Saturday, 23 May 2009

Fantastic Fly II

I found another fantastic fly with long eye stalks! Although this guy looks very similar in appearance to members of the Diopsidae (Stalk-eyed Flies Family) it belongs to the family Tephritidae (commonly called Peacock Flies) a group of colourful fruit-flies that do not usually have stalk eyes, so I was told. These photos were taken at the same place where I photographed my first "eye-stalked fly" (see my earlier post Fantastic Fly).

My neice said it looks like a motorcycle (with the eye-stalks as the handles)! So maybe Mat Rempit* Fly or Hell's Angel Fly! I used to think of them as "hammerhead" flies.
I hope some Dipterist (=fly scientist) would see this post and enlighten us on the identity of this fantastic insect.

*Mat Rempit is the Malay word describing the daredevil (illegal) motorbikes racers that plague the streets in many cities and towns in Malaysia.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Termite Mushrooms a Gift from Mother Earth

Several types of wild fungi or mushrooms are collected for food in Borneo and when in season they may be found at wet markets and more usually in the open-air weekly tamu in Sabah. One favourite and particularly tasty mushroom, Termitomyces clipeatus is called cendawan kaki pelanduk in Malay, meaning "mousedeer hoof mushroom" refering to the shape of the un-opened mushrooms. The Chinese Hakkas call it kai nyuk ku 鸡肉 which means "chicken-meat mushroom" for its sweet taste. Indeed when cooked in soup or stir-fried it tastes a little like chicken!

This species of mushrooms belongs to a group of fungi commonly called Termite Mushrooms. They are so named because they are cultivated by termites inside their nests or mounds in underground fungus gardens! However termites grow and harvest the fungus in its minute mycelium stage without letting it develope into the umbrella-shaped fruiting bodies that we called mushrooms and which we eat! Therefore those growing in the termites' nests are not usually available for human to pick, that is unless the termites for some reasons could not control their growth (for example when it rains too much) when the mycelia will literally grow through the roof of their nest and burst onto the surface of the ground as mushrooms. Which will set us humans into a collecting frenzy!
Apparently species of Termitomyces also grow in the wild without the termites' gardening them and every once in a while, usually after heavy rains or a thunderstorm following a long dry season, hundreds of these mushrooms suddenly appear like magic in patches in the orchard or plantation, even away from termite mounds.
For many Borneans, coming across a patch of these tasty treats would be a thing of joy, friends and any passerbys would be called to join in the gathering, the harvest shared among other friends and relatives, and surplus would be sold in the market. These bonanzas usually last for only a few days, then, again as if by magic they would disappear for months or even years before the next appearence.

Click here for an interesting (and yummy) way to cook this mushroom.