Author Archives: Patrick Kavanagh

To sting, hide or mimic

The bush in our yard at Strangways is a constant source of invertebrate subjects at this time of year – and they reveal a range of strategies for protection.

Lifting a rock I found this impressive and somewhat intimidating little Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus).

Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus)

Marbled Scorpion

This magnificent specimen, although well-armed, seemed to hope the intruder – me – would not notice and leave her alone. As soon as my attention shifted, she slid under another rock. I wonder if the bulge in the midriff might be pregnancy.

Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus)

Marbled Scorpion #2

Marbled Scorpion up close

Plenty of eyes and quite a mouth

On  branch of a Silver Wattle, I found the youngest Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph I’ve met to date. Another case of “If I don’t move, you’ll think I’m part of this branch.”

Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph

Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph

Whilst looking at a Grey Box leaf stem, I noted what looked very like a little gall or lump of vegetation, only a couple of mm long. When I got the macro lens onto it, I could see it was a tiny Long-nosed Weevil (Haplonyx sp) that had tucked its nose under to look like a gall.

Long-nosed Weevil (Haplonyx sp?)

Long-nosed Weevil

In my last post https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/speedwell-wallaby-grass-and-some-of-their-fans/ , I incorrectly labeled this little bloke a Cricket nymph. A bit more research has revealed that it is a Gum Leaf Katydid nymph, probably the 1st or 2nd instar. Whilst these nymphs can’t fly, their defence is to look something like an ant or spider – unappetising or threatening to potential predators. As they develop, they end up with the superb eucalypt leaf disguise that I’m more familiar with for katydids. Thanks to bowerbird.org.au for confirming the identity of this little cutie.

Katydid nymph

Gum Leaf Katydid nymph (Torbia viridissima) on Long-leafed Box

I’ve wondered where the term katydid comes from – it seems that it’s the sound made by an American species. I’ve also wondered about the extraordinary mouth parts of these animals. The little segmented “arms” coming off from around the mouth are called palps and are tasting organs. This one is perhaps tasting whatever it’s cleaning off its tiny feet.

Katydid nymph close up

A bit of cleaning.

PS: For those who enjoy photographs of tiny things, I will have an exhibition of macro photos “Small World” at Newstead’s Dig Cafe from December 19th. Hope you’ll be able to come along.

Speedwell, Wallaby Grass and some of their fans

It’s delightful to see some of the beautiful local plants in flower at present. Digger’s Speedwell Veronica perfoliata and Red-anther Wallaby Grass  Rytidosperma pallidum are not only pleasing to the human eye, they have quite a few invertebrate fans as well. The Wallaby Grass can perhaps only really be appreciated with a bit of magnification.

Red-Anther Wallaby Grass (Joycea pallida)

Red-Anther Wallaby Grass up close

By night, the Wallaby Grass provided a comfy bed for a native bee and a beetle.

A native bee sleeps on a Wallaby Grass flower

Native Bee Lassioglossum sp. perhaps sleeping on Red-Anther Wallaby Grass

Clerid Beetle (Eleale genus) on Red-anther Wallaby Grass

A beetle also rests on a Wallaby Grass flower

I was surprised when I had a close look at the Digger’s Speedwell to see how many Aphids were sucking sap from the flower stalks.

Aphid

Aphids on Digger’s Speedwell

Hoverfly

A hoverfly finds the flower already crowded

Native bees are really enjoying the abundance of the Speedwell flowers. I think these are Small Metallic-banded Bees Lassioglossum sp. but I’m happy to be corrected. Myriad Sweat Bees managed to avoid my camera, alas.

Bees on Diggers Speedwell

Bees on Digger’s Speedwell

Bee on Diggers Speedwell

An abundance of pollen.

On a Long-leafed Box sucker, I also found this tiny cricket nymph.

Katydid nymph up close

Cricket nymph

PS: For those who enjoy photographs of tiny things, I will have an exhibition of macro photos “Small World” at Newstead’s Dig Cafe from December 19th. Hope you’ll be able to come along!

Striated Pardalote delivery service begins!

After what seems a slow start, the conveyor system of Striated Pardalotes Pardalotus striatus ferrying food to their nestlings in nest boxes at our place has started in earnest. At least two boxes near our house have young in them and the parents are delivering a parcel of food every few minutes. Whilst it’s busy, it does seem to me that the frequency of deliveries is a little slower this year, perhaps due to the dry spring and fewer invertebrates.

Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus)

Congestion at the entrance!

Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus)

Running up the perch

Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus)

This particular crew seem obsessed with something on the ground beneath the box and both entering and leaving take a few moments to check it out.

Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus)

Lerp would be a sweet treat for the little ones

Striated Pardalote

The birds quickly got used to my presence and ignored me even when I was only 1.5 m away. This shot is nearly full frame.

 

An easy intervention with big results

About 15 years ago, we collected a few sandwich bags of Shiny Everlasting seeds from Sandon forest and spread them in the fenced front yard of our place at Strangways. We knew they belonged as there were a few specimens in the bush that were a favourite food of the Black Wallabies.

Protected from browsing, the Everlastings thrived in our yard and spread into the bush, where they are now so abundant, the wallabies leave them alone and we have some impressive stands.

Shiny Everlastings

Shiny Everlastings spreading into our bush

They provide an extraordinary resource for invertebrates and therefore, of course, for the keen macrophotographer.

Hoverfly

Hoverfly

Plume Moth

Plume Moth

Austral Ellipsidion nymph

Austral Ellipsidion instar (AKA the Beautiful Cockroach)

Flower Spider and ant

Flower Spider (Zygometis sp?) and prey

Clerid Beetle?

Clerid Beetle?

Fly on Shiny Everlasting

Fly

At one point as I was prowling through the Everlastings it seemed for a short period that there was an abundance of tiny iridescent green wasps on them, less than 2mm long. some seemed to be sticking ovipositors into the daisies. After a bit of searching of bowerbird.org and brisbaneinsects.com I concluded that they are of the Torymus famaily of parastic wasps. I am curious about why they appeared in such a brief and intense burst.

Torymus wasp

Torymid wasp I

Torymus wasp

Torymid wasp II

We are well pleased with the results of our little bit of direct seeding a few years ago!

Invertebrate Awakening

As the days warm and the bush bursts into bloom, a wave of invertebrate species have set forth to feed, breed and be eaten.

The Shiny Everlastings at our place at Strangways Xerochrysum viscosum are not only providing food for pollinators, but have been visited by aphids intent on sucking their sap. On close inspection, I found a Lacewing larva slowly creeping towards a bunch of aphids and sinking in its very sharp mandibles. I didn’t see the aphids running from their fate.

Lacewing larva

Lacewing larva tucking into aphids

On one Everlasting leaf was a pair of Bathurst Burr flies mating. These colourful flies were introduced to Australia to help control the weed. Thanks to bowerbird.org for identifying this one!

Bathurst Burr Fly (Euaresta sp.)

Bathurst Burr Fly (Euaresta sp)

Also on the Shiny Everlastings were some tiny insects less than 1mm long. The macro lens showed it to be what looked like a tiny leafhopper nymph. I’m happy to be corrected if this is not what it is.

Leafhopper nymph? (<1mm long)

Leafhopper nymph?

Our Cypress Daisy bushes, local provenance acquired from Newstead Natives, are in heavy flower and attracting myriad small beetles and other insects. One Looping Caterpillar (Chlenias sp. perhaps?) was feasting on the flowers.

Looping Caterpillar

Looping caterpillar

I was also pleased to find this handsome weevil enjoying the flowers.

Weevil

Floating through the Everlastings and the grasses were numerous Crane Flies. I was surprised to see so many as they normally seem to flourish after good rains when the mosses host their hungry larvae. The adults just hang from vegetation with their long legs waiting for a mate.

Crane Fly

Crane Fly profile

Crane Fly

Crane Fly front on

Crane Fly

Crane Fly up close

 

Night life in the wattles

A venture into the bush with torch and camera on a cold night reveals a lot of life in the wattles. A Silver Wattle Acacia dealbata was being slowly combed by 5 mm long nocturnal Epaulet Ants, Notoncus hickmani. (Thanks to bowerbird.org.au for help with ID)

Epaulet ant - Notoncus hickmani

Epaulet Ant, Notoncus hickmani

Epaulet ant - Notoncus hickmani

Epaulet Ant #2

In the spectacularly flowering Golden Wattles Acacia pycnantha there was an abundance of tiny spiders from less than a mm long to much larger arachnids. On one leaf was a young and translucent Hunstman spider, about 20 mm across.

Spider up close

Hunstman

Much smaller, about 5mm long, was a Hamilton’s Orb Weaver Araneus hamiltoni hiding from my bright light in the blossoms.

Araneus hamiltoni

Hamilton’s Orb Weaver #1

Araneus hamiltoni

Hamilton’s Orb Weaver #2

More confidently staying in her web was this larger orb weaver, about 10mm long.

Orb weaver

 

Reliable Winter shelter

Winter deprives the macrophotographic addict of many subjects, although spiders are always easy to find. But lifting rocks is a pretty good way of finding some sedate sitters, even if it means rolling around on the damp ground trying to get a good angle. I found a few treats yesterday and one very special target that had evaded my lens thus far.

It all started close to our back door. The first rock that I lifted had numerous tiny (1-2mm), pale, slow-moving insects that looked disturbingly like termites (very close to the house). Even with reading glasses and  a good light I couldn’t pick it – only the wonderful Canon MP-E65 supermacro lens showed me the comforting view of these ants. They were scurrying as best as their cold bodies would to store their precious eggs.

Scouring Alex Wild’s great web site on ants, as well as google and Antwiki led me to believe they might be Doleromyrma. Any better identification would be much appreciated. I know from some ordinary tail-end shots that they don’t have an acidopore.

Doleromyrma?

Doleromyrma? #1

Doleromyrma?

Doleromyrma? #2

Another rock further in the bush at our place showed a busy nest of ants that look like ones previously identified as Rhytidoponera after a previous post on this blog. According to Antwiki, they will often nest under rocks and forage in trees, so this fits. They also mostly breed without queens, but workers will mate to produce a female brood. Happy to be corrected if I’ve got this wrong.

Rhytidoponera?

Rhytidoponera?

Under the same rock was this curious animal, about 15mm long and happily munching on the decaying material under the rock.

Under a rock - Soldier Beetle larva

What do humans call me?

But above all, I was thrilled to find what I consider to be one of the most beautiful animals of our bush, a Thick-tailed (or Barking) Gecko, hiding under a large flat leftover paver in our backyard. Can’t wonder too much about the scientific name for this one – Underwoodisaurus milii.

Thick-tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)

Thick-tailed Gecko

Thick-tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)

Is this my best angle?

Thick-tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)

Or this?