Author Archives: Patrick Kavanagh

Four ants and a beetle

There are plenty of ants active at our place at the moment. Leafhopper nymphs are growing on both wattles and eucalypts and being attended by ants like this Golden-flumed Sugar Ant. The ants will get honeydew from the nymph and in turn protect it from predators.

Golden-flumed Sugar Ant (Camponotus suffusus)

Golden-flumed Sugar Ant (Camponotus suffusus) and leafhopper nymph.

Nearby on a Golden Wattle a few Rhytodoponera ants were fossicking.

Rhytodoponera sp.

Rhytodoponera sp.

Deeper in the bush a colony of Muscle Man Tree Ants have burrowed their nest in a Grey Box tree.

Muscleman Tree Ant (Podomyrma adelaidae)

Muscle Man Tree Ant (Podomyrma adelaidae) as she carries wood pulp from the nest

Muscleman Tree Ant (Podomyrma adelaidae)

and keeps carrying it…

Muscleman Tree Ant (Podomyrma adelaidae)

…and she drops it from the edge of the branch.

Muscleman Tree Ant (Podomyrma adelaidae)

Close-up to the mouth parts of Podomyrma adelaidae

On the bank of one of our dams, Meat Ants (Iridomyrmex species) scurry to and from their large nests. Many people say that these ants are very aggressive near their nests, but they’ve always let me get very close and never tried to bite.

Meat Ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus)

Iridomyrmex sp.

Meat Ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus)

Iridomyrmex sp. carrying debris from the nest

Meat Ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus)

Emerging from the nest.

And just because it’s beautiful, a Leaf Beetle.

beetle stack 2x crop 2018-3-16

Leaf Beetle



Late summer, laying the foundations for the next generation

Even with the end of summer, there are still a lot of insects readying for the next season. Paper Wasps are still sealing their nests with mulched plant matter under our eaves at Strangways.

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp readying material to close a nest cell

There are still caterpillars and other larvae out feeding up before metamorphosis. I think these ones might be beetle larvae, but I am happy to be corrected.

Tortoise beetle larvae

Beetle larvae?

We also have various stages and species of Eucalyptus Tip Wilter Bugs sucking on eucalypt leaves.

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug (Amorbus alternatus) nymph

Eucalyptus Tip Wilter Bug nymph I  (Amorbus alternatus?)

Eucalyptus Tip Wilter Bug nymph (Amorbus obscuricornis)

Eucalyptus Tip Wilter Bug nymph II (Amorbus obscuricornis?)

There are also some leafhoppers continuing their symbiotic relationship with our ants, like this nymph on a Golden Wattle.

Leafhopper nymph and attendants

Leafhopper nymph

This Acacia Horned Treehopper shows the honeydew that the ants get in exchange for protecting the leafhopper.

Acacia Horned Treehopper

Acacia Horned Treehopper

Acacia Horned Treehopper and ant.

Soldier Beetles are also out in force and lots of them are finding mates.

Soldier beetles

Soldier Beetles mating.

And just because it’s beautiful, a Belid Weevil on a Silver Wattle

Belid Weevil

Belid Weevil


Praying Mantises and pseudopupils

There is quite an abundance of Praying Mantises at our place at present. Many are still nymphs and I’ve seen some that are only a couple of centimetres long.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis adult on Shiny Everlastings doing some night hunting

Praying Mantis

Nymph by night on a Golden Wattle

But I found myself wondering why they seem to have little pupils that looked at me in whichever angle I was viewing the insect.

Praying Mantis

Garden Praying Mantis nymph up close

Someone suggested that I look up the term pseudopupil. It does make a big difference knowing the right term to follow up! It turns out that when you look at a compound eye, the little eye sections or ommatidia that you are looking at are absorbing light. The others are reflecting it back at the observer. So the ones that the animal is seeing you with are dark.

Praying Mantis

Garden Praying Mantis nymph ready for action.

I’ve found these to be most enjoyable to photograph, not only because they look fantastic, but they are so curious. Quite a few have jumped onto my camera whilst being photographed. One that I was photographing a few weeks back gave the appearance of scratching its chin and then the top of its head as it tilted its tiny head from side to side trying to work me out. Fair enough too!

Praying Mantis

And you are...?

Garden Praying Mantis nymph – curious and curiouser?

I think the last shot is one of my all time favourites.

My exhibition of macrophotography at Dig Cafe in Newstead is finishing at the end of business on Sunday 28th January.


Of husks, seeds and transformations

Our beautiful Shiny Everlastings, Xerochrysum viscosum, have mostly finished flowering, but this heralds a new expression of their beauty. Perhaps only appreciated at higher magnification. As the seeds are carried off from the remains of the flower by the wind-catching pappus, they have an elegance all their own.

Shiny Everlasting seed dispersal

Shiny Everlasting seeds about to ride the wind

Our Magenta Storksbills Pelargonium rodneyanum have also set seed, again with an impressive aid to flight and corkscrew, which I presume drives the seed into the soil on landing.

magenta storks bill stack

Magenta Storksbill seed

On the same Silver Wattle that I recently found an Acacia Horned Treehopper nymph ( ) I found this empty husk, the nymph off to life as it’s next instar.

Acacia Horned Treehopper shell

Acacia Horned Treehopper skin

Also grazing on the vegetation in the front yard was a later instar of the Gum Leaf Katydid that I posted pictures of a few weeks back ( ). This one was on the now empty flower heads of an Austrostipa grass. This katydid is still a nypmh as the wings are not fully formed and the animal relied totally on camouflage for safety. Also note the long antennae, which is a feature of katydids.

Katydid nymph

Gum Leaf Katydid

Similar in size and strategies to the Katydid is this Gum Leaf Grasshopper nymph. Again its wings are underdeveloped and it relies on its superb camouflage for safety. Note the short antenna compared to the Katydid.

Gumleaf Grasshopper nymph

Gum Leaf Grasshopper

PS Many thanks to Geoff for his post about my macrophotography exhibition at Dig Cafe in Newstead. The exhibition is on until January 31st.

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 , 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 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.


Aphids on Digger’s Speedwell


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.