you’ll be scheming about ways to shut these guys up, but trust me, it’s not possible. We have a cat that catches everything that flies, but she doesn’t touch Hadedas. I suppose she is not as dumb as we thought when she jumped into the fireplace and got her whiskers singed. Because even a little Hadeda probably weighs more than her, and because that beak is really long and pointy.

You wonder why they have to be so loud. None of the other Ibis-related birds are so loud. In fact, none of the other Ibis-related birds make any sound at all. Leave it to our family to pick the one place to live that has the only non-mute ibises in the whole world.

Some say they are afraid of heights and screech out of fear. A bird, afraid of heights? That’s got to be a first.  But it’s true, they only screech when they’re flying, often in groups all screeching together, and mostly in the mornings and evenings. In between, they are the most peaceful creatures, stalking around your lawn looking pretty and making themselves useful.

What, useful, you will ask? And it’s true. What they love most for dinner and are very adept at extracting from your lawn are Parktown Prawns. Yes, those things. Or their larvae. Or pupae. Frankly, I don’t care. Whichever form they digest them in, every Parktown Prawn less on my property is a good thing.

I just have to make peace with a pig squealing bloody murder every single morning.
(From "Moving to South Africa? Beware of the Hadeda!")

And make peace with the fact that there is no more sleep after 04:25h anymore...

Sunday, 5 August 2018

I took a stroll

 
I took a little stroll 
along the pathway 
and observed the wild flowers blooming.
.
It was a very fine day.
.
(Photo taken on my stroll through Sheffield Beach Estate, Ballito, KwaZulu Natal)

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Today


It has been 6 weeks since we sold our smallholding and Gauteng in moved down to the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) (ONLY 6 weeks??!! feels like a life-time!) and it has taken me all this while to find my feet, gather my thoughts and feel as if I once again belong somewhere. The biggest thing about moving from a place where you have lived for 43 years is seemingly losing your 'identity' - an identity tied to the bird life you studied for so many years, an identity tied to the grass, trees and the very soil you were walking on, an identity tied to "your" plants and birds and insects and little animals nurtured in your garden for so long.


I open my eyes in the mornings and in stead of hearing the Cape Robin-chat singing on my patio, I hear the exotic sound of the Burchell's Coucal outside my window, the sound of the surf pounding on the beach in stead of traffic whizzing past my front gate, and when I rise and go for an early morning walk, I see tropical (and unknown!) vegetation in stead of veld grass and Bluegum trees. A big a change as you can ever imagine!

Yes, it has taken me 6 weeks to get into the swing of things in this new life we have chosen and although I was, and still am, mourning the loss of my pets (my chooks will forever be ingrained in my heart), I now look forward to discovering all that is new in this exotic coastal location; insects I have never seen in my life, the names of the trees and plants which thrive in these hot and humid conditions and finding out which succulents like to grow here!

















Saturday, 2 December 2017

Walk on the wild side


As I went on a mission to rid my wildlife pond area of the beautifully green and thirsty Kikuyu lawn over the past few months, I seemed to be fighting a losing battle. As fast as I was removing it, leaving only the indigenous grasses, the lawn seemed to organise its own offensive to get rid of me. The left-overs flourished in all the rain we’ve been having, all the while displaying taunting evidence of a new generation destined to pick up the fight next year!

But this time it appeared my mid-summer decision to let nature take its course has finally been rewarded. The native grasses have loved all the water and attention spent on it and is now offering plenty of food and shelter in this area for birds, insects and small wildlife.

Yellow Thatching Grass usually grows in sandy soil in bushveld with a rainfall in excess of 600 mm per annum. It is also found in open grassland and sometimes in other soil types. Often abundant along roadsides it is found throughout tropical Africa and I am lucky that some of it took hold in my garden.

During summer, mowing this Kikuyu is a 3x a week job and this piece of lawn is defying all efforts to get rid of it!

At last, mid-summer last year, and the indigenous grasses won the battle against the Kikuyu  (right at the back of this pic), offering food and shelter for lots of wildlife. A few Hens & Chicks (Chlorophytum comosum) that I planted around this Acacia tree absolutely thrived as the wildlife pond is fenced and no chickens can get in here to do their dirty deeds!


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