Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Rain Loving Creatures of Botswana

Yesterday late afternoon we had a tremendous storm. The kind I love with thunder and lightening, black skies and sheets of rain. I knew this morning, out on my walk, I would find all of the morning rain lovers and I was not disappointed.


After a good rain, the red furry spiders come out. My son has informed me that they are not spiders; I can’t confirm or deny this. They look like spiders anyway. I know nothing about their ecology, but I imagine from the look of them they are either poisonous to birds and others that might want to eat them or very bad tasting. This morning while trying to get a picture of these fast furry fellows, I found one which sat very still for me. It was dead; busy being eaten by a mob of tiny ants. So at least I know now that ants eat them. My husband has informed me that when they were children they called these furry red spiders (or not) ntsanyana ya modimo- the puppy of God. I think that is delightful especially if you keep in mind how precious rain is here and how these guys only pitch up when we’ve had some.




The other rain loving creature that was out in force and in a multitude of sizes this morning was the millipede. We have incredible millipedes that love to come out after the rain. I’ve seen some as long as my forearm. This morning I saw small ones and medium size ones and quite a big one. Being a much better photographer in theory than I am in practice, I took pictures of all sizes, but upon loading the pictures into the computer I realised that I didn’t put anything in the photo for reference so they all look about the same size. Sorry about that. The Setswana word for millipede is one of the first that non-Setswana speakers learn as it is so much fun to say- sebokolodi.

Now tonight we will have the flying termites. They come after a good rain. I don’t know if it is true, but I was told once that they have wings for only one night to fly in the sky in search of mates. They fly for only a few hours and then fall to the ground and their wings fall off. They crawl around then and find ‘the one’. If you leave a light on, they will crowd around it en masse. In the morning, you will be left with piles of light brown, transparent wings under the light, but no termites. Look out in your yard. If it is nicely cleared and swept, you will see hundreds of little mounds of dirt. I got such a shock the first time I saw them. The termites have all disappeared underground. It only happens after the first few good rains then it’s over until the next year. The dikokobele will be finished for the year.



Although dung beetles (khukhwane ya boloko) are not exclusively rain lovers, I was happy to see one this morning. You’ve got to appreciate their industriousness.

9 comments:

Kayt said...

I enjoyed this immensely. I really like macro photography (both doing and looking), but moreover I find crawly creatures fascinating (as long as they aren't crawling on me) and I am nuts about spiders - even if this isn't one. Dung beetles just rock IMO, they seem so strong and coordinated, not to mention what a great clean up service they provide.

Cricket said...

What fascinating pictures and your descriptions only made them more interesting. Only in the last few years have a developed a true love for nature. How peaceful it is to watch the birds or enjoy a good storm.

Lauri said...

I watched a show about dung beetles that said that they are perfect at orienteering. If you watch them they turn and push from behind, then stop climb on top and then get back into push position again. On top they are checking out the position of the sun so that they keep on track. I think it's amazing how something so tiny can have better skills then some of us.

groovyoldlady said...

From the legs and body segments, I'd say that your red fuzzy guy does indeed qualify as an arachnid. How big are they?

Lauri said...

The fuzzy red spiders range from about the size of the knobby thing on an AA battery to a bit smaller than the diameter of the AA battery itself.

My son, being 15 and, surprisingly, the font of all wisdom in the universe, looked at the photo on this blog and once again declared it a non-spider. I've learned the best thing to do is keep quiet. I'm waiting to respond after about 15 years or so.

brookiescookies said...

Hi There! I was shocked to find your desert wildlife story strangely identical to mine. Only I live int he Texas High Desert! Same situation, worlds apart. I hate to say it but your son is right. I saw the same red "spiders" and spent hours trying to find out what they are. Turns out they are red velvet mites that only emerge once a year, just like the termites, for the same purpose. To mate and feed on the termites once they lose their wings. Looks like we both saw an amazing once in a lifetime event.

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Elize said...

I've lived in bots my whole life and loved piking the red mites up.we called them velvet mites,still do,coz wen you touch one they feel like velvet,very soft.as far as i know they are not poisinous to anything and as a kid we collected them,was like a game to see how many you could spot,we let them go of course.lovely pick though.

vinay nadkarni said...

Hi Lauri, i am from India and as kids we too were crazy about these red velvet spider like creatures that would come out from small holes in the garden after rains. we would go looking for them. the moment you picked them up, they would curl their feet and lie still only to slowly stretch out when they thought the danger had passed ! we used to call them "birbotti". they are not found everywhere, we were lucky to find them in the small village we used to live in as kids. I did not find them in Mumbai where i now live for over 40 years. As far as i know they were completely harmless and non poisonous and a typical stench would emanate if they were smashed / killed.