Southern Africa is home to a very interesting tree that is host to an even more interesting insect. The mopane tree grows in hot, dry, low-lying areas and has distinctive butterfly-shaped leaves that brighten up the bush with shades of gold and red during autumn.

Field Guide and photographer James Suter comes across a rhino in a mopane forest

Field Guide and photographer James Suter comes across a rhino in a mopane forest

A very important little creature lives in these trees; the caterpillar of the Mopane or Emperor Moth [Gonimbrasia belina], known as the Mopane Worm, provides a nutritious food source for many rural people in southern Africa. It is a nutrient- and protein-rich snack as well as being easy to harvest and preserve.

Mopane moth | Singita Kruger National Park

Mopane or Emperor Moth (Gonimbrasia belina)

The moths are easily identifiable by their markings, which feature a large orange eyespot on each hind wing and two black and white bands isolating two smaller eyespots. Males have long, feathery antennae that they use to find a mate during their brief three-to-four-day lifespan.

This photo first appeared in the February 2014 Wildlife Report from Singita Kruger National Park. These monthly bush journals are penned by our field guides and are packed with interesting stories and photographs. You can read them all here.


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