In the desert of the Kalahari where the arid region bakes for much of the year, the rain is scarce and a miracle maker. Flowers and insects all flourish post the rain for a short period when the life cycle of most species needs to complete in short order. The colours and smells are intense and so is the need to feed and reproduce in Tswalu reserve during dusk.
Armoured Ground Cricket – Acanthoplus discoidalis
The Armoured Ground Cricket is a wide-bodied, flightless species that typically grows to a body length of about 5 cm. The pronotum bears several sharp, conical spines. The mandibles, or main biting jaws, are powerful; they can inflict a painful nip and they permit the insect to feed on material such as tough herbage or carrion. Another defense against predators is reflex bleeding (also called "autohaemorrhaging") in which the insects squirt haemolymph from pores in their exoskeleton, achieving a range of a few centimetres. Especially when their diet is deficient in protein and salt, members of the species commonly become cannibalistic, so much so that when their populations peak in autumn and some of them stray across roads and are crushed by traffic, cannibalistic conspecifics congregate around the casualties and feed until they, in turn, are killed.
Nikon D300, DX format, AF-Nikkor 105mm f 2.8 Macro lens, 1/80th sec @ f11, ISO 800
Photograph by Andrew Woodburn