Tuesday 7 September 2010

Angolan Common or Garden Beasties...

Over on the Suburban Bushwacker, SBW has been teasing us with his 'identify the beasty' quiz, awarding solid gold bushwacker stars to the first to come up with a positive ID.

I was the first, not by much I admit, to get his latest one correct and because, as he then realised, it was pretty damn easy (it being a common garden spider, Araneus diadematus), the miserable sod awarded me and the other fine blogger who got it right, Murphyfish (who quite correctly described the roughy toughy Suburban Bushwacker as 'A big girl's blouse) a measly two stars each. Tight bastard.

Still, it got me thinking about the beasties we encounter in my garden every now and then so I trawled through the photo album to find any my son may have photographed and having given it a full five minutes of effort, have come up with three.

This spider made its home amongst the rebar of the new pool. They are very common and have a good six inch span. Only two Hippo points for this one.

Common in all Angolan gardens...

A couple of points for this one too. We all know it is a viper, but which kind?

The dog savaged it so I finished it off with a rock.

I can't sympathise with all you yoghurt knitting tree huggers out there. It was in my yard which, in common with the neighbourhood, is usually full of kids. I would sooner stamp on a thousand poisonous snakes than see one child suffer a limb amputation or death because of one of these beasties. It is reported that sharks are an endangered species now. Only endangered? I shall have to go out and gaff a few more. Sharks do have their uses, though. Like crocodile skulls, their jaws make impressive ornaments. And in case the fluffy bunny lovers reading this don't hate me enough already, yes, I used to shoot foxes on my ex Father-in-law's farm... with a model 586 Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum pistol or my 30-06 Remington 700BDL rifle. Overkill I know, but after all, we can't have the poor little verminous swine suffering now, can we?

I realise that after being pounded like this, a positive ID is more likely to come from a Forensic Pathologist than a Naturalist...

And now, a full five stars for identifying this one, an insect with dragon's wings. When threatened, it made a noise like a badly maintained chainsaw flinging out these black apppendages. Unlike the woosie SBW, I have given you an idea of scale. Assuming, that is, you all appreciate the average size of a human head...

I have no idea what this is so we will need some references to support any identification...


I have just been contacted by the world’s leading authority on Phasmids (clue) regarding the last of the beasties in the above post.

He has informed me that the beastie in question is a good match for one recorded in 1889 described from a single female collected from Golungo Alto in 1856. Apart from brief details of that record, nothing has been published since and the archive containing these records in Lisbon was destroyed by fire.

It is a pity that the only photograph the world now has of one of these incredibly rare and undocumented specimens has my ugly face as a backdrop.

Dominic will be thrilled to learn he has discovered something so rare and every penny I spent on bringing in his microscope and other paraphernalia to encourage his naturalist instincts was well worth it.

I shall now task us with the self imposed duty of acquiring more specimens and get them back to the good Professor of Beasties back in UK. Not that easy, I suspect as I have been here sixteen years and this is the only one I have seen. Still, instead of walking aimlessly around the countryside together in the pursuit of fresh air, now at least Dominic and I will have a motive for our perambulations.

Given its astonishing rarity, I think I need to award at least ten gold stars and a genuine Angolan carving of the ‘Pensador’, sent to the address of choice to anyone who can positively ID this one.

The professor was kind enough to be discreet and not spoil our fun but he has earned his five gold stars which he may cash in for a free stay at Floridita and an entomological field trip of Quissama National park. That place is crawling with beasties and I am terribly keen to find out how many are undocumented.

In UK, a recent lengthy experiment established that preventing children from raising their hands in class and rewarding good performance with days out at a funfair encouraged children to learn twice as fast. Imagine the concentration on the task in hand of a young lad aware that he might have a hitherto unknown beastie named after him?

Hopefully in the future he may be able to retort to an enquiry from a University entrance board as to his poorish A level results by saying, 'Granted, but at least I did spend weeks in the bush, discovered and together with the Professor, described and categorised 'Beastialis Dominicus Australis'.


  1. Hippo
    I've got a quiz especially for you
    First word: Three tined eating implement
    Second word: Stick for playing pool with


  2. Fork Cue Too.

    Now give me my five points...

  3. That absolutely rocks! How cool for Dominic.

  4. Wandered this way via that er sage? and him of the spider phobia SBW, Hope you don't mind if I tag along for a while?

  5. You are welcome to tag along, John, have a go at the quiz while you are here.

  6. Firstly Dominic, well done, keep plugging away and who knows there may well prove to be a beast called Domincus Gowansius appearing in some mighty tome.

    Beasty ID

    Spider looks like an Orb Spider
    Snake looks like a Puff Adder
    and by using clues provided, not by knowledge I deduce that large ugly beast is your father and the elegant creature is Bactrododema welwitschi.

    Good luck

  7. Bloody hell, Harvey, I might have known you would be vague on the easy ones and smack on with the hardest!

    There are plenty of Orb spiders and puff adders so for the four points they together represent, full latin spec please.

    The ten gold stars for the big beasty are yours. Go to the top of the class. Leave your books where they are though, you won't be there long!

    Do you really want me to send you a Pensador or shall we leave it as a decent meal and drinks on me at Floridita when you next pass through?

  8. Want to take a stab at the sex of the Bactrododema welwitschi specimen?

  9. The Spider is Nephila senegalensis, difficult to sex since size is not obvious, the snake(having been bitten by one) is Bitis Arientis.

    As the beast Welwitscha is on your face assume it's female?

    I shall now endeavour to get to Luanda to collect on dinner.

  10. Bitis Arientis, Bitis Arientans, whatever, you got it.

    I have the spider as Argiope Australis because of the habit of arranging its legs in four pairs and that unlike the commonly named St Andrew's cross spider has only two stabilimentae so I would love to read you opinion.

  11. I went for the Band legged Nephila for obvious reasons. I am prepared to concede the point although I have seen the band legged with it's legs close together.

  12. I thought all females kept their legs close together when you were in range.

    Well, if you agree, Argiope Australis it is. Female.

    Bactrododema welwitschi specimen is female as it has small wings. And was happy to sit on my face.

    Sex of the Bitis Arientis? No idea. So you were bitten by one of the buggers eh? Can't have been pleasant. Bitis Arientis has the dubious distinction of killing more people in Africa than any other snake. Not because their venom is the most potent, although it packs a real punch, but because it is hard to spot, will not bother getting out of the way and is highly irritable, it strikes at anything that comes near it.

    I can only assume that the dog, Sabre, a bloody great Alsation, survived because his coat was so long and thick. The story goes, as related to me by Cristina, the she and Dominic were walking across the yard to the gate when Sabre suddenly knocked Dominic backwards and attacked the snake they were about to step on.

    Sabre's renewed fame spread around the neighbourhood (he was already famous for jumping into the swimming pool and towing kids to the shallow end) and two weeks later, someone came into the yard at night and stole him. Dominic and I spent days walking through the borough calling out his name but we never found him.

  13. Rather than keeping their legs closely together when I am near they open them wide and make tracks for the nearest safe haven, nunnery, abbey or brothel.

    My own fault getting bitten, milking the snake as a youngster in a now defunct colonial enclave to garner vast amounts of filthy lucre. Now older and wiser would employ someone to do it and look on benevolently. The other problem with Bitis Arientis is that it is by nature an ambush hunter so will lay in wait around habitation for it's favourite food namely rodents that we encourage in by our messy habits. Similar sort of issue with the Russell's Viper that is equally responsible for population reduction throughout S E Asia.

  14. Well you beat me all to it. I had St Andrews Cross spider or Black and Yellow Argiope from the US of A for the spider. I wonder if it is an import ot native.

    Snake: Bitis something-or-other-iss Horned Adder. From Google there were too many for me to choose form.

    As for the big lady.. I guesses a Palophus centaurus which was way wrong. I see Malaysia has the record for the longest stick insect.

    Perhaps I should post some picture of some of the nasties here in Australia - starting with our politicians

  15. Let's not start on Political beasies, we in the Uk can beat you hands down with the venal, self serving and corrupt bunch that we had. Blair with his inane platitudes and Brown with his inherent anti English stance. Both have succeeded in saddling us with a debt that we will be paying off for the next 20 or so years.

    I read somewhere that we do not inherit this place from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. This being the case what hell have we wrought on them as a result of our stewardship?

  16. NLP,

    Please email me any pics of beasties from your neck of the woods. The pictures have be ones that you have taken, though!

  17. Quite remarkable especially as the spider seems to have written "Dominic" in it's web!  The other two are a snake and a stick insect, which should be eaten and trodden on respectively, getting this the wrong way round will result in a visit to the hospital and/or vomiting.  The spider looks nasty, definitely tip your hat, say good morning and continue on your way at a reasonable pace.  The last time I saw a picture of the creature attached to the stick insect, it was holding a gun - very dangerous.......‬‪In all seriousness, all hail the young explorer and plasmidist - what an amazing find!  With the war, I'm willing to bet that there are a few more interesting wee and large beasties to discover!  Have a fabulous weekend and I hope that we get some of your sun!‬

  18. Charles,

    That's the thing.

    Now that the good beastie Professor has pointed out that there is a dearth of information from Angola, the countryside I surveyed with a jaundiced eye for all these years has taken on a new and very exciting perspective.

    Instead of Robert Ruark writing about Big game Hunting, 'Use Enough Gun', wait for Dominic's book, 'Use Big Enough Tweezers'.

    I can see him now, bandoliers loaded with test tubes and specimen jars welded to his hips.

  19. Well Mr G, it seems that you have now rekindled a desire in me to have a cathartic diatribe against one and all. Ah bring back the days of the Luanda Lurgy and it's effect on VDV!

  20. Ah, the Luanda Lurgy and the waspish Vivienne.

    I did keep my contribution to the LL: http://hippo-on-the-lawn.blogspot.com/2007/03/mills-and-boon-present.html

  21. Waspish was certainly one way of describing her! One of the few things that John Clifford got right was her method of promotion. She achieved all that she did horizontally, it certainly wasn't through talent or managerial skills. I understand that has joined the ranks of POI.

  22. The bug on the man's face is a type of stick insect... it's a Titan or Giant Stick insect, depends which country they are in!
    (we are fans, my son has a Goliath Stick insect)


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