Every violet lover is familiar with these insects. Everyone knows the little flies that hover over pots of plants. Sometimes there are almost none, sometimes there are hundreds of them. Who are these eternal companions of the grower?
Photo 1. Female Sciaris.
Soil mosquitoes of the family Sciaridae distributed everywhere, but at the same time, they remain the least studied group in the order Diptera. Sciarids (Sciaridae) - living fossils, this is one of the most ancient groups of dipterans. Due to their small size and latent larval phase, sciarid representatives did not attract the attention of researchers for a long time. At the moment, this family includes about thirty genera, uniting more than 1700 species described by science. According to the most conservative estimates of experts, another 20,000 species will be described in the near future, mainly from tropical regions of the Earth. The fauna of Europe is less rich in sciarids - there are just over 600 species.
Most often we encounter representatives of the genera Sciara, Licoriella (Lycoriella) and Bradysia... Outwardly, without a microscope, trying to distinguish them is almost useless. Some a little less, others a little more. Some are blacker, others, just a little, lighter. Sciarids enter the volumes with plants either with soil, or adult females, penetrating into the room from the street, lay their eggs in moist soil. It is almost impossible to get rid of mushroom mosquitoes once and for all. If there are conditions for their nutrition and reproduction, then they will fly back to you as soon as the chemicals expire.
Waterlogging of the substrate and the high content of rapidly decomposing organic matter in it are the main conditions under which sciarids feel most comfortable and begin to multiply rapidly.
Morphology and biology
Photo 2. Female Sciaris.
As already mentioned above, sciaris is a small mosquito (0.5-2 mm) with a narrow body and a rounded head. The colors of the abdomen and legs may vary from species to species, but they are usually grayish or black. The mouth organs of adults are underdeveloped. The wings of most species are well developed, but wingless species are also found.Adults do not feed, so they cannot harm plants. The female lays eggs in moist soil. A few days later, worm-like legless larvae (2-10 mm) emerge from the eggs. They are translucent, with a translucent intestine and a black head capsule. It is by her that the sciarid larva can be easily distinguished from the small annelids, which are sometimes abundant in substrates rich in humus. Large sciarid larvae can leave a barely noticeable slimy mark on the soil surface. It should also be noted that they absolutely do not tolerate the complete drying out of the soil. The larvae removed from the wet substrate die within a few minutes.
Photo 3. Sciaris larva.
Photo 4. Sciaris larva.
A small hedgehog, reaches a length of 14 to 25 cm and has a short tail from 1 to 1.6 cm long.The length of the hind foot is from 2.6 to 2.9 cm.The length of the needles is from 5 to 10 mm, the longest on the back is 15 mm, on the head - up to 17 mm. Their basal half is white, the upper half is dark brown or brown-black, often with a black tip, so the color looks dark. The abdomen is whitish or creamy. Legs are short, whitish. Hind legs have four toes (thumb is missing). The tail is very short, the length is 7% of the body length. The head is light, the area between the eyes and the nose is black. The ears are small, round and shorter than the surrounding needles. Their length is about 73% of the length of the hind leg.
Differences from other species
The white-bellied hedgehog is easily distinguished from the Ethiopian hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus), with which they cross their range in central Sudan and southwestern Eritrea, by its much shorter ears (4–4.5 cm in P. aethiopicus). The Somali hedgehog (Atelerix sclateri) is larger and has five toes on its hind legs.
The species is found in the western savannas of the Sudan region, located south of the Sahel, from Senegal to southern Sudan and South Sudan, as well as in western Somalia, Ogaden, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi. It is absent in the Ethiopian Highlands and in the rainforest zone south of the Sudanese savannah region. There are isolated isolated populations in Zambia on the north bank of the Zambezi River.
The range of the white-bellied hedgehog
Habitat and lifestyle
Found in savannas, semi-arid (steppe) and rocky areas, avoids humid areas. Often found in gardens and farmland. Animals are nocturnal and spend the day hiding under rocks, tree trunks, rock crevices or termite mounds. Captive white-bellied hedgehogs are mostly active from 21:00 to 24:00 and around 3:00. The diet is still poorly understood. In East Africa, they feed on worms, snails, freshwater crabs, insects, as well as fruits, mushrooms and roots. Due to the large area, the breeding season differs depending on the region, but it is generally drier and cooler.
Young hedgehog (about 1.5 months)
Of the predators, the pale owl (Bubo lacteus) hunts the white-bellied hedgehog. Among the known ectoparasites are fleas: feline (Ctenocephalides Felis), Ctenocephalides crataepus, Echidnophaga gallinacea and southern rat (Xenopsylla cheopis), as well as ixodid ticks Haemaphysalis leachi, and Haemaphysalis leachi. Other ectoparasites are mites such as Caparinia erinacei, Caparinia tripilis, Myocoptes musculinus, Notoedres oudemansi, Rodentopus sciuri, and itch itch (Sarcoptes scabiei).
The life expectancy of white-bellied hedgehogs in captivity is up to 10 years, in the wild it rarely exceeds 3 years.
The IUCN classifies the species as not at risk (Least Concern).
Like a pet
The species are kept as pets and fed on insects and their larvae such as crickets and zofobas, as well as dry food, peas, corn, potatoes, lettuce, and wet cat food. Do not give more than 30 g of meat / insects per day. Do not give loose products: avocados, citrus fruits, chocolate, dairy products, dried fruits and vegetables, fish, garlic and onions, grapes, nuts, mushrooms, seeds, insects caught in nature, packaged semi-finished products, raw meat, bones. Please note that this is only a preliminary list, and there are many more unsuitable foods for hedgehogs. If you are unsure if a particular product is suitable for feed, simply do not feed it to your pet without consulting a professional or a more experienced breeder.
Sciarids do not cause significant harm to adult Saintpaulia plants with normal cultivation techniques. Sciarid larvae usually feed on rotting plant debris in the soil. In this case, the damage caused to the root system of Saintpaulias is few and is quickly compensated by the violet due to the growth of new roots. However, with mass reproduction of sciarids, they begin to actively feed on living tissues of plants, which allows them to be classified as pests. Some types of flies, such as cucumber (Bradysia brunnipes Mg.) and greenhouse (Plastosciosa perniciosa Edv) mosquitoes, prefer to feed on the roots and those parts of plants that touch the soil, causing significant damage to the seedlings. In my practice, there was a case when only a few sciarid larvae (introduced with the plants) completely destroyed the points of root growth in young dendrobium plants. I also know of isolated cases when a Saintpaulia leaf (its underground part) put on rooting was quickly destroyed by unusually large sciarid larvae. Moreover, not only areas damaged by rot were eaten, but also apparently healthy tissues of the leaf petiole. These cases are a rare exception to the rule, and the types of mushroom mosquitoes typical for our apartments do not harm so much.
Photo 5. Female sciarida on a Saintpaulia leaf.
Photo 6. Male sciaris on a Saintpaulia leaf.
The fight against sciarids, fools, soil mites - Sisyphean labor. They will appear always, over and over again, and the harm from them is insignificant. You need to pay attention to sciarids only when they become a real problem (when there are hundreds of flies, and the soil is literally moving from worms). The mass reproduction of these animals speaks of poor agricultural technology, and then it needs to be corrected. A good result is obtained by adding ligocene (crushed coconut peel) to the soil composition. Water as the substrate dries. Avoid using soil with a large amount of undecomposed components (leaf dust and other plant residues).
Before starting the fight, make sure that the flies flying in your apartment are sciarids, and not fruit flies (fruit flies) that have come to you to smell of stale jam, compote or overripe fruit.
If you still have to reduce the number of sciarids, then you can use systemic insecticides (spill the ground with a solution). A good result is the addition of citromone or askofen to the water for irrigation (half a tablet for 3-4 liters of water). The drug Regent well destroys the larvae of mushroom mosquitoes. If you got Regent 80%, then 1 g of powder per 10 l of irrigation water, if Regent 25, then 3 ml of the drug is diluted in one liter of water (30 ml / 10 l).
When preparing the soil for sowing Gesneriaceae seeds, the soil should be steamed well. Seedlings are grown in hermetically sealed containers. It is desirable that even the drainage holes of such containers are inaccessible to the flies.
White-bellied pangolin, or white-bellied pangolin (Latin Manis tricuspis) belongs to the Pangolin family (Manidae). This mammal has a conservation status as a vulnerable species. The Africans use its meat for food, and the scales are exported to China, where medicinal tinctures are made from it.
Due to uncontrolled hunting, its population decreases by about 20% every 10 years.
Pangolins appeared presumably in the Eocene epoch about 40 million years ago. Their extinct ancestors, the Eomanis, did not yet have scales on their tail and legs, and in addition to insects, food of plant origin was also included in the diet.
The species was first described in 1821 by the American zoologist Constantin Samuel Rafinesk-Schmalz.
The habitat is located in West and Central Africa south of the Sahel (tropical savanna). It stretches from Guinea to the Congo Basin and northern Angola. In the east, the range borders pass through the southeast of Kenya and the northwest of Tanzania.In Mozambique and Malawi, the species is considered extinct.
White-bellied lizards are most often found in the rainforest zone. They always settle near water bodies, as they have a habit of drinking water regularly. Slightly less often, animals live in savannas and secondary forests. Sometimes they are observed on arable agricultural land.
Their range partially coincides with the range of the giant (Manis gigantea) and steppe pangolins (Manis temminckii).
White-bellied pangolin is arboreal. During the day, he sleeps in the hollows of trees at a height of 10-15 m above the ground, and with the onset of dusk he goes in search of food. The peak of its activity falls on the period from 6 pm to midnight. Males can hunt until dawn.
In areas with poor tree vegetation, animals often dig underground shelters 30-40 cm deep.
The unusually long tail serves as a kind of "fifth limb" and helps to move through the trees. Having grabbed a branch by it, the white-bellied lizard can hang upside down for a long time. The front and hind legs move in pairs, resembling the movement of a caterpillar.
When descending from the tree, the animal moves downward in a spiral around the trunk. If the branches suddenly crack, then he falls to the ground, curled up into a ball. So it softens the force of impact when it comes into contact with the soil surface and insures against damage.
On the ground, the pangolin moves with an ordinary four-legged gait at a speed of 1 to 1.5 km / h, raising its tail in a horizontal position. He also swims well, making movements in the water like a snake. Before the swim, the animal collects the maximum amount of air in the lungs, increasing in size and increasing the buoyancy of its body. Having sailed to its destination, it exhales air noisily back.
Each adult lives separately in its own home area. In females, its area is 3-4 hectares, and in males it reaches 30 hectares. On the site there are several shelters in the hollows of trees, which are used in turn.
Males on their hunting grounds are tolerant of females, but without ceremony they drive juveniles out of them. They fight with each other with their front limbs.
Communication occurs mainly through the sense of smell. Lizards constantly mark secretions from the anal glands in places of feeding. The glands located in the perineum are used to attract partners during the mating season and to express aggression towards same-sex relatives.
The diet consists of termites of the genera Nasutitermes and Microcerotermes. White-bellied lizards eat ants much less often. They feed on insects from both arboreal and terrestrial colonies. They find food thanks to their excellent scent.
The predator attacks the termite mound from different sides and destroys it with its claws in several places. He eats termites with a long sticky tongue, which is able to stretch up to 30 cm in length. Their nests are not completely destroyed. The lizards return to them several times in a row.
An adult eats from 150 to 200 g of feed daily. After eating, the animal sways on the ground and rubs against hard objects to get rid of insects crawling between the scales.
Sexual maturity occurs between the ages of 18-24 months. The mating season takes place in the spring, but in most of the range, mating takes place all year round. Members of opposite sexes come together only for mating. Males arrange ritual battles among themselves. The defeated are deprived of the right to reproduce.
The winners are chasing the females. Having caught up with their chosen one, they mate, and then lose all interest in her.
Pregnancy lasts 138-145 days. The female gives birth to one calf weighing 200-350 g. Cases of twins are documented, but they are very rare.
Babies are born with open eyes. Newborns are covered with soft scales that harden as they grow older. Their body length is about 29 cm, and their weight is 100 g. The skin without hair is colored pink.
The baby spends the first two weeks in the hollow of a tree.Then he travels, sitting on the wide maternal tail.
Milk feeding lasts 3-4 months. From this age, the cub begins to go out with the mother in search of food. After the appearance of a new baby with her, he breaks up with her and goes on to independent existence. By the age of 15 months, he is gaining more than 1 kg of weight and acquires his own home site.