A Trio of Travelers

Being a traveler here myself, I can well appreciate the attraction that this magical land holds for many others, and I’m planning to spend much more time in New Zealand in the future. But it has attracted many other foreign visitors through the years, of which not all are completely welcome. And some of them have taken root in considerable abundance. Agapanthus 204032One of these is the distinctive Agapanthus praecox, a native plant of South Africa, which, according to Wikipedia,  is thought to have been introduced by troops return- ing from the Second Boer War, which continued from 1899 through 1902. It gained considerable popularity in the early twentieth century, thanks in part to its extreme hardiness, high salt tolerance, and low maintenance needs. It has been listed on various weed registers in New Zealand since 1996 and is currently declared by the Department of Conserva- tion to be an “environmental weed.” In spite of its continuing popularity in home gardens, some efforts are being made to control the plant in the wild, and it has (at least twice) been recommended to be added to the  National Pest Plant Accord. Several Agapanthus grow outside Batty’s deck, very handy for examination and study, and I find myself drawn to them to look for the wee folk that find shelter and sustenance there. Agapanthus 204038Several varieties of spider inhabit their depths and prowl their foliage (I’ll surely bring you some of them in the near future), but yesterday another non-native visitor came into view. Mantis 3438New Zealand does have a native mantis (Orthodera novaezealandiae) but a foreign rival, the Springbok mantis (Miomantis caffra)—also from South Africa—found its way here Mantis 3461around 1978. Although the Springbok is not generally considered to be a pest, in an agri- cultural sense, it has slowly but steadily been replacing the native New Zealand variety, Mantis 3456which is quite easy to identify, as it is always bright green and has a large,distinctive, blue-purplish spot on the inside of each of its grasping forelegs. Native males are strongly attracted to Springbok females, which typically cannibalize them; native females do not. Which brings me to the third participant in yesterday’s scenario. The passion vine hopper (Scolypopa australis) is a very common sight on many plants. Native to Australia, it made its way to New Zealand around 1876. It has distinctive, oversized, delta-shaped wings. Mantis and  hopper 3442The juvenile mantis I was observing almost caught this one, but in spite of the little predator’s admirably-stealthy approach and lightning-fast attack, the leafhopper became aware of it in the last second and made its escape in less than the blink of an eye.

About krikitarts

Welcome to Krikit Arts! I'm a veterinarian; photographer; finger-style guitarist, composer, instructor, and singer/songwriter; fisherman; and fly-tyer. Please enjoy--and please respect my full rights to all photos on this Website!
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6 Responses to A Trio of Travelers

  1. Do you know whether the “travelers” are less common in the colder regions of New Zealand?

    • krikitarts says:

      The invasive springbok mantis has, up until recently, seemed not to have expanded across the Cook Strait to the South island, but that’s changing. They have recently (from a 2012 report byi Graeme Hill published on the Website http://www.forestandbird.org.nz) been reaching high densities in Nelson and have also been reported as far south as Christchurch. The passion vine hoppers seem to feel comfortable anywhere there are plants suited to their taste which are many.

  2. shoreacres says:

    Does the springbok mantis display the same behavior as the mammalian springbok? My guess would be that it does, and that it’s named after the animal (which happens to be the national animal of South Africa).

    I’m always happy to find a mantis or walking stick. They’re fascinating to watch, and seem to be content to be watched — to your benefit, obviously.

    • krikitarts says:

      I haven’t found any info on how that term came to be associated with the South African mantis, unless it’s, as you said, because of the national animal. I have seen mantises (in the US) jump from one perch to another, and though I haven’t seen any here do that, I’m certain that they are very likely capable of similar acrobatics. I have always found mantises to be fascinating as well, especially because some quirk of the anatomy of their compound eyes results in a distinctive dark spot directly in the center of the part of the eye closest to the observer, giving the impression that they are looking directly at you. And who’s to say that they’re not?

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