Tag Archives: drought

Life from death…

Life from death…



As many of you will have read and heard on this site – there’s been a serious drought in Kenya and this has lead to lots of cattle dying. Out here on the plains we finally got some rain, and this means that there is a lot of green grass and wildflowers sprouting everywhere.



The herds of cattle that have survived (mainly from accessing grazing in the park) can be seen moving around a bit more happily now.




There are also a lot of trees and shrubs flowering at the moment. Many of these are pollinated by flies.





Over the past few days I’ve noticed large numbers of flies visiting these flowers that are fly-pollinated. Species of plants with flowers that are open pollinated by flies tend to have greenish-yellow flowers with a musty scent and nectar.




One of the most abundant fly pollinators is known as the Big-Headed Fly (Lucilia sp.). This fly has a distinctive red head (actually the eyes). And there are literally thousands upon thousands of these flies now pollinating a variety of trees and shrubs on the plains.





The reason for the abundance of fly pollinators is due to the abundance of dead cows.




The flies lay their eggs in the carcasses where their larvae, the maggots, develop. In the process the flies help clean up the carcasses as they speed up their decomposition and break-down, and this also results in lots of flies to act as pollinators and as food for other creatures.





On the same bush the flies are pollinating I found this smug-looking little reed frog. Hmmm – I wonder why he looks so satisfied?




It is not only the flies that are benefitting from the surfeit of food. Several beetles that also visit flowers, like the lovely Rose Chafer shown below, breed in the deep piles of cow manure.





So from death and waste comes life again – thanks to the efficient re-cycling of Mother Nature! More from the wonderful world of bugs soon!

Ants in the dust…

Ants in the dust…


The drought continues here on the plains. Today at midday I stopped by the harvester ant nest to check on how they were doing. While most of the other animals were resting almost comatose in the shade due to the burning heat, the ants were hard at work.








They were working hard at scrounging whatever they could find out on the parched, overgrazed grassland. The harvester ants typically feed on the seeds of grasses. They diligently collect these from the surrounding areas and carefully carry them back to their nest. However, at the moment there is hardly any grass around, let along grass seeds, as everything has been nibbled away by the voracious mouths of cattle. Despite their desperate attempts to graze, the cattle are still dying in large numbers.






The ants were still trying to find food out in the midday sun nonetheless. I watched them bringing back all manner of things to their nest. In these tough times beggars can’t be choosers. Here is schematic sketch of their nest in the dust…










They brought back tiny dried bits of grass, no more than mere wisps of dessicated leaves. A few lucky ants had found the odd large seed or tiny pod from one of the many herbs that grow hidden in clefts among the rocks where mouths and hooves can’t reach them. Some managed to find the odd wisp of grass seed that was tucked away in a rocky crack out of reach to hungry cows…







A few lucky ants even managed to catch the odd item of prey – though these were mainly hapless bugs who themselves had succumbed to the heat and drought.


After just a few minutes of watching them I was so hot and starting to feel dizzy from the glare. I walked away from the nest seeking scant shade and wondering how life just keeps on going even in the face of such adversity. I hope that we get some rain soon!


More from the wonderful world of bugs soon.