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Most of the invertebrates play a big role in nature: They pollinate plants, help to degrade dead plant and animal material which serves as manure for plants. They are hunters but also food for others.


Class: Insecta = Insects, characteristic are the 6 legs and a solid outer skeleton, mostly chitin.

Order dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata). The nymphs live and hunt in the water, while adults have their territories near water. They are hemimetabolous insects, meaning there is no puppae stage.




Violet Dropwing


Violet dropwing (Trithemis annulata) one of the
dragon flies hunting around water. Family Libellulidae





Broad Scarlet




Red-veined Dropwing (Thritemis arteriosa). Family Libellulidae


Broad scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea), widespread. Family Libellulidae




African Black Widow Palpopleura lucia




African black widow (Palpopleura lucia) male is quite
common South of the Sahara. Family Libellulidae


African black widow (Palpopleura lucia) female is quite
common South of the Sahara. Family Libellulidae




Blacktailed Skimmer






Black-Tailed Skimmer (Nesciothemis farinosa), Family Libellulidae


Forest Watcher, Notiothemis sp. (Family Libellulidae)










Africallagma sp., Family Coenagrionidae, Bluet Damselfly


Tigertail (Ictinogomphus ferox) one of the most striking
dragonflies in Africa. Family Gomphidae. Widespread.






Dead leaf mantis




Order: Mantids ( Mantoptera or Mantodea), Family: Flower mantis - Hymenopodidae.

Species: Pseudocreobotra wahlbergi. They sit on flowers well camouflaged and catch insects with their spiky front legs.


Dead leaf mantis (Phyllocrania sp),
Flower mantis - Hymenopodidae, Subfamily Epaphroditinae.






 Giant mantis (Sphrodomantis lineola)
Family Mantidae, Subfamily Mantinae






Leaf footed bug




Order Hemiptera
Suborder Heteroptera - Bugs
Family Reduviidae - Assasin bugs

About 7.000 species of this family occur world wide. When threatend they can inject venom which burns badly and makes the area feel like numb. I made this experience with the assassin bug in the picture.


Order Hemiptera
Suborder Heteroptera - Bugs
Family Coreidae

Leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus gonagra)




Shield bug


Order Hemiptera
Suborder Pentatomorpha
Superfamily Pentatomoidea
Family Scutelleridae





Order:Termites (Isoptera) belong for sure to the most interesting social insects. Their nearest relatives are cockroaches. The termite mounds have depending on the species different shapes. This one shows clearly the still humid soil carried from down after the last rainy season. The climate inside a termite mound is very constant due to a very clever air condition system. They eat huge amounts of plant material.

Compare the hight of this termite mound with the goat and you will be impressed by the constructions these small insects can make.





Order Stick and leave insects (Phasmida)
Family: Stick insects (Phasmatidae)





Armoured Ground cricket




Order Orthoptera, Suborder Ensifera. True crickets (Family Gryllidae)
entertained us in Nakuru with their loud music after sunset.
Males dig their own holes which also enforce the sound.


Order Orthoptera, Family Tettigoniidae - bush crickets
Armoured ground cricket




Cave cricket Phaeophilacris






Order Orthoptera, Suborder Grilloidea, Family Phalangopsidae
Cave or Camel Cricket (Phaeophilacris sp)
They have very long hind legs, an arched back and extremely long antennas


Order Blattodea - Cockroaches
Family Ectobiidae, formerly Blattelidae, Blattelid Wood Roaches








Order Orthoptera,
Suborder: Caelifera
Family: Acrididae - Grasshoppers
Oedipoda sp. Nymph

Truxalis sp.




Milkweed locust




An other species with short antennas - Caelifera (Picture from Nairobi)
Family: Pyrgomorphidae - Milkweed locusts
Species: Phymateus viridipes - nymphs


Species: Phymateus viridipes










Order: Homiptera, Suborder: Homoptera, Family: Flatid bugs (Flatidae). Nymphs with waxlike growths. Adults sit on plants well camouflaged sucking plant saps. Often they occur in large groups.


Order: Neuroptera
Family: Antlions -
In the larvae stage they live in loose soil in a self dug pipe. Prey slides down the steep slopes of the funnel directly into their fangs. A perfect trap.
The adults are delicate flying insects with a wobbling flight.








Order beetles ( Coleoptera)
Family: Cerambycidae (Flat-faced longhorn beetles)
Subfamily: Lamiinae
Species: Ceroplesis militaris


Order beetles ( Coleoptera)
Family: Coccinellidae -Ladybirds
Subfamily: Coccinellinae
Genus: Cheilomenes sp.




Rhinoceros beetle




Suborder Polyphaga
Superfamily: Scaraboidea
Family: Scarab or dung beetles

Some of the Scarabaeidae got famous because of rolling dung into balls. This behaviour is very important to bring huge amounts of dung underground to serve as fertilizer.


Suborder Polyphaga
Superfamily: Scaraboidea
Family: Scarab or dung beetles
Subfamiy: Dynastinae

Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes sp). They are
nocturnal and feed on dead plant material.




Rose chafer
Emerald fruit chafer






Emerald fruit chafer (Rhabdotis sp)
Family: Scarabaeidae, Subfamily: Cetoniinae / Flower chafers






Ant mimicking ground beetle




Blister beetles are beetles (Coleoptera) of the family Meloidae, so
called for their defensive secretion of a blistering agent, Cantharidin.
About 2500 sepcies occur worldwide, mainly in warm areas.


Ant-mimicking ground beetle. In the family Carabidae
are 40.000 species worldwide.




Giant click beetle
Darkling beetle




Giant Click Beetle, Family Elateridae. Over 9.000
species exist world wide in this family.


Darkling or Tok-Tokkie Beetle, Family Tenebrionidae (Warty stone beetles)
subfamily Stenochiinae. Some of them know to attract females.




Lycidae beetle
Slender net winged beetle




Large net-winged beetle / Lycidae beetle (Family Lycidae)

Slender net-winged beetle (Family Lycidae). This family is cosmopolitan.








Order Flies /  Mosquitoes (Diptera)
Suborder: Brachycera - flies
Family: Calliphoridae - blow flies
Subfamily: Calliphorinae
Blue bottle or blow fly - Lucilia sp.
Copper-tailed blow fly - Chrysomya sp.

Family: Sacrophagidae - flesh flies
Subfamily: Sacrophaginae
Grey flesh fly - Sacrophaga

A huge number of larvae have already hatched
and eat up the 3 days old carcass of a giraffe.

Who doesn't know those metallic shining flies always sitting on dung or rotting meat and than bothering us in the kitchen sitting on our food?....but even we don't like them, they have their important duty in nature by removing carrion and dung. Here on a dead cow calf. About 1.000 carrion flies are know in the world.




Robber fly with prey


Cuckoo Bee Thyreus




Order Diptera
Suborder Brachycera
Infraorder Asilomorpha
Superfamily Asiloidea
Family Asilidae - Robber Fly


Order Hymenoptera
Family Apidae / Bees
Thyreus species / Cuckoo bee

They are cleptoparasites but they don’t steal food, they lay their eggs on the pollen masses made by other bees, or the hosts of parasitic or parasitoid wasps. They are either bold black and white or black and light blue..





Order Hymenoptera
Suborder Apocrita
Family Anthophoridae
Subfamily Carpenter bees (Xylocopinae)
Carpenter bee sp










 Order Hymenoptera
Suborder Apocrita
Ueberfamilie: Bienen oder Blumenwespen (Apoidea)
Family Anthophoridae
Subfamily Carpenter bees (Xylocopinae)
Common Carpenter Bee
(Xylopa inconstans)
500 species exist in the world. Most of them build their nests in dead wood.


63 species are recorded in Kenya. Xylopa sp.




Parasitoid wasp insect


Parasitoid wasp




Order Hymenoptera / Suborder Apocrita
Parasitoid wasps inject their eggs into hosts (arthropods) where they feed and develop. The pupae stage is external.
The caterpillar is now hardly alive, it was eaten from inside. They are very useful in keeping the number of damaging insects low.






Bee wolf Kenya




Order Hymenoptera
Suborder Sawflies (Symphyta)
Superfamily Burrowing wasps (Sphecoi
Family Crabonidae
Subfamily Philantinae
Bee wolf (Philantus sp)

The female digs one hole for each egg and provides paralysed insects as food for the larvae. Bee wolves mainly hunt honey bees.
Each Bee wolf species hunts a different species of honey bee.






Velvet Ant




Order Hymenoptera
Suborder Sawflies (Apocrita)
Family Wasps (Vespidae)
Subfamily Real wasps (Vespinae)
Genus Paper wasps (Polistes)


Order Hymenoptera
Suborder Sawflies (Apocrita)
Family: Velvet ants (Mutilidae)

In the family of the Velvet ants are worldwide over 3.000 species. They are not ants, but wasps mimiking ants. The name velvet describes the densly haired creatures. The female doesn’t have wings and the sting is very painful. The exoskeleton is extremely hard. They parasite bees, ants and others.



Crematogaster tree nest




Whistle thorn or Ant-galled acacias (Acacia drepanolobium) are short shrubs in the Rift valley. When the wind blows into the holes of the galls built for ants you hear a whistling sound and this gave them their name.

These enlarged and hollow thorns are shelters and breeding place for the Acacia-ants of the genus Crematogaster and Tetraponera. That is not yet enough, the acacia feeds the ants with a sugary sap and a highly nutritious snack. In return the ants defend the tree against hungry insects and herbivores by biting them and spraying a bad odour. This co-existence is called Myrmecophily and exists in the new and old world.

Ants also belong to the order of Hymenoptera, Superfamily Vespoidea, Family Ants (Formicidae, Subfamily Myrmicinae).


Many species of the genus Crematogaster build small or large nests in trees.











The army ant also known as driver or safari ants or in Kiswahili Siafu (Family Ecitoninae, Genus Dorylus) shifting to a new home. The larger soldier ants move at the outer part of the column to secure the smaller ants. When sedentary the bigger ants go out to catch food and carry it back to the nest. If you ever get too close they walk up and inflict a painful bite. They are also feared since they can finish of larger animals.




Metabele Ants


Metabele or Sizzling Ants (Megaponera analis). Named after the fierce Bantu tribe in Southern Africa which overwhelmed several other tribes in the 18th century. They strictly feed on termites (termitophagous) which they raide in colomn-like formation. They occur South of the Sahara.

Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae










Spiders and Millipeds

Spiders exist all over the world except around the poles. All have venom which they inject into their prey to digest and suck out the liquid. The hard shell is dropped. Spider nets can be real art work and are characteristic for the different families.

In Africa and other hot countries some spiders have nasty bites.

In Scorpions you find 2 types. The more harmless once (the sting still pains) have big pincers and a thin tail while the dangerous once from the genus Parabuthus have tiny pincers and a thick tail with they use as main weapon.

Spiders belong to the Arthropodes (Phylum - Arthropoda) and have 8 legs.
Infraclass: Chelicerata - Characteristic: 1st pair of legs has developed into chelicerae. They have no antennas.
Class: Arachnida - spiders
Order: Arnanae - web spiders
Suborder: Araneomorphae -  orb web spiders




Cellar spider Pholcidae


Cellar spider, Family Pholcidae are are a large family in the suborder Araneopmorphae. When disturbed it either retreats into a hiding place or starts vibrating rapidly.









Garden spider (Argiope sp.) family orb-web spiders (Aranaidae)

Garden spider (Argiope sp.) with stabilimentum in the net,
to conceal the spider from predators. Females are middle seized
to big,
males are tiny. They are mostly found in tall grass and shrubs.




Nephila inaurata




Family: Nephilidae – Red-legged Golden orb-web spiders. (Nephila inaurata).
This genus is found worldwide in tropical areas. Females grow impressively
large and in some areas they even catch small birds. Despite their seize
the venom is not dangerous to human. This one is from Watamu.

Also a Nephila species in Meru National park from below. Males are only
1/1000 of the seize of the female.




Nephila Mar






Black-legged Nephila (Nephila fenestra), Masai Mara - the golden orb is visible


Kite spider, Gasteracantha sp, are small spiders. This one is only
about 1 cm wide sitting in a net with an immense diameter.
Family orb-net spiders (Aranaidae)










Olive Huntsman (Olios sp). Superfamily Sporassoidea,
Family Sporassidae - Huntsman spiders


Rain Spider (Palystes sp), Family Sporassidae - Huntsman spiders. The female rain spider constructs a bag of papery white silk and leaves.. If you look carefully there are tiny spiders on the bag. The males are the same seize than the females.








Long-spinnered bark spiders (Family Hersilidae / Hersilia sp). They are flat spiders with 2 long spinnerets. They are usually seen resting upside-down with legs outstretched. Since they are well camouflaged it is not easy to spot them.

An impressive, but harmless nursery web spider
(Euprosthenops sp, Family Pisauridae)




Brown Button Spider


False button spider




Family  Theridiidae / Comb-footed spiders

Brown Button spider or Brown Widow spider (Latrodectus geometricus) is not as venomous as the Black Widow spider. They build untidy nets and are mostly hidden. Characteristic is the hour glass shaped orange patch.


Family  Theridiidae / Comb-footed spiders

False Button spider (Steatoda marmorata) is less venomous than real button spiders.






Superfamily Syctodoidea
Family Sicriidae (former Loxoscelidae)
Genus Loxosceles sp.

Violin spiders can occasionally been found in the house. It is a not aggressive spider that prefers dark corners. The bite is not painful and often not realised. Due to the cytotoxic venom the wound will become ulceric.

It was given the name due to the violin shaped pattern on its back.









Wall crab spiders (Family: Selenopidae) have a flattened body and spread their legs in crab-like fashion. This has given them the common name “Flatties”. Once disturbed they are extremely agile. This female has covered the eggs with a fine material and hides herself under a net.


Burrowing Wolf spider (Family Lycosidae, Order Araneae). They live in holes which they dig themselves, in leave litter or any other place they can hide. Then they wait for prey to pass and catch it. This animal is about 2 cm long, while other species vary from 6 to 30 mm. The habit of the female of carrying the egg sac attached to her spinnerets enables one to recognize the family. She will also carry the young on her body.









Wandering Wolfsspider (Hogna sp. Family Lycosidae) hide under leaves and other litter but wander around to find food. Span from legtip to legtip about 4.5 cm.


The female wolf spiders carry their young around.




armoured Trapdoorspider

Trapdoor spider




Order: Araneae, suborder Mygalomorphae / Family Idiopidae - Front-eyed Trap door spiders.

They dig their own holes and some construct a trap door. There they wait for prey to pass. In the picture a 2.5 cm long male.

Trap door spider, Family Ctenizidae. It is a small family of spiders
that build tightly fitting trap doors made of soil, plant material and silk.




BaboonSpider warning




Order: Araneae, Suborder: Mygalomorphae / baboon spiders relatives
Family: Theraphosidae / baboon spiders
Kilimanjaro mustard baboon Spider (Pterinochilus chordatus). The females reach 5 cm in length. They live in small holes which they cover with spider net, leaves and stones. They can run fast for a short distance. The bite is very painful and can cause some pain in the chest cavity. They feed on crickets and other insect at dawn or at night. They can be found in Somalia and East Africa up to 2.100 m.






Solifugae is an order in the class Arachnida. They are also called Sun or camel spiders. 900 species occur mainly in dry areas. They don’t web nets and have no venom glands but the bite can be felt since some are quite large. They hunt actively and feed on insects, spiders, small reptiles.




Hottentotta triliniatus


Spiders and Scorpions belong to the Arthropodes (Phylum - Arthropoda) and have 8 legs.
Infraclass: Chelicerata - Characteristic: 1st pair of legs has developed into chelicerae. They have no antennas.
Class: Arachnida - spiders
Order: Scorpions (Scorpiones)
Family: Buthidae
Genus/species: hottentotta trilineatus - common in Africa

In Scorpions you find 2 types. The more harmless once (the sting still pains!) have big pincers and a thin tail while the dangerous once from the family Buthidae have tiny pincers and a thick tail with they use as main weapon.

This not about 4 cm long scorpion belongs to the genus Hottentota and can inflict infecting wounds. It is worth it to check shoes  when travelling below 1.700 m and not walk barefoot even in rooms.










Subphylum Millipedes (Myriapoda), Class (Diplopoda), Order Spirostreptida, Suborder Spirostreptidea, Family Spirostreptidae

Giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas), is one of the largest
millipedes, growing up to 38.5 centimetres. They occur below 1.000 m.

The roundish millipedes are harmless, while the flattish scolopenders inflict a painful wound.





Red-legged Millipede (Ephibolus pulchripes, Synonym: Spirobolus pulchripes) is found from Northeastern Kenya to Northern Tanzania. They eat dead leaves and contribute to the fertility of soil with their excrements.

Rotbeiniger Tausendfuessler






Order Scolopensramorpha
Family Scolpendridae - Centipedes

Scolopender sp also know as tropical Centipedes. They feed on small creatures. The sting is painful for quite some days.

The one on the left is from an island in Lake Victoria and around 10 cm long. The one below I found in Samburu and it reaches almost 20 cm in lenght.