All Creatures Great and Small

If you don’t like insects, arachnids, and other creepy-crawly critters, then it might be a good idea to stop reading right now. Especially if you don’t feel like coming face-to-antennae with photographic forms of some of them in the next few minutes.

Still with me?

All right. You have been warned.

———

Did you know that there is a Little Five in addition to the Big Five? The elephant shrew, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, and ant lion. (See, safaris in Botswana are educational!) None of those fine fellows feature in my post today, but I have rounded up a collection of my smaller neighbors to share with you.

Inswa, or, The Morning After

Inswa, or, The Morning After

At the start of rainy season, these fine fellows attacked any light source and mobbed it. They were impossible to keep out of buildings, and for about a week you usually needed a basin of water sitting in the house somewhere so that when you caught the inswa, you could toss them in the water, where their wings would get wet so that they would stop flying around (and sometimes hitting people in the head). They are LARGE (bigger than a baby’s finger) and have a double set of wings with a span almost as wide as my hand, for the big ones. We would sweep a carpet of wings and de-winged bugs off of the verandah every morning. This is the collection underneath the light at the side of the house.

They’re edible, but Tongas don’t eat them. I was keen to try some, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to prepare them (toss them in a pan and let them fry in their own fat. Or collect them in a bucket of water, dry them, and then fry them in their own fat. Either way, they seem to be eaten as a snack food, more than a main course, and I’m told that they’re an excellent source of protein, but give some people digestive problems because of the high fat content), and I was away from home most evenings that week, and also having diarrhea and not keen to eat something that has a reputation for giving people diarrhea — and then they were gone. It stopped raining for a few days, and one night there suddenly were not inswa everywhere. I’ve possibly seen a few small ones now and then, but not on nearly the same scale as that first week. I was told later that they’re larvae underground, and all hatch at once when the first good rains come. There are other insects like that, too: one day as I was walking to the hospital, a particular sort of small fly just seemed to be cascading out of little holes in the ground.

So I haven’t eaten inswa yet.

The Large Black Beetle

The Large Black Beetle

Ever since the rains started (are you noticing a theme here? There are a lot more insects since the rains started), we’ve periodically found one on these things on the verandah in the morning, typically stuck inside a plastic tub or stranded upside-down like a miniature beached whale with lots of wiggling legs.

Possibly this is the same sort as the other one earlier.  It's a different specimen, though (probably).  I'm much better at etymology than entomology.

Possibly this is the same sort as the other one earlier. It's a different specimen, though (probably). I'm much better at etymology than entomology.

This is not the sort of fuzzy caterpillar that causes awful itchy rashes.  Thankfully I have not encountered any of those recently.  But it was so fuzzy that I'm afraid the picture is not entirely in focus.

This is not the sort of fuzzy caterpillar that causes awful itchy rashes. Thankfully I have not encountered any of those recently. But it was so fuzzy that I'm afraid the picture is not entirely in focus.

Okay, this is more a picture of one of the skinks that lives in the office than of whatever unfortunate insect it's caught.  Usually they're too shy to have pictures taken of them, but I guess having something to defend makes them braver.  Say hi to my officemate!

Okay, this is more a picture of one of the skinks that lives in the office than of whatever unfortunate insect it's caught. Usually they're too shy to have pictures taken of them, but I guess having something to defend makes them braver. Say hi to my officemate!

I've encountered these a couple of times.  They may be the weirdest insects I've ever seen.

I've encountered these a couple of times. They may be the weirdest insects I've ever seen.

This one is probably as wide as four fingers, with great big translucent wings that made it really difficult to get an in-focus picture.  I had another one in my room last week.  It spent the night perched on my mosquito net.

This one is probably as wide as four fingers, with great big translucent wings that made it really difficult to get an in-focus picture. I had another one in my room last week. It spent the night perched on my mosquito net.

Spiky bug!

Spiky bug!

These big, stripy grasshoppers are EVERYWHERE, and probably jump a meter in the air at one go.  Unfortunately, I'm told that they're a nuisance as far as crops go.

These big, stripy grasshoppers are EVERYWHERE, and probably jump a meter in the air at one go. Unfortunately, I'm told that they're a nuisance as far as crops go.

Chongololo! (Pronounced Jon-go-lo-lo.)

Chongololo! (Pronounced Jon-go-lo-lo.)

These giant millipedes can be found all over in rainy season, and curl up into a neat roll as big as your hand when touched or disturbed.  Unfortunately, this one had gotten fed up with curling into a ball because I had to keep rolling it out of the ditch while I got my camera out, and refused to pose.

These giant millipedes can be found all over in rainy season, and curl up into a neat roll as big as your hand when touched or disturbed. Unfortunately, this one had gotten fed up with curling into a ball because I had to keep rolling it out of the ditch while I got my camera out, and refused to pose.

I wasn't going to post this picture because it's a bit blurry, but I stepped on one this afternoon, and OW, do those things hurt, even if the stingers are only about the size of a splinter.  (And I'm lucky that there was only one of them.)  So stay away from African Honeybees.

I wasn't going to post this picture because it's a bit blurry, but I stepped on one this afternoon, and OW, do those things hurt, even if the stingers are only about the size of a splinter. (And I'm lucky that there was only one of them.) So stay away from African Honeybees.

This one has been tentatively identified as a mantid (praying mantis), which may make the brown ones mantids, too.

This one has been tentatively identified as a mantid (praying mantis), which may make the brown ones mantids, too.

One of my Wall Crab Spider friends, also known as flatties.  Unlike the insects, these guys and ladies have been around since I got here.  I figure that we must be pretty close, because how many spiders do you strip naked in front of on a regular basis?

One of my Wall Crab Spider friends, also known as flatties. Unlike the insects, these guys and ladies have been around since I got here. I figure that we must be pretty close, because how many spiders do you strip naked in front of on a regular basis?

Friendly local moth hanging out under the eaves.

Friendly local moth hanging out under the eaves.

I usually prefer to pursue lepidopterology outside the home.

I usually prefer to pursue lepidopterology outside the home.

I was sure that I had photographs of the leaf-camouflage insect, but I’m not finding them right now. Perhaps it’s hiding. Instead, I’ll leave you with a picture of my least-favorite housemate:

Cockroaches.  At least these are small.  Alison has big ones.

Cockroaches. At least these are small. Alison has big ones.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “All Creatures Great and Small

  1. CosetTheTable

    I’m pretty good with bugs. Like, if there’s someone else better with bugs, I make them remove them. But at daycamp I spent lots of time in “Bugs & Slugs” (voluntarily, it was the city, so there were plenty of non-nature options). I like the pet tarantulas that children’s libraries often have. The first time I saw an actual cockroach, I was nonplussed, as I had kind of assumed Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches were the standard model.

    Most of these don’t freak me out. The Wall Crab Spiders, on the other hand? No Thank You. No Indeed.

    • Does it help to know that they’re only flat when not moving? The rest of the time they’re smaller because they’re using their legs as height in addition to width.

      I now smash cockroaches with my bare hands. The cockroaches didn’t ever freak me out (though I still think that it’s gross whey things are COMPLETELY INFESTED with them, especially when the things in question are the toaster, or the oven, or the cabinet where house dishes are kept), but when I first got here, I would try to use something other than bare skin to kill them. I’ve gotten over that. (And my kill-on-sight policy w/ cockroaches might explain why is was so hard to get a picture of one.)

  2. Vorindi

    The brown ones do look like mantids of some sort. Not that I know anything about African insects.

  3. I agree that the brown mantid-like insects are probably mantids.

    Do you have other pictures of the inswa? It’s hard for me to see them in the provided photo. Also, with most of the insects you don’t provide scale, so e.g. the mantids could be 2cm long or 8cm long or… and inquiring minds want to know. (Actually, inquiring minds would love to see hands for comparison, and perhaps some video as well. Inquiring minds like insects.)

    • Anna Hoover

      sarah-marie speaks for me. I want to know how big each of this creatures are. It is not possible to fully appreciate bugs without some understanding of their size! (Is this our mathematical training coming out?)

    • No, unfortunately I don’t have other pictures of the inswa (well, I have one other, but it’s comparably bad) because they mostly came out at night, and my camera is bad at taking pictures at night, and because I didn’t realize that I had such a limited window to try to take pictures of them.

      The mantids are about 3cm long. The spiky bug is perhaps 2.5cm, and the red and green one is more like 2cm long. (All measurements of the bodies of the insects, not including legs.) The big black beetles might be in the area of 6cm.

      Unfortunately for inquiring minds, I have a hard enough time getting many of the insects to stay still long enough to be photographed, much less put up with me sticking things near them for scale. And my most recent trip to Mosi-Oa-Tunya may have killed my camera, so more photographs might not be forthcoming.

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