Summertide Diary: Butterfly Bonanza (and a few other insects too)

When we first walked to the KuMfazana hide on our recent visit to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, we didn’t quite find what we expected. Normally, if the pans in front of the hide holds water, there are hippos and crocodiles and a myriad of water-dependent birds to keep visitors entertained for hours. This time however it was the walkway through the swamp forest to the hide that held us enthralled for hours, and not because of some “hairy and scary” creatures either…

We dubbed this stretch of the walkway to the hide at kuMfazana “Butterfly Glen”

It was thanks to the sheer numbers and diversity of butterflies to be seen along this short walk that we visited kuMfazana almost daily for the week that we were at Cape Vidal in January 2021. Last time I saw anything like it was during a solitary autumn visit to the Kruger National Park in 2019. iSimangaliso’s rich plantlife and habitats supports an extraordinary list of butterfly species, each seemingly more beautiful than the one you’ve seen just before. Other spots in the Park, most notably at Cape Vidal and Mission Rocks, also contributed to the bounty but none so richly as kuMfazana. I really hope this gallery gives you an idea of what we experienced that week.

While not nearly as conspicuous as their butterfly cousins there also was a few eye-catching moths to be found.

The diversity of dragonflies on the eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia almost matches that of the butterflies, and I was frustrated at not being able to identify the species most of them belonged to. Realising how little I actually know about these often seen insects I’m determined to remedy that as soon as possible.

Insects of all kinds thrive in iSimangaliso’s sub-tropical climate. Regrettably that includes mosquitoes…

When we saw a spider-hunting wasp dragging a paralysed sac spider to its nest I must admit to getting a large dose of pleasure from the hapless spider’s predicament. Sac spiders are among the most venomous spiders in South Africa and responsible for most of the serious spider bites suffered in our country. They deliver a nasty bite of cytotoxic venom and the bite-site is prone to secondary infection. The reason for my schadenfreude? A sac spider bit a then infant Joubert resulting in a visit to the emergency room late night on a New Years eve a few years ago…

 

27 thoughts on “Summertide Diary: Butterfly Bonanza (and a few other insects too)

  1. Birder's Journey

    How frightening that incident must have been with Joubert!
    What a bounty of insects and other creatures you’ve shared! The number and variety of butterflies that have large white areas in their wings was especially surprising – that seems unusual in my limited experience. I love the scene of your tranquil Butterfly Glen 😌 do you think they were so plentiful in part because you arrived just after the time they emerged?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We aren’t big sac spider fans after what happened to Joubert, that’s for sure, Carol.

      Throughout our week at iSimangaliso there was such incredible diversity and numbers of butterflies, and even now the locals living around the Park are still commenting about the proliferation of the winged beauties – even after cyclone Eloise passed through. The Park authorities have enlisted the help of a few specialists to explain why there was such a boom this year and I’m looking forward to them sharing their findings.

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  2. Writer Lori

    What a gorgeous array of butterflies! We visited a butterfly garden in St. Martin a few years ago and were utterly enthralled. I saw a solitary butterfly in our yard the other day and realized with great sadness that they have become much less common here. I fear all the insecticides and pesticides are killing them off. 😔

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Apart from the poisons we’re pumping into our world, an often underestimated factor in the decline of insect numbers is artificial lights which now carpets most of the dry land on the planet, messing with insects’ breeding patterns, making them prone to predation, and so on. Perhaps once upon a time what we experienced at iSimangaliso would not have been such a rare thrill. I really am thankful that we had this opportunity.

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  3. treesshrubs

    Wonderful to see such diversity…here there seem to be only a few different ones …the extinction rate for insects generally on the planet seems to be at dangerously high levels. So good to see places where they are still thriving 😃 Trees

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    Reply
    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Indeed, that is a most worrying trend, Trees, and as with everything else going wrong on the planet we have only ourselves to blame. One can only hope that enough survive in places like iSimangaliso to be able to keep the ecosystem functional even outside protected areas.

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  4. H.J. for avian101

    You just reminded me of the Amazon Rainforest, where it teems with all kind of insects, known and rare with the difference that they usually are huge in size. Butterflies are superb. There are many large animals too. Im sure you know all this. Thank you, D. 🙂

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