Here at Newstead Natives Nursery I am propagating Stiff Groundsel Senecio behrianus once thought to be extinct but identified by Bernie Robb from a Corop roadside circa 1992, creating much excitement. A few years ago Damien Cook brought me cuttings from various populations at Corop, Lake Boga and Ballaarat and they have grown easily and we are now trying to mix the genetics because each population does not have many different individuals. When Damien came yesterday to get some plants for planting out we noticed this caterpillar on them which Damien knew was a Senecio Moth Nyctemera amicus. Senecio plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which make the caterpillar unpleasant to taste and poisonous to birds which would otherwise attack it.
Senecio moths 9mm and 15mm long on Stiff Groundsel at Newstead Natives Nursery, 12 Nov 2017
Does this count as a Newstead story Geoff Park? The caterpillar is a Newsteadian and Newstead is in between where the plant occurs naturally in Corop and Ballaarat!
Ed note: Big tick!
Buds and flowers of Stiff Groundsel plants photographed by Frances Cincotta at her nursery
Stiff Groundsel at Miners Rest Reserve, Ballaarat, photographed by Damien Cook of Rakali Consulting
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 spreading into our bush
They provide an extraordinary resource for invertebrates and therefore, of course, for the keen macrophotographer.
Austral Ellipsidion instar (AKA the Beautiful Cockroach)
Flower Spider (Zygometis sp?) and prey
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.
Torymid wasp I
Torymid wasp II
We are well pleased with the results of our little bit of direct seeding a few years ago!
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 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)
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.
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.
I was also pleased to find this handsome weevil enjoying the flowers.
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 profile
Crane Fly front on
Crane Fly up close
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 #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.
Much smaller, about 5mm long, was a Hamilton’s Orb Weaver Araneus hamiltoni hiding from my bright light in the blossoms.
Hamilton’s Orb Weaver #1
Hamilton’s Orb Weaver #2
More confidently staying in her web was this larger orb weaver, about 10mm long.
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.
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.
Under the same rock was this curious animal, about 15mm long and happily munching on the decaying material under the rock.
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.
Is this my best angle?
There was quite a variety of treats in store for me on a trip back from Newstead to our place at Strangways last Saturday. First up was a beautiful foggy scene on the flats of the Jim Crow Creek.
Morning fog on Jim Crow Creek
As I drove up our lane, I was delighted to see a pair of Restless Flycatchers Myiagra inquieta hovering and catching insects. They have been a bit shy of the cameraman until this day when they let me get to within 5 metres whilst they hunted in the winter sun.
Restless Flycatcher I
Restless Flycatcher II
Catching spiders as well as flies
A pair of Jacky Winters Microeca fascinans was also hunting along the fence line.
When I got home after quite some time rolling on the ground getting shots of the birds, for some unknown macrophotographic reason I put on my reading glasses and had good close look at the stone path to our door. I was impressed to find numerous tiny mites with white-spotted black bodies and orange legs. They were from 0.5-1mm long. And with them were some velvety looking grey grubs with six legs and again only 0.5-1mm long. They were quite challenging photographic subjects and I will keep working to try to get some good photos of them. At first I thought the grey ones might be tiny Velvet Worms, but from my reading they would need more legs to qualify. The people at bowerbird.org.au have identified it as a springtail, hexapods once classed as insects, but with internal mouths. The reading I’ve done says that they live on fungi, microbes and other material in the leaf litter. I wonder if the mites could be Trombidiformes, but would really appreciate any help with identification of either. The grains in the sandstone path give an indication of their size, or lack thereof.
Lifting a rock on our place at Strangways, will often show signs of those who live under it, but often they scurry off before I can get a good look at them, let alone a photo. I was pleased then with the variety of species that I found under one rock recently. The most obvious denizens of this netherworld were some Gold-tailed Toothless Bull Ants. It wasn’t until I’d found a match on bowerbird.org.au that I noticed the absence of serrations on the inside of the mandibles, hence the toothless descriptor. I’d never thought that a Bull Ant could be toothless!
Golden-tailed Toothless Bull Ant
Golden-tailed Toothless Bull Ant
I wondered if it was a coincidence that the rock with the ants had so many other species to look at or whether something about the nest meant that the other invertebrates could hang around.
One tiny ant co-inhabitant was a tiny pale centipede-like creature – a symphylan or pseudocentipede. This is one of the many animals who live on decaying matter in the soil.
Other invertebrates the I found were a brown slater and a tiny golden silverfish-like animal. If anyone could help with identifying it I’d be very grateful.
And this is….?
There is plenty of life still in the trees and shrubs, especially the wattles. Any clarifications about identification are appreciated.
Rhytidoponera ant in Silver Wattle
Ant (Papyrius sp?) in Drooping Sheoak
Wasp on Golden Wattle flower bud