Today we continue our series on urban wildlife you may encounter in South Africa, especially in the Western Cape.
Bees and other flying “bugs” can be alarming when unfamiliar.
Which insects actually present a real danger? Fortunately if you do not suffer a natural allergy, very few.
The very helpful honey bee has a sting to which many people are allergic. Fortunately most adults already know whether or not they are allergic and carry the required medication.
Parents may want to travel with an antihistamine syrup for the children.
Avoiding bee stings is easier than you may think. Bees will only attack to protect the hive. Most stings happen due to bees being stepped on!
Avoid walking bare feet on flowering lawns, especially those with clover. Avoid leaving cool drinks (especially fizzy sweet ones) outside unattended, bees often end up trapped/drowned while trying to sample the sugary sweetness. A sting in the mouth or throat is very unpleasant and potentially dangerous.
Bees also collect mud and water from ponds, pools and puddles. Make sure to inform children.
Should you see a large swarm of bees flying or hanging in a tree (or other suitable resting place) they are unlikely to be a threat as they have no home to protect and are most likely looking for a new location for their hive.
It is best to avoid the bees, just in case, and rather close doors and windows. They may find the interior of your house is perfect for their new home. Bee “clumps” (swarms) that have not moved off by late afternoon should be removed by a professional beekeeper.
Beehives (proffessional or natural) should be avoided. Bees will attach to protect their home and food reserves.
Should you be stung by a bee the best solution is very simple and commonly found in the kitchen – white vinegar!
First make sure that the sting and poison sack have been removed. Use a blunt knife or credit card to “scrape” off the sting, work close to the skin to avoid pressing poison sack. Then place a vinegar soaked cloth or cotton swap onto the affected area for relief.
Please remember that Honeybees are threatened by modern development, harmful farming practises and even currently unknown factors, bees should never be poisoned or exterminated.
Look under the eaves of almost any building during Spring and Summer and you will see the delicate nests of the paper wasp.
The nests vary in size but they all have one thing in common, a group of wasps dedicated to keeping this seasons brood at the prefect temperature.
Paper wasps have a very painful sting and will sting more than once, the pain is the worst of it, as their “venom” is not particularly toxic. They are unlikely to attack if undisturbed.
I still swear that they do not like people staring at them but that is more childhood fear than fact!
Nest removal should be left to professionals.
The wasp sting will not remain in the skin, proceed with the vinegar treatment as with bee stings or you can apply a paste of Bicarbonate of Soda and water. Do not mix bicarb and vinegar as they cancel each other out.
South Africa does have malaria but only in the far east of the country. The Western, Eastern and Northern Cape are all malaria free.
If you are travelling in Kwazulu Natal, Mpumpulanga or Limpopo be sure to consult your doctor for a suitable malaria prophylactic.
The Free State and Gauteng have been malaria free but caution is advised.
So how do you avoid mosquito bites?
Cover your arms, legs and neck as much as possible, with the most important times being early morning and evenings.
Apply mosquito repellent. Mosquito repelling coils, candles and plug in units are available for sitting areas (in or outdoors).
Use mosquito screens on doors and windows and mosquito nets over beds in areas with malaria.
Consult your doctor should you develop flu like symptoms after visiting a malaria area (known or suspected!)
Butterflies and moths:
Butterflies and moths are harmless.
Having a large moth flutter past your face in the dark can send your heart racing but they certainly do not present any danger.
These stunning creatures have a short life span and play a vital roll in the pollination of certain flowers (many flowers that bloom at night are ‘designed’ for a particular species of moth!).
To avoid moths in the house at night it is best to keep interior lights off when not needed, especially those near open doors or windows.
There are no dangerous beetles in South Africa that I could find in my research.
Certain beetles can be annoying or destructive.
One annoying beetle is the invader species known commonly as the ‘Christmas Beetle’ – a hard, shiny brown beetle – appears around Christmas or as the weather warms. You will see them mostly in the evening. They fly through the twilight and straight into you. They love flying into the house (attracted by the light) and placing themselves under your feet. By morning many are dead (squashed or not) and those that are not will cling to your finger until you drop them in the garden. They survive is large numbers due to not having many natural enemies here.
The wood borer beetle loves to eat wood as the name implies. The little black beetles lay their larvae in the holes and can cause structural damage. Little pyramids of pale wood dust with many small holes are a sure sign of wood borer.
Wood borer should be professional exterminated.
The Shield Beetle is also known as the “stink” bug. Avoid picking these beetles up as they can secrete a strong smelling liquid in self defence. The smell may linger and leave you with lots of personal space but it is otherwise harmless.
You are sure to see many more beetles in South Africa – a guide book such as the Field Guide to Insects of South Africa can help educate you
I hope that this information can be of use.
Should you have any comments/ feedback or corrections, please feel free to contact us.