Monday 14 May
The team flies to Kisangani on a Monusco flight provided free by UNESCO
We took care to follow the detailed instructions for using the on-board facilities…
Stocking up two weeks’ worth of provisions in Kisangani – mainly sardines and corned beef –
..and eventually able to locate a source of reasonable quality ethanol (for insect preservation, of course).
Heading out of Kisangani by road and river to Yangambi
The first of many ferry crossings – this one was pretty straightforward for our two 4-wheel drive vehicles
The next was a little more complicated....
as the video below shows....
Always lots of interesting people to meet
Including well-brought-up children helping with the washing-up
and down the road towards Yangambi
After a couple of hours we arrive at the WWF Yangambi Forest Reserve Station which is to be our base for the next couple of weeks.
We meet our cook Michel, who makes such a major difference to our quality of life during our stay at Yangambi with his excellent cooking, especially the local chicken.
That night Geoff sets out the light sheet with the mercury vapour lamp, and we collect a bumper harvest of all kinds of night-flying insects.
Tuesday 15 May
Among the harvest of the previous night’s collecting at light is a remarkable-looking female fig wasp – Agaon sp. (thanks to Simon van Noort, Iziko Museum, Cape Town South Africa for the Identification). Figs (Ficus spp.) live in an obligatory symbiosis with these wasps without which they can’t be fertilised. The intricate biology and interrelationships between the fig species, their pollinating wasps and many obligatory associated species is fascinating and still needs to be unravelled for many species associations.
Wednesday 16 May
Geoff and Lorna sort through the wealth of the material already collected, revealing a spectacular mosquito reared by Lorna from larvae collected in a hollow tree trunk. The filthy black water, which Lorna inadvertently managed to swallow while collecting larvae by siphoning up the water, yielded several specimens of this voracious predatory mosquito – a species of Toxorhynchites – also known as the “elephant mosquito”. In order to rear these specimens to adulthood Lorna had to keep them supplied with food in the form of smaller mosquito larvae.
The colourful irridescent scales of Toxorhynchites bring to mind butterfly wing scales – far removed from our usual perception of mosquitoes and their unpleasant associations.
Thursday 17 May
Andy rides pillion to the main area of pristine primary forest in the Yangambi Forest Reserve……
…to set up the Malaise Trap – an interception trap for (mainly) flying insects, ands a series of Yellow Pan Traps – simple water-filled bowls with a little detergent to break the surface tension – attractive to many insects due to the colour resembling young vegetation. Both trapping systems are extremely efficient, low maintenance collecting methods.
Sorting through the first results of the Malaise Trap and Yellow Pan Traps placed in the forest
The Yellow Pans yielded the rare ponerine ant Phrynoponera sveni – described from the Congo in 1916 – nearly 100 years ago. These are the first Congolese specimens for the NHM collection
and the ubiquitous “African stink ant” Pachycondyla tarsata which lived up to its common name.
When Andy sorted the first Malaise Trap sample he found something that he wasn’t even certain was a beetle, which was identified later by Max Barclay as an aleocharine staphylinid, probably a myrmecophilous species. Any suggestions as to its identity gratefully received (note the unusual reduced tarsi)
– also for the following prionine cerambycid collected at light, which is absent from the NHM collection and has so far defeated more than one international specialist....
Friday 18 May
Friday was market day in Yangambi - we saw a lot of interesting things on sale – Lorna successfully bargained for a bag of chilli peppers – “piment” –
which spiced up our regular lunch menu of imported corned beef and local avocado – a perfect combination (at least according to Geoff).
Saturday 19 – Friday 25 May
Getting towards the end of the trip. The last week has been incredibly productive with night-light trapping, yellow pans and Malaise trapping, and screen-sweeping of (mainly) microhymenoptera. We have collected tens of thousands of specimens, many of which will undoubtedly be new to Science, and the majority will be new records for the D.R. Congo, with so many new acquisitions for the NHM. Thanks to our colleagues at UNESCO, WWF and Tervuren Museum, this has been a very successful expedition.
Many thanks to the team ……
…..and au revoir le Congo