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Up close with the creepy-crawlies of De Hoop Nature Reserve

All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful,

 In De Hoop you will find them all!

 You might remember the music and lyrics from this popular hymn from way back - maybe when you were in junior school? The words of Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander (1818-1895), the Irish hymn writer and poet, talk about the wonderment of our natural environment.   We are so lucky to wake up every day at Morukuru Ocean House and Beach Lodge, slap bang right in the middle of nature’s glory. Our little piece of heaven is set within 34000 hectares of Fynbos, beaches, dunes, vlei wetlands and the Potberg Mountains. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we have 1500 species of fynbos, over 260 bird species, fantastic sea-creatures like hermit crabs, starfish, octopuses, mussels, sea cucumber and sea & sand anemone, and wildlife including rare animals like Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra, Eland, the Cape clawless otter, baboons, rock dassies and the occasional rooikat (caracal) and elusive Cape Leopard. And during the whale-watching season, we get to spot Southern Right whales and dolphins. That’s pretty amazing! We can get carried away just thinking about these fascinating creatures, but Corné Lamprecht did remind us that De Hoop is also home to many insects, beetles, snails and spiders. We call these “creepy-crawlies” and think they should get their chance to shine under the spotlight. Corné  went out on an expedition and came back with these gorgeous photos and a whole lot of interesting facts. You need to keep your eyes peeled to spot the Cape Stick Insect (Phalces brevis). This is the most widespread of stick insects in South Africa and does a brilliant job at disguise. These slender twig-like insects are the longest in the world, and if you head out at night with a torch, you have a good chance of spotting them because they are active and feeding on plants. Easier to spot is the Cape Prionid Beetle (Anthracocentrus Capensis). Most are larger than 80mm long, making them a giant beetle. This beetle is a root borer and feeds on the pollen, flowers, and foliage of various indigenous plants and shrubs. The Cape Prionid Beetle is one-hundred per cent at home in the De Hoop Nature Reserve - which has the largest conserved area of lowland fynbos in the Western Cape - and keeps company with the flightless Dung Beetle. There are over 800 species of dung beetle in Southern Africa, but unlike the others, the Flightless Dung Beetle’s (Circellium bacchu) don’t have wings. Their flightless ability makes them unique. Flightless Dung Beetles have a tightly sealed elytra (wing case) instead of wings, which creates a convective cooling system where heat is drawn away from their body. This means the flightless dung beetles are ideally suited to hot regions. Corné  headed down to the beach and spotted a Common Periwinkle (Littorina Littorea). This small edible whelk  (or sea snail ) is often found in the tidal pools. Periwinkles are not only enjoyed by us humans, but predators like birds, fish, crabs and lobsters also snack on them. Periwinkles do an incredible job in helping to control the abundance of algae. Another type of sea snail often noticed in the rockpools is the  Finger plough (Bulia Digitalis) which are known as dominant scavengers who gobble up decaying animal matter. Corné  told us that another common sighting in De Hoop is the Giant African Snail (Ahatina fulica). This large land snail is the most frequently occurring invasive species of snail and is one of the largest terrestrial gastropods. Gastropoda is a large class of molluscs (such as snails and slugs). Most gastropods have a well-developed head that includes eyes, 1-2 pairs of tentacles, and nervous tissue concentration. Did you know the blood of most gastropods is blue because it contains haemocyanin? The Bluebottle jellyfish is something to be aware of. Also called Portuguese Man ‘o War or Floating Terror, this jellyfish is a common stings source. If stung by a bluebottle, you should rinse well with seawater to remove the microscopic stinging cells, then use hot water or ice for the pain. An indigenous remedy using sap from sour figs found in fynbos works well too. Now ...what about spiders? Some researchers say that fear of spiders could be genetic. The human species could be pre-programmed to be afraid of spiders. Animal fears may represent a functionally distinct set of adaptive responses which have developed during the evolutionary history of the human species. Even if arachnophobia might be a family trait, the vast majority of spiders are as harmless as ladybugs and goldfish. Here’s the Brown button spider, also known as the brown widow, grey widow, brown-black widow, house button spider or geometric button spider. Whatever name you use, it is officially Latrodectus geometricus and is a cousin to the more infamous black widow. Brown button spiders are found all over the world but are believed to originate in South America. A bite from a Brown Button Spider is unpleasant but easily treatable, and no deaths have been recorded. Their bites, though painful, are not considered to be dangerous. When you next visit us in De Hoop, keep your eyes open for the elusive Cape Leopard but don’t forget about the creepy-crawlies.
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