DEPARTMENT OF ENTOMOLOGY & ARACHNOLOGY
Quarterly Report (July–September 2006)
Curator & Head of Department – Mr. A.H. Kirk-Spriggs; Assistant Curator B – vacant;
Curator Emeritus & Contract Researcher – Dr. F.W. Gess & Contract Researcher – Dr. S.
K. Gess; Honorary Curator (Lepidoptera) – Mr. E.L. Pringle; Technical Assistant –
Research continued on a revision of the Afrotropical species of ‘hump-backed flies’
(Diptera: Curtonotidae), and new material, including type specimens has been loaned
during this period (see ‘incoming research loans’). Work has focused on the examination
and recording of type material of the genus Curtonotum and on the dissection of male
specimens of the genus Cyrtona, especially material from the Democratic Republic of
Congo and South Africa and many hundreds of dissections have been undertaken. Only
five species of the genus Cyrtona are described and at least 35 new species have been
identified. The abdomens of all dissected specimens have been photographed digitally,
and this has required extensive periods at the SEM Unit of Rhodes University. The
specimens received have been curated and identified where possible.
For research on the variability of spermathecal form (see ‘Publications’ below), many
hundreds of dissections and slide preparations were undertaken and again extensive
periods were spend imaging these at Rhodes University. Mr. Kirk-Spriggs also submitted
a proposal to the National Zoological Gardens at Pretoria for the collection of Aardvark
scats in order to hump-backed flies. This project was accepted and a research project
number allocated. In addition, 45 unsorted Malaise trap samples loaned from the National
Museum of Namibia were sorted through for Curtonotidae and the specimens extracted
mounted and labelled.
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs wrote a Ph.D. Research Proposal and this has been accepted by Rhodes
University, with Prof. Martin Villet as Supervisor. A letter requesting permission to
undertake a Ph.D. degree at Rhodes University was presented at the meeting of the Board
of Trustees of the Albany Museum and was agreed upon. Mr. Kirk-Spriggs shall formerly
register in January 2007. The proposed title of the thesis is: ‘Revision of the Afrotropical
species of Curtonotidae (Diptera: Ephydroidea) – systematics, biology, immature stages
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs was invited to join Prof. Michael E. Irwin (Schlinger Arthropod
Biodiversity Research Professor, University of Illinois, USA) and Frank D. Parker (Reno,
USA), on a forthcoming collecting trip to Madagascar planned for January 2007. In
collaboration with Prof. Martin Villet (Rhodes University), Mr. Kirk-Spriggs wrote a
proposal for funding to Prof. John Duncan (Dean of Research, Rhodes University). This
was successful and he was awarded a Discretionary Grant of R15000 toward costs. An
additional sum of R4500 is pledged by Prof. Villet to sample cicadas and an as yet
undisclosed amount by the Department of Freshwater Invertebrates to sample aquatic
The monograph ‘The Calliphoridae of Namibia (Diptera: Oestroidea)’, was finally
published in the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa, and Mr. Kirk-Spriggs checked and
corrected two sets of proofs of the paper during this period. The final publication is 131
pages in length and has been widely acclaimed by the dipterological community at large
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs completed a manuscript which investigates the variability in
spermathecal structure in the three species of the Curtonotum cuthbertsoni Complex from
sub-Saharan Africa. This has involved extended periods at the SEM Unit of Rhodes
University for digital photography. This manuscript has been submitted to the peer-
reviewed journal African Entomology (see ‘Publications’).
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs completed a manuscript describing the immature stages of the guano
island-associated ‘lesser-dung fly’ Archicollinella penteseta (Richards) (Diptera:
Sphaeroceridae), and its probable means of introduction to Great Britain via the guano
trade. This has been submitted to the peer-reviewed journal African Entomology (see
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs completed a manuscript describing the immature stages of the
chloropid fly Eutropha lindneri (Sabrosky) from the Namibian coast, larvae of which
feed on mammalian carrion. This has been submitted to the peer-reviewed journal
African Entomology (see ‘Publications’).
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs completed a chapter dealing with the family Curtonotidae with co-
authors from Canada for the forthcoming book ‘Manual of Central American Diptera’
Work has also progressed on the mounting and labelling of other specimens resulting
from the Namibian guano island survey currently on loan from the NMNW.
Dr. Fred Gess completed the description of new species of Quartinia associated with the
Gesses’ investigation of the use of snail shells for nesting by bees and wasps in the arid to
semi-arid winter rainfall regions of southern Africa and made progress with descriptions
of further new species to be included in the same paper.
Dr. Sarah Gess completed a manuscript for a paper on the nesting and flower visiting of
anthidiine bees (Megachilidae: Megachilinae: Anthidiini) in southern Africa and
submitted this to the Journal of Hymenoptera Research. Following the receipt of
referees’ comments and suggestions she undertook the recommended revisions;
notification of acceptance is awaited.
Dr. Sarah Gess wrote proposals for three books currently in preparation by Dr. Fred Gess
and herself and submitted these for posting on the Arid Zone Ecology Forum website, in
the hope of attracting funding and publishers.
Drs. Fred and Sarah Gess undertook three one-day fieldtrips to Riet River, Kenton-on-
Sea and Port Alfred, respectively, to collect samples of snail shells. These shells were
later investigated for the incidence of their use for nesting by bees. The results were
added to those from the west and south coasts, and shall be included in a manuscript
currently in preparation by Dr. Sarah Gess on the use of snail shells by wasps and bees
for nesting in southern Africa. For this paper Dr. Fred Gess identified wasps and bees
which had recently emerged from nests in snail shells collected in September/October
The Gesses received an invitation from Ms. Coleen Mannheimer to participate in a
fieldtrip to the Sperrgebiet winter rainfall area in south-western Namibia in
August/September 2006. It was decided, however, that efforts this year should rather be
directed to the filling of gaps in knowledge of the Masarinae of the Great Karoo and the
south-east coast of South Africa.
Curatorial efforts during this period have focussed on pest prevention and eradication.
Four additional historical cabinets to those reported on in July have now been cleared of
specimens, plus a number of store boxes emptied and the respective specimens
incorporated into the main collection, or into the accessions system. Additional store
boxes discovered during the clearing of papers and off-prints have been frozen to kill
pests, and a number of other off-prints added to the digital record of departmental off-
Heads of departments in the Museum have been approached to express their interest in
acquiring empty cabinets for specimen and item storage in their departments. Permission
shall be sought from the Board of Trustees of the Museum to sell outstanding cabinets to
fund the purchase of new cabinets and steel cupboards for the spirit material at the next
In the absence of a Technical Assistant, Mr Kirk-Spriggs replaced the camphor blocks in
the collection. A further assessment was made of infestations and any drawers containing
specimens exhibiting current or past insect infestations were frozen for a 72-hour period
and the specimens labelled as damaged. Continuing identification of new infestations is
worrying, as this indicates that the new hardwood cabinets and drawers are not as pest
proof as was previously thought.
As an additional means of pest prevention the Maintenance Department was employed to
fill gaps between the false ceiling and the wall in the main collection area, the offices and
the spirit store. Holes between the roof space and the light fittings were also filled and the
plastic light fittings were cleared of dead insects to prevent re-infestation by Athrenus
museum beetles from bees’ nests in the roof space, which has long been noted as the
most likely source of infestations.
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs received a letter from the American Museum of Natural History
(AMNH), requesting the return of 2403 specimens of scoliid wasps loaned by the former
Curator of Entomology, J. Jacot-Guillarmod, which has been outstanding since 1964!
Somewhat surprisingly, Mr. Kirk-Spriggs managed to identify most of the specimens
concerned, and the major part of the loan has now been returned, the remainder is in the
process of being boxed and cross-pinned for return to AMNH. Permission was requested
and granted for this considerable amount of material to be returned at the expense of the
AMNH, representing a major saving to the Department. Other material identified as
outstanding loans by the late J. Jacot-Guillarmod have also been identified as part of the
process, and various Museums have been contacted as a result for loan details.
In the absence of a Technical Assistant, Mr. Kirk-Spriggs extracted and packed the four
loans of specimens to Lorenzo Prendini and the loans to Frank Koch and Enrico Barbero
(see ‘Loans’), and sorted through 34 unsorted Malaise traps samples stored in the
Department to extract Symphyta. The dry specimens required curation before being
loaned and this was also undertaken.
Those species of blowflies of forensic significance loaned to Hiromu Kurahashi (National
Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan), have now been identified in full and
returned. This material is highly significant as the collection supports current research at
Rhodes University in the field of forensic entomology. The collection has not been re-
incorporated as yet; as there is currently a shortage of unit trays in the Department to do
so (see below).
Incoming returned loans have been frozen to prevent new pest infestations and loaned
spirit material from the National Museum of Namibia Guano Islands Survey 2003/2005-6
has been topped-up with alcohol, as were many jars in the spirit collection containing
A request has been made to the management of the Museum for Yame Buyelwa (who
formerly worked in the Department) to be seconded to the Department for a three-week
period, in order to make unit trays for use in the collection, as recent curatorial efforts has
greatly reduced the supply available. A decision is pending.
In line with efforts to develop the Diptera collection at the Museum and also to provide a
teaching reference collection of the order for Rhodes University, Mr. Kirk-Spriggs
collected several thousand flies within the borders of Grahamstown. These are currently
being double-mounted and labelled.
Work has also progressed on the re-sorting and ordering of the Diptera collection, and
several families have now be re-ordered in full and new tray labels have been added. The
loan of Pyrgotidae (see ‘Loans’) has also been re-incorporated and arranged into the
Dr. Fred Gess re-arranged the Capicola (Melittidae) holdings in the collection, updating
Loans sent out
• Scorpiones, Opistophthalmus spp., 14 specimens to Lorenzo Prendini, American
Museum of Natural History, United States (Loan No. 694).
• Scorpiones, Opistophthalmus spp., 14 specimens to Lorenzo Prendini, American
Museum of Natural History, United States (Loan No. 695).
• Scorpiones, Opistophthalmus spp., 3 specimens to Lorenzo Prendini, American
Museum of Natural History, United States (Loan No. 696).
• Hymenoptera: Symphyta: 15 dry specimens, plus three vials to Frank Koch,
Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany (Loan No. 697).
• Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Drepanocerus spp., 92 dry specimens to Enrico
Barbero, Torino, Italy (Loan No. 698).
• Scorpiones, Opistophthalmus spp., 26 specimens to Lorenzo Prendini, American
Museum of Natural History, United States (Loan No. 699).
• Diptera: Pyrgotidae. 32 identified specimens from Valery Korneyev, Musée
Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium (loan No. 686). 13 specimens
outstanding (the remainder to be returned at a later date).
• Diptera: Calliphoridae. Part return of loan number 687, to Hiromu Kurahashi,
National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Tokyo, Japan (the remainder to be
returned at a later date).
• Hymenoptera: Melittidae, Capicola spp., 127 specimens of 304 specimens on
loan to Connal Eardley, Plant Protection Research Institute, Pretoria (the
remainder to be returned at a later date).
Incoming research loans
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 115 dry specimens from the National Museum & Gallery
of Wales, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom.
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 10 dry specimens from Plant Protection Research Institute,
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 25 dry specimens from Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin,
• 8 Unsorted Malaise trap samples from southern Africa from Frank Koch, Museum
für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany.
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 55 dry specimens from the National Museum of natural
History, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C., USA.
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 8 type specimens from Naturhistorisches Museum, Basel,
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 9 dry specimens from the University Museum of Zoology,
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 733 dry specimens from the Musée Royal de l’Afrique
Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium.
• Diptera: Curtonotidae, 3 dry specimens (including types) from the
Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Wien, Germany.
The loan of material from Plant Protection Research Institute, Harare, Zimbabwe, was
kindly arranged by Meg Cumming (Harare) and the material was hand-carried by David
Cumming, Graham Kerley and Lita Webley.
5. Identification & information service
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs partly identified a second collection of flies from Tristan du Cunha
Island, and provided general information on the collection, mostly via the medium of e-
mail. A number of telephonic enquiries were also dealt with.
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs extracted data label information from the collection of mole crickets at
the request of Lester Whitcomb (Tswana University of Technology).
Dr. Fred Gess identified wasps and bees from flowers of Orchidaceae and Apocynaceae
for Mr. Craig Peter (Department of Botany, Rhodes University) and Prof. Steve Johnson
(University of KwaZulu-Natal), who are undertaking research on the pollination of these
In response to an e-mail inquiry from Ms. Lynn Philips (Buckland’s Farm), Dr. Sarah
Gess provided information concerning the association between the tree Pappea capensis
Eckl. and Zeyh. (Sapindaceae) and the true-bug Serenitha hexophthalma (Thunb.)
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs assisted undergraduate students from Rhodes University with the
identification of specimens, both at the Museum and in the Department of Zoology and
Entomology of Rhodes University.
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs was eventually informed that the Honours student, whose project he
was co-supervising, has now switched to another project, and therefore no longer requires
On request from Mr. Sven Kanzler, Dr. Sarah Gess supplied five photographs of insects
visiting flowers in south-western Namibia for a display and booklet being prepared for
the Aus Information Centre, financed by SKEP/CEPF.
At the ‘21 Years of Arid Zone Ecology Forum’, held from 21st to 24th August 2006, in
Kamieskroon, Northern Cape, Drs. Sarah and Fred Gess displayed two posters: ‘The
current knowledge of the Masarinae (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in southern Africa - part 1,
representation and distribution of taxa’, and part 2, ‘flower associations, nesting and
associated insects’. As the Gesses did not attend the forum their posters were taken to the
venue on their behalf by Dr. Susie Vetter (Department of Botany, Rhodes University).
The Gesses book proposals (see ‘Research’), presented by Dr. Kirsten Mahood at the
AGM of AZEF at the same venue, received a favourable response.
The Department has received a total of 16 visitors during the reporting period.
A decision has still not bee received on the outcome of the application to the Dean of
Research (Rhodes University) via Dr. Martin Hill (Head of Entomology) for the donation
of two 40-drawer insect cabinets, principally to re-house the Prof. Randall Hepburn
Collection of honey bees, and to allow expansion of the existing collection. Mr. Kirk-
Spriggs has received word that this is currently being reviewed by the Vice Chancellor of
the University, and that a decision may take longer than was expected.
A 25 litre drum with tap for the storage of 70% ethanol, plus a one litre wash bottle was
donated to the Department by Dr. Martin Hill (Department of Zoology and Entomology).
The Department was also provided with chemicals and other expendables on an ad hoc
basis by the same department during the reporting period.
A portable petrol generator was purchased for the Department, plus electrics for use in
the mercury vapour light trapping of insects. Expendables needed for curation and
research were also purchased during this period, including genitalia tubing, cover slips,
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs entered into some lengthy discussions with Ferdy de Moor regarding
the scientific publication protocol of the Annals of the Eastern Cape Museums, and
provided advice on various aspects of the production and printing process.
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs attended a number of lectures on the theme of ‘Global Climate Chance’
hosted by the Royal Society of South Africa and Rhodes University.
Mr. Kirk-Spriggs edited and corrected the English text of a manuscript by request of Dr.
Frank Koch (Museum für Naturkunde, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany) and
edited digital images for a manuscript for Fred and Sarah Gess.
On request from the International Foundation for Science, Stockholm, Sweden, Dr. Sarah
Gess reviewed two applications submitted to that body for funding.
On request from the National Research Foundation, South Africa, Dr. Sarah Gess
reviewed an application for rating evaluation submitted to that body.
Gess, F.W. (accepted). Four new species of the wasp genus Celonites Latreille, 1802
(Hymenoptera: Vespidae: Masarinae) from south-western Africa, designation of
neotype for C. michaelseni von Schulthess, 1923, species representation in
Namibia, and a key to species occurring in Namibia. Journal of Hymenoptera
Gess, S.K. & Gess, F.W. (accepted). An analytical survey of flower visiting by solitary
aculeate wasps and bees in the semi-arid to arid areas of southern Africa. Annals of
the Eastern Cape Museums 5: 1–52.
Gess, S.K. & Gess, F.W. (submitted). Notes on the nesting and flower visiting of
anthidiine bees (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae: Megachilinae: Anthidiini) in southern
Africa. Journal of Hymenoptera Research.
Grichanov, I. Ya., Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Grootaert, P. (in press). An annotated checklist
of Namibian Dolichopodidae (Diptera) with the description of a new species of
Grootaertia and a key to species of the genus. African Invertebrates.
Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. (submitted). The immature stages of Eutropha lindneri Sabrosky
(Diptera: Chloropidae: Chloropinae) from the south-western seaboard of Africa, the
larvae of which develop in mammalian carrion. African Entomology.
Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. (submitted). The immature stages of Archicollinella penteseta
(Richards) (Diptera: Sphaeroceridae) from the Namibian guano islands, the first
described for the genus, with notes on its biology and introduction to the Scilly Isles
of Great Britain. African Entomology.
Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. (submitted). A qualitative assessment of intra- and intro-specific
variability in the spermathecal structure of the Curtonotum cuthbertsoni Complex
(Diptera: Schizophora; Ephydroidea) and an assessment of their value in specific
differentiation. African Entomology.
Kurahashi, H. & Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. 2006. The Calliphoridae of Namibia (Diptera:
Ostroidea). Zootaxa 1322: 1–131 pp.
Marshall, S.A., Kirk-Spriggs, A.H. & Klymko, J. (in press). Curtonotidae. In Brown,
B.V. (ed.). Manual of Central American Diptera.