French Guyana


by Oskar V. Conle & Frank H. Hennemann (9. 2001)
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Guyana map - click for enlargingGeography
The French overseas department French Guiana boarders Surinam in the north and Brazil in the south and has an area of approximately 90.000 square kilometres. Due to agriculture and stock-farming being pursued only little extensively, up to this day still some 90 % of the countries area are covered with dense tropical rainforest. So far, only about 3 % have been destroyed and efforts in Paris, with the aim to declare one third of the country as protected areas, give hope that there will be a chance for the rainforest of French Guiana to survive and remain untouched in the future. In addition and in contrast to other South American countries, French Guiana is not dependent on the export of tropical timber, due to high subsidies are paid by the French government. These are mainly explained by the French and European space centre and launching pad of the “Ariane-rocket” which is situated in Kourou. From 1854 to 1938 French Guiana has been used as a colony for criminals.

The endless rainforest at Mt. d. KawDue to its geographical position, being located only 4° north off the equator, French Guiana exhibits a typical hot tropical climate with plenty of rain during the rainy season from November to June. During these months some regions are completely flooded and almost inaccessible. The coast mainly consists of swampy mangroove-forest and does not exhibit many open beaches. The hilly inland is characterized by innumerable rivers and is almost impenetrably covered with dense primary rain forest.Countryside
Paved roads or partly surfaced tracks are only found in the coastal regions. The inner parts of the country can only be travelled by boat or plane. There is still no existing road-connection to Brazil up to this day.
During our stay in September 2001 there was only little rain within the first days but the rainfalls became more frequent and plentiful towards the last three days which we had available for collecting phasmids.

About 95 % of the 120.000 inhabitants of French Guiana live in the coastal regions, most of which are of creolic, mulattic, asiatic or european origin. 75 % of the population live in the two major cities, the capital Cayenne (about 48.000 inhabitants) and Kourou. Only a few indigenous tribes are found in the inland.

Accomodation & health regulations
Museum of CayenneThe starting basis for our night collecting was the “Novotel” in Cayennne which is located close to the beach and some kilometres off the centre of CayennPicture of Cayenne taken from a planee, and in addition offered quite acceptable rooms and service. The “Novotel” is the countries best hotel which clearly shows the poor touristic development of French Guiana. The hotel staff is not much educated and quite unfriendly and we guess to have never before met so many unfriendly and introverted people in any country we visited. For being mobile and independent, we already rented a car (Peugeot 306) from the “Hertz car-rental” in Germany. Most of the paved roads in French Guiana are however in poor conditions and have holes with a depth of up to 30 cm which asked for attention and good reactions while driving.

Due to the high risk of malaria in most regions of French Guiana, a prophylactic medicine should be taken in advance or a medicine for the case of emergency should be carried along for the case that any of the Frank & Oskar in actiontypical symptoms of malaria are observed.
Furthermore, there is a great risk of yellow-fewer in most regions, why a valid inoculation-certificate against yellow-fewer is urgently needed for the entry visa. Also an inoculation against hepatitis A/B is barely needed and recommended if travelling to French Guiana. Both inoculations can be obtained from most tropical institutes or licensed public health offices. In addition, cases of dengue-fewer, leishmaniosis, typhoid fewer and cholera are frequently reported, why great care should be taken concerning the hygenics of food and drinking water.

Beach of MontjolyApart from health risks, French Guiana is regarded one of the savest of the South American countries. It can only be reached via Paris and the “Air-France” is the only airline which offers a daily flight to Cayenne. As French Guiana belongs to the EU, the Euro (€) is the legal currency.

Unfortunately the prices and costs in French Guiana are very high (most things cost almost twice as much as in most European countries), which is explained by all articles need to be imported. Otherwise, in the case of emergency almost everything you may need for night-collecting can be obtained in Cayenne. Sunday is day of rest.

As the night-collecting exposed us to a very high risk of malaria and the other reported diseases, we decided to protect ourselves by wearing bee-farming suits, which we bought in Germany. These proved to be most reliable during our night-collecting, and in some localities the suits were covered by hundreds of mosquitos.

Cayenne and MatourySurroundings of Cayenne (Matoury & Montagne Grand Matoury)
Isagoras santara femaleDue to having short ways, we decided to search for suitable collecting sites close to the hotel and the surroundings of Cayenne. Several cultivated bushes and shrubs alongside small roads around Matoury and short jungle tracks at Montagne Grand Matoury proved to be quite prolific for collecting phasmids at night. We were quite astonished to find numerous nymphs of the large Proscopid (Proscopiidae) Proscopia scabra (KLUG) and several adults of the 7 cm long “Green-Guiana-Grasshopper” Prinolopha serrata (Acridoidea) in the direct vicinity of cultivated gardens and human housings. In addition to different spiders (Phoneutria spp.) we also found a 4 cm long juvenile of the tree-living birdspider Avicularia avicularia (Therophosidae).
Throughout the surroundings of Matoury nymphs and adults of Phanocloidea muricata (BURMEISTER) and Pseudophasma phtisica (LINNÉ) were remarkably common and frequently found in large numbers. Furthermore we found many mating couples of a so far unidentified species ofMelophasma agrion female Prexaspes on an about 2 m tall bush, which resembled Guava but had very thick and hard leaves. The “highlight” of this locality were however several adults of Isagoras santara (WESTWOOD) and a female of Melophasma agrion (WESTWOOD), both of which produced a number of eggs in captivity. The latter specimen was found in the crown of a small tree at a height of about 4 to 5 metres.

Montagnes de Kaw (Piste de Kaw) & Montagnes des Roura
Church in RouraPiste de KawThe Montagnes de Kaw are positioned in the southeastern region of French Guiana and have only recently been declared as a world natural heritage due to their immense riches of biodiversity. For an example, almost 75 % of all known species of the colourful and poisonous Dendrobates-frogs aMap of montagnes de Kawre known to occur in this area! The area is characterized by an extremely humid climate with some 4 to 5 metres of rain per square-metre per year, which makes it an ideal biotope for phasmids. On one of the several afternoons we spent there, the rain had been so heavy that it immediately started to evaporate on the hot asphalt of the road. Only within minutes the complete forest disappeared in a heavy layer of fog which then slowly rose towards the tree tops.
The Montagnes de Kaw can be easily reached by a one-hour drive onPseudophasma phtisica male a paved but narrow road which leads you from Cayenne / Matoury via Kourou to the “Piste de Kaw, PK36”. Alongside the narrow and curved “Piste de Kaw” which first passes the Montagnes de Roura (maximum altitude 300 m), collecting phasmids Bostra muricata femaleat night is very easy and often installed light-traps can be seen. At night we frequently found many nymphs and males of Proscopia scabra (KLUG) throughout the region, as well as loads of Phanocloidea muricata (BURMEISTER) and Pseudophasma phtisica (LINNÉ) in different stages, both of which appeard to be extremely polyphagous. P. muricata (BURMEISTER) was remarkably common along the “Eskol Route”, a small track which branches off from the “Piste de Kaw” only a few kilometres after Roura. In our last three nights in which there was heavy rain, we found uncountable nymphs and many adults of Creoxylus spinosus (FABRICIUS) in the low to very low vegetation directly alongside the road. Especially the males showed a large range of variability concerning their colouration, some specimens being prettily speckled with white or grey. In addition we found more single specimensCreoxylus spinosus female of Paraphasma fasciatum (GRAY), Prexaspes ambiguus (STOLL) as well as different species of the genera Metriophasma, Isagoras and Prexaspes. Apart from P. muricata (BURMEISTER) we also found two half-grown nymphs of a so far unidentified species of Phanocloidea, which differs from P. muricata by the almost spherical head and smooth mesothorax of the females. One of the specimens was just being attacked by a scorpion when found.
Eskol Route, Montagne de RouraA striking representative in this area were there brightly yellow and black coloured Stratocles tessulatus (FABRICIUS), which is a very typical species for French Guiana and quite frequently found in most regions. This small, well-flying species is exceptionally found on 5-15 m tall Cecropia peltata LINNÉ (Moraceae) (“Bois Canon” & “trumpet tree), which appears to be their only natural foodplant. Tree at Montagne de KawAlthough the large leaves of this typical neotropical tree are a preferred food of different Orthoptera, the damage caused by Stratocles tessulatus is very typical and distinct. In contrast to the edges of the leaf been eaten by most phasmids, this species starts to feed from the inner regions of the leaf which is then seen as irregular holes. The damage resembles e.g. some Curculionidae (Coleoptera). These small phasmids are however almost perfectly camouflaged on the ventral surfaces of these damaged leaves, as their black and yellow colouring almost vanishes with their surrounding, especially if viewed against the light. Piste de Kaw, collecting location
In addition to the height of the trees on which we found Stratocles tessulatus, the thousands of tiny ants (Pachycondyla spp.) which live in symbiosis with Cercropia peltata, made it difficult for us to reach these pretty phasmids. They were really annoyed about us, touching or harming “their” trees – a painful experience! These ants live in the hollow, bamboo-like stem of Cecropia peltata and permanently free it from climbing plants, parasites and all kinds of other “visitors”, which ensures a fast development and growth of the settled plant. The plant itself attracts the ants by producing a sweet liquid on the edges of the young leaves. Interestingly however, Stratocles tessulatus has not been observed to be attacked at all!
But also other insects were commonly encountered and, except from striking and beautiful Ensifera and Blattodea we found several adult couples of the “Green-Guiana-Grasshopper” Prinolopha serrata (Acridoidea) as well as a beautiful 6 cm long female of the bizarre and colourful Celeanacris castelnaudii (Acridoidea).

Cacao
Area arround  CacaoCacaoCacao is a small village, most of whose inhabitants are of Asian origin. It is situated some 60 kilometres in south of Cayenne and can be easily reached via the “Rue National 2” to Regina. The narrow and only partly paved secondary road which branches off from the RN2 on the right hand side passes a small butterfly-farm before it reaches Cacao. A must for every entomologist when visiting Cacao is the “Planeur Bleu”, a small museum which shows most of the important insects and arachnids of French Guiana, either as preserved specimens in cabinet-drawers or as live specimens in terrariums. The section of dried insects also includes some of the more common phasmids species. As we wanted to do some night collecting with a light-trap, we borrowed a light-bulb, generator, fuel and the cables from Philippe, the friendly owner of “Planeur Blue”.Our light-trap installation in Dégrad Ménado
After we had found a suitable site we installed our light-trap and awaited the dawn. We were quite surprised, how quick innumerable insects were attracted, and it took not even 20 Stratocles variegatus maleminutes that the complete reflecting-sheet was covered with all kinds of different Lepidoptera (Saturniidae, Sphigidae, Geometridae, Noctuidae), wasps (Hymenoptera) and various beautiful Orthoptera. A male of Creoxylus spinosus (FABRICIUS) was however the only phasmid that was attracted by the light trap, but later that night we had a large female of the “Giant Rhinoceros-beetle” Megasoma actaeon (LINNÉ) on our reflecting-sheet (Scarabaeidae, Dynastinae).
By searching the surrounding vegetation we did, except from a 8 cm long „Giant-Cockroach“ (Blaberus graniifer, Blattodea), only find a few stick-insects. These were the two most common and widely distributed species Phanocloidea muricata (BURMEISTER) und Pseudophasma phtisica (LINNÉ). Specimens of both species were however comparably larger than from other localities and a female of P. muricata had the spines of the mesothorax remarkably prominent and curved. At day-time several adults of Stratocles tessulatus (FABRICIUS) could be observed on Cecropia peltata trees.

Centre Spatial Guyanaise
Citrina servillei femalesCentre Spatial Guyanais collecting location of Citrinamap of Centre Spatial GuyanaiseSome 50 kilometres along the „Rue National 1“ from Kourou to Sinnamary, we searched for a suitable collecting site near the „Barrage de Petit Saut“. A narrow cart track in an area of primary and secondary forest close to the district called “Centre Spatial Guyanaise”, which was fenced by dense low growing vegetation appeared to be prolific for collecting phasmids at night. In both nights that we collected here, the humidity raised to almost 100 % and temperatures around 35°C, made collecting most difficult and straining. Already at the forest-border we noticed (it could not be over-heard!), that millions of mosquitos were just waiting for our blood to suck! Thousands tried to sting us, but were not able to overcome the impregnated textile of our bee-farming suits which proved to be a very reliable protection against all kinds of biting and stinging insects. It took only a few minutes until we found the first mating couple of Pseudophasma phtisica (LINNÉ). Proscopia scabra female
In this locality, we found loads of adults and large nymphs of the bright yellow and green Citrina servillei ZOMPRO, on different medium-sized shrubs. Almost every metre specimens were sighted and occasionally specimens were observed which crossed the track by active flight. The “highlight” of this locality was however the discovery of an adult male and female of Oestrophora triangulifera REDTENBACHER, which is characterized by the distinctly conically raised tegmina and bright orange hind wings. Furthermore, we found a comparably small and slender male of Creoxylus spinosus (FABRICIUS) and several species of Prexaspes, Metriophasma and Isagoras as well large numbers of Phanocloidea muricata (BURMEISTER) and Pseudophasma phtisica (LINNÉ). Oestrophora triangulifera female
After being lucky enough to join the take-off of the „Ariane rocket“ live from the jungle, we were happy to find two almost 16 cm long females of Proscopia scabra (KLUG). This was relieving as we only found adult males and nymphs in all the other localities.
Although we hoped to find a few specimens of the beautiful and striking Cranidium gibbosum (BURMEISTER) in this location, we did not succeed. Members of the French Groupe d´etude de Phasmes had collected several adults and nymphs in the surroundings of Petit Saut during two expeditions carried out in 1992 and 1993.

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