a butterfly hunt: insects of West Africa

I heard a lot of moaning and groaning on our way out the door. “I don’t want to go for a walk“. We were trying to beat the heat at 9 in the morning–the heat beat us.

As Hannah headed to peds with dad, the rest of us wandered outside the compound on a butterfly hunt. Not long into our walk, we were joined by eight schoolkids, who were obviously not at school. These little ones introduced us to the world of insects and butterflies.

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The insect idea came to me in the shower–as a four inch beetle? scurried up my right leg. Can you guess my reaction?

Before we came here, I googled animals, plants and insect life in Ghana and learned that a poisonous snake had bitten a man as he was using the latrine, in a particularly sensitive spot. So I didn’t want to hear from the housekeeper (that rescued me from the beetle with her bottle of insecticidal spray) that a woman had once met a snake in this VERY shower that I bathed in this morning).

Once along the path of our morning hike, my butterfly whisperer threw himself sacrificially into the long grasses (where the snakes reside) and found me a half dozen.

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All the kids were leaping and running and pouncing.

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I kept four specimens. The others, I insisted, we allow to fly to freedom.

My West African Butterflies and Moths book was a help, but we weren’t able to identify any of our particular specimens.

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We did find one large white moth awake in the heat of the day, but memories of passing through a lit porch at night kept me from collecting this specimen.

I don’t have a pic of an anopheles mosquito…but you get the idea, it’s a mosquito. That likes to inject its nasty junk into human blood and cause malaria. If the malarone our kids take every morning isn’t effective, I’m gonna guess Rachel will be the first to manifest its symptoms, as she’s had the most bites. Deet spray and mosquito sleep nets are our friends.

We identified six inch long larvae ‘hanging out’ on plants near us.

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I am pretty sure we call this MINT in our culture. Ghanians call it a ‘mosquito flower’ (pronounced ever-so-charmingly as a “mo-skwee-toe” flower)…obviously because the mosquitos are drawn to it. I told the kids I use it for tea. They were agog.

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There’s one particular orange and black striped bug with razor-looking antennae that make their presence on my body regularly–cause they sting. Agnes, of Kenya, warned me about them. Yup, they sting–just got one as I was typing this.

This handsome snail is awful large, and carries schistosomiasis (which manifests as worms in the gut of its human carriers–yuck). So kids don’t play with them.

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They found me a scorpion. Oh so kind. Then they found me a larger one when they saw how I backed away from the first one.

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I shewed a smaller version of this guy from my pillow a few nights ago. AHHH.

And I don’t have a clear, worthy pic, but there are a trail of tiny ants across our countertop every morning…”The ants go marching two by two, hurrah hurrah…and mommy freaks out every morning too, hurrah hurrah. Kids! You cannot leave stuff on the counter, if you do they will be back two by two, cause the ants go marching two by two whenever we do, EW!!!! Hurrah hurrah!”


2 thoughts on “a butterfly hunt: insects of West Africa

  1. I do not like those little pests ants or all those bugs. Yuck. I cannot wait to hear that you guys are home in Canada. Not that it is perfect here but still we are so lucky all in all.

    • Ya, no, we have plenty of bugs in our Canada home, but not like this. I want to be under a bug net in the evening, period. Not just at bedtime. And the kids have a hard time digging the bugs out of their suppers…they’re flying like crazy after dusk. Ewww.

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