Big Bugs

How many examples are necessary to justify a post called “Big Bugs?” I do believe we have reached that number! In fact, based on encounters with gigantic cockroaches alone I think we could have written this post during our first month here. Lucky for you we have no pictures of them because they are very fast. (Heated debate ensued here within our family as to exactly what length we can report to have seen.  First hand witnesses are notoriously unreliable – ours stand by lengths between 2 and 4 inches.)  Despite no roach photos, we have found many more beautiful and big bugs we can show you.

“Bugs” is not a very scientific category we realize and I’m sorry to say we cannot share the real names or any other details of these amazing finds. If you have some info though, by all means please share it in the comments!

Here is a gorgeous beetle we found in our garden.  It stuck around this plant for several days and then disappeared.  A slow mover, how did it possibly climb the slippery stems and leaves on this shiny plant?



Here’s another nice beetle!  The dung beetle is widespread across Africa and does the amazing work of cleaning up the dung left by large mammals.  They are often found solo methodically sculpting or rolling a great big ball of elephant or buffalo scat.


We discovered dung beetles in great numbers during a game drive near the coast last October. We laughed at what lousy pilots they were as they went careening past our car with a buzzing sound.  And thank goodness we stopped the car in time when we came across this jackpot!


It’s been harder for me to feel enthusiastic about the big grasshoppers.  See how they ate up all of my first planting of swiss chard!


It is fun though to watch how far their combination fly/jump movement takes them.  And who knew that grasshoppers could have such fancy coloring?



This bug, technically a worm or caterpillar I suppose, is not big in size but definitely big in number and damage!


We discovered these on our cycad (a very special plant that will get its own post later) having an absolute feast on the new growth.  Day after day they continued until we decided we had to take action!   Thanks to my pest removal team I think we may have saved the plant in the end.




“Bug” definitely seems a very disrespectful category for the noble honeybee.  But I’ll include them in this post anyway as Scott and I had an experience we will never forget.

One morning I heard tapping and buzzing from inside the bathroom.  Thinking there was a drip coming from the tub I leaned down to check and then realized the sound was bee bodies bumping against the underside of the bathtub.  Outside a busy swarm was growing around a small opening vent at the base of our brick wall.  An hour passed while we investigated options and the numbers and sound grew as they began to enter inside the wall cavity. An instinctual fear came alive listening on the opposite side to the powerful hum of all those bodies- terrifying and thrilling.

A bee keeper advised us to spray “Doom” in the vicinity, but not at them or their entrance which he emphasized could anger them and endanger us.  If the queen had not yet settled in the chemicals in the air might persuade the scouts to move on in search of another location for their colony.  By the time we returned with the spray the swarm was a dense, dark cloud bigger than a minivan.  We watched in awe from inside the car aware that the problem was now more than we could handle.  Don, the bee keeper, arrived later that day and by then the swarm had settled into our wall.  He told us the options were to tear it down or exterminate.  Alas, the choice was obvious.  He also shared a few troubling stories about how deadly these bees can be when their home is disturbed.  It amazes me to think that so many African animals and a few remaining hunter/gatherer tribes rely on the honey from these bees!

We don’t have a photo of the swarm at our house.  But we have seen many of these bees busy around all the blossoms that came out these past few months.  Here’s a clip of calm bees we found feasting on palm tree flower nectar.


4 thoughts on “Big Bugs

  1. What a combination of eek! and beautiful! (and scary, when thinking about the swarm of bees in your wall…)
    I see you have a garden gnome peeking out in your garden… Is that a typical garden decoration in South Africa, too??
    Thanks for the interesting view of the smaller native wildlife!


  2. Interesting post! Ugh, I can’t imagine living with such big cockroaches! We were all amazed at the very red grasshopper, never seen that before. Also, interesting to see the flowering palm tree/bees since I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the palm trees around bloom. Kids are flabbergasted that there could be a bee swarm the size of a minivan, and me too! Yikes!


  3. Wowsers Simon and Elsa Ruth!! We have been impressed and inspired by your courage and sense of adventure in so many ways during your time in SA….but to see you smiling so close to such a large, moving dung beetle pile…well, your legend continues to grow!! :). Stay away from the spiders though..I still have a scar from a SA spider! Love to you all!


  4. Pingback: Big Bugs 2 (and a teeny, tiny gecko) | sevennorthdakotas

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