Tag Archives: Kakamega forest

Rainforest Birds and Bees…

Dear All

I have been exploring the Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya over the last few days. The forest is sparkling with life after the heavy rains from earlier this month. It has been wonderful taking long quiet walks in the forest to look at insects and birds and ponder the meaning of life.

Here are a few of the weird and wonderful creatures that I came across…

Arriving at the forest in late afternoon, these gorgeous Blue-Headed Bee Eaters were sunning themselves after bathing in a rainforest pool:

A pair of Blue-Headed Bee Eaters

A pair of Blue-Headed Bee Eaters

Bees and butterflies were visiting flowers along the trails in the forest.

Brown Pansy Butterfly

Brown Pansy Butterfly

 

There were a lot of bees around, including this strange wasp-like bee (I think that it is a species of bee in the family Colletidae):

Wasp or Wasp-like Bee?

Wasp or Wasp-like Bee?

 

Predators also lay in wait on the flowers in the forest.

This Stingless Bee was one of the unlucky ones…

Plebeina Stingless Bee falls victim to a spider

Plebeina Stingless Bee falls victim to a spider

 

Further down the path troop of monkeys crashed through the treetops leaving behind a ‘gift’ that immediately attracted some wonderful flies. One of the first contenders to appear was this striking Flesh Fly (Sarcophagidae)…

Flesh Fly feasts on fresh dung

Flesh Fly feasts on fresh dung

 

The scent of the fresh dung wafted through the forest air drawing different kinds of flies close. A Black Scavenger Fly perched on a leaf nearby:

Black Scavenger Fly

Black Scavenger Fly

 

While some came for the prospect of a meal, others were drawn to the area with different hopes. The female Black Scavenger Fly was soon joined by a smaller male on the same leaf. At first she ignored him, but he waved his wings with passion at her:

Black Scavenger Flies (male on top left)

Black Scavenger Flies (male on top left)

 

No surprises as to what he tried to do next:

"Do you think I'm sexy?"

“Do you think I’m sexy?”

He met with some, albeit brief, success:

Black Scavenger Flies

Black Scavenger Flies

 

The antics were watched by other flies, like this ‘Zebra Fly’ (actually a Root Maggot Fly), from nearby leaves:

"Zebra Fly" (Root Maggot Fly)

“Zebra Fly” (Root Maggot Fly)

 

Further along the trail was one of the most incredible fly-mimics that live in this forest. Resting on a fallen tree trunk I spotted a large black ‘bee’, that turned out to be a rarely-encountered Mydas Fly!

Robber Fly that mimics a Carpenter Bee

The marvelous Mydas Fly

Mydas Flies are rarely see as adults as they live only a few days in this stage but spend most of their lives as larvae preying on other insect larvae. It is simply amazing that no matter how many times I walk through the rainforest, I always find something new and interesting.

I walked back down along a road through the forest and found this lovely Clear-wing Acraea Butterfly basking in the evening sunshine:

Clear-wing Acraea Butterfly

Clear-wing Acraea Butterfly

 

Here’s to a New Year filled with joy and wonder…

Remember to spend a few minutes in the company of insects and other creatures when you can!

On the summit of Lirandha Hill, Kakamega Forest

On the summit of Lirandha Hill, Kakamega Forest

More from the wonderful world of bugs soon!

Rainforest Xmas Jewels!

Dear All

I have been very lucky to spend the xmas holidays in the Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya. After a busy year of looking at bugs, studying bees, writing and research in many remote places, what better way to spend the holidays than sitting quietly by a stream deep in the heart of the forest…

As I waited by the stream, watching the coming and going of countless marvelous insects, two exceptionally beautiful damselflies made a special appearance. The first was a Red Jewel. This rare creature is found along forested streams in Western Kenya and Uganda. It lays its eggs in the clear, flowing waters where oxygen levels are high and the water pure and sweet. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of Africa’s insects.

 

The gorgeous Red Jewel deep in the heart of Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya.

 

The Red Jewel spent most of its time chasing off other damselflies and even the much larger dragonflies from its special vantage point in the sun along the stream. Occasionally it swept out and grabbed a snack in form of a passing mosquito or hapless flies that became trapped on the waters’ surface.

I watched the Red Jewel flashing about and perched, carefully recording when it captured prey. As I followed its behaviour keenly, a leaf rustled beside me and I looked up to find myself eye-to-eye with another beauty. This one was watching as much as I was watching it. It was draped in the dappled light gazing out at the world, its tongue flicking in and out.

Yes, I flinched when I first spotted it, and it responded with the same and a warning hiss. Then, as I realised that it was not the least bit interested in my, but merely enjoying the warm, liquid golden sunshine that flowed down through the canopy far overhead, we both relaxed and shared the view of the stream and its myriad inhabitants. (Yes, you might have guessed already that this creature was a snake – a lovely little Green Bush Viper)…

 

The elegant Green Bush Viper

 

As the Green Bush Viper and I both relaxed again, my attention wandered back to the flashes of colour moving around the stream. And then on a leaf right in front of me appeared another of the forests’ jewels – The incredible Sapphire, another of East Africa’s loveliest damselflies…

 

The elegant, exquisite Sapphire Damselfly, Kakamega Forest

 

When one is honored, inspired and awed by beauty such as this – I can’t help but think of how special and precious all our forests and all our biodiversity is on this planet. I feel that in witnessing and exploring the wonders of nature, I also have to point out that we need to conserve it for its beauty and interest as much as its utility and practical contributions to our daily lives. What a joy to be able to find spaces wherever they may be, that are filled with species who have come about through millions of years of evolution and share with us their home and our home on this lonely little planet.

 

Stream in rainforest, Kakamega Forest, Western Kenya

Please keep the ‘little creatures that run the world’ in your thoughts during the holidays…

More from the world of bugs soon!

Dino

Ant nanny!

Dear All – Thanks for the kind comments and sparing a moment to consider the world of insects.

 

Here is a another snippet from the rainforest. Climbed a hill on Christmas day so that I could telephone friends and family and wish them well. On the way down I noticed large black ants clambering about the stems of some grasses. As I brushed past them, they did not scurry away as most ants do.

 

I peered closer to one of them to see what they were up to. I flicked the grass with my fingers, and still the ant stood her ground. Then I noticed that she was standing guard over a small ‘herd’ of scale insects.

 

 polyrachis-scales-lr1.jpg

 

In a set-up similar to humans herding cattle and other livestock, many different kinds of ants lovingly tend scale insects, aphids and other plant-feeding bugs. In return the ants get to milk their charges for honeydew. The bugs get a veritable army of protectors, and in some cases even get carried around by their ant nannies!