And now for some of the people that we tread the hills with…
On 7 January this year we had a rather unique occurrence here in KwaZulu-Natal. After looking at my photographs of the day, I found that I had a rather interesting collection of images of well-known (and some not) butterfly people in KZN. On that day we had Alan Heath, Wolter Kaspers and Steve Woodhall with us (Ada and myself) up at Woodridge and then the next day Alan and Steve met with Clive Quickleberge. I thought this a fine opportunity to pop some of Ada and my photographs of these people up with a short note on them for other butterfly folks, who do not know the lads, to learn a little about them.
The person on the left of the photo here is Steve Woodhall. Steve is a very well-known personality in our local circles and is current president of the SA LEPSOC so I will not go on too long as most folks know him well. I met Steve 20 years ago on the Makatini flats, we (Johan Greyling, Harald Selb and I) were collecting butterflies along the road to Kosi Bay when a car drove past, slammed on breaks and we heard someone shouting something about arresting us. It was my introduction to Steve. Since then, a lot of things have changed. We are all older, some of our focuii have changed, but Steve has retained the fire and focus that he had when I first met him. The LEPSOC, in my opinion, is a better place with him at the helm.
Then there is Clive Quickleberge. There is not much that one can say about Clive as he is a very well-known lepidopterist and character in butterfly circles. One thing that I have to note is that I grew up butterflying on a very weather-beaten photocopied version of Swanepoel’s Butterflies of South Africa. David Swanepoel’s stories were magic, the locating of Lepidochrysops tantalus being one of my favourites. Clive Quickleberge is similar. No one that I know has the experience of the characters and insects and indeed the ability to spin the yarn like Clive.
I am not alone in having sat for many hours at his house or in the bush listening to stories of catching interesting insects, meeting the likes of Voctor Pringle, David Swanepoel, Charlie Dixon, Ken Pennington etc. Clive has always been a fairly outspoken fellow. A few months ago Wolter phoned me to say that Clive was in hospital after having suffered an aortic aneurism. Clive has had the benefit of the use of a pensioners card for many years already, so we shot down expecting the worst.
Fortunately, this was not to be, we walked in and there he was, sitting on a chair in his gown and within two minutes he was debating butterfly taxonomy with me. The three minutes the ICU nurse gave us became an hour and a half and then we had to leave. When Alan Heath said he was coming up this January I thought it would be great for him to meet Clive. I did not get the opportunity to introduce them but Steve did and I understand that a great time was had. I am told that Clive’s opening remarks were “Hello Alan, have we ever crossed swords??” that broke the ice and indeed encapsulates Clive, the funny, naughty and sometimes controversial character that we all know.
What can I say about my old friend Alan Heath? Alan contacted me years ago asking if I was prepared to assist collecting material for his Chrysoritis study, I said fine and agreed to collect material from KZN and the Eastern Cape. We met and have been mates and collected butterflies ever since. Like Clive, Alan’s butterfly pedigree is very long, starting in Zambia (which resulted in his book The Butterflies of Zambia) and then in South Africa (specifically the Cape where his work has resulted in numerous papers).
I have had the pleasure of accompanying him up the Bulwer mountain where he found the larvae and bred Chrysoritis oreas, up Bushman’s Neck where I found the larvae and bred C orientalis (if anyone knows the climb and Alan’s problem with heights you will know it was a memorable day!!). In the Karkloof we caught and bred C lycegenes and on Gaikas Kop and Elandsberg we chased C penningtoni and lost my little terrier, Thysbe, for a few hours. At Mbulu we found C lyncurium and more wattle than I have ever seen.
We have visited Woodridge and Balgowan looking for other Lycaenids, chased L pephredo and then also had a huge amount of fun. He has taken me to meet C nigricans and other Cape butterflies up the west coast. Alan and Jenny have frequently visited my parents in Hogsback and even got my dad to collect specimens of C penningtoni for the study (my dad is not a butterfly person and how he actually did find and catch C penningtoni I do not know, but I told him where to go and he caught it nevertheless). They have become great friends of our family and my sister in the Cape and we always look forward to the site of their white Toyota visiting us at New Year.
Finally there is the Kaspers Clan. I met Wolt nearly 20 years ago when I needed butterfly cabinets made. I was told that he had done the cabinets for the Natal Museum so went through to Durban to meet with him. That was the start of a long and pleasant friendship. Since then Wolter and I have (when in the same country) spent a lot of time travelling to far flung spot collecting insects. Wolter has always been mad about the outdoors and met up with Clive Quickleberge, then entomologist at the Natal Museum, while at school.
Clive took Wolt under his wing and together they broke a lot of butterfly ground in KZN. One day on Bulwer mountain Wolt presented Clive with a copper that he had caught. Clive, in dramatic style as usual, nearly fell off the rock that he was perched on and then announced that it was Chrysoritis oreas. Only known from the Loteni area, this was a new locality. Since then the site has been visited by most people interested in butterflies. The last time I visited was with Alan Heath when he discovered the ant and foodplant and successfully reared them. Wolter also bred Eryphene achlys for the first time in KZN. Never one to brag about his exploits Wolter notched up a lot of fairly groundbreaking discoveries of new localities and foodplants.
Wolter moved to Papua New Guinea in 1999 and left his butterfly collection with me. It is a very unique collection of mostly KZN insects and we have combined our collections into something that represents the KZN butterfly diversity fairly well. The collection has been logged by SABCA. Wolter, Jill and their two boys, Liam and Courtney have returned to South Africa. After a few years in the Cape they moved to Howick in mid-2010. The two boys, like their dad and mum have a very good relationship with nature and I am sure that, if not butterflies, some naturalist niche will be filled by each of them, just the way Wolter filled his.
Finally, looking at the characters above, they (along with Harald Selb and Johan Greyling) were the people that mentored and taught me all I know about butterflies. A debt that would be hard to repay.
I hope that you all enjoyed this little deviation. I intend to do this again with some of the other KZN butterfly people (such as Doug Morton and Clive Curtis) later in the year.