Category Archives: Invertebrates

A Midwinter Night’s Dream – and a sleepy bat

Still a mystery to me While invertebrates are a bit harder to find in the middle of winter, there are still some to be found by night. One night, the tiny midges on tiny webs between twigs on wattles and eucalypts were again out in force. I’ve posted these before and not yet had light shed on their identity or lifestyle. Who are they and what are they doing?

Mid-winter midge

Midge

Spiders and not-spiders I am always surprised at the abundance of small and very, very small spiders in our bush in winter. Little luminous green Crab Spiders (Cetratus rubropunctatus) dangle in the dark, but as soon as my light hits them, they scramble up to a leaf to hide.

Crab Spider

Crab Spider – Cetratus rubropunctatus

A small flower spider (Eriophora) also relies on camouflage in the night.

Eriophora sp?

Flower spider

Eriophora sp?

Another angle

And some that I thought were spiders turn out to be Harvestmen. Many thanks to the knowledgeable  people at bowerbird.org.au for their help here. Harvestmen look like spiders, but have only two eyes and can eat solids. The first I found on a Golden Wattle.

Harvestman

Not a spider – Harvestman #1

The second was under a termite riddled log.

Harvestman

Harvestman #2

Expected and unexpected Notoncus ants are quite common nocturnal foragers on our wattles by night.

Notoncus sp.

Notoncus

But I have never seen an Acacia Horned Treehopper in winter. And I was fascinated by the tiny mite that crawled across the branch of the Golden Wattle and onto the Treehopper’s forehead.

Acacia Horned Treehopper with mite

Acacia Horned Treehopper and very little friend.

And dangling from silk threads on a Sweet Bursaria were quite a few Looping Caterpillars. I think this one is a Chlenias moth.

Looping Caterpillar - Chlenias sp perhaps?

Looping Caterpillar.

And a very sleepy bat Yesterday I went to don my overalls yesterday, I found this sweet little bat in deep sleep in them. I took a few shots before gently relocating it to a crevice in the bark of one of our Grey Box trees. I think it’s a Chocolate Wattled Bat, but am happy to be corrected.

Chocolate Wattled Bat

Bat and overalls

Chocolate Wattled Bat

En route

Chocolate Wattled Bat

Up close

What Katy didn’t!

The Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve is one of the places in central Victoria where you can reliably find the White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, a less common relative of the more common and widespread Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.

I see it, or at least hear it on almost all visits to the reserve but have observe others birdwatchers get quite excited when they first spot this beautiful cuckoo-shrike. Central Victoria is a bit a hot-spot.

The individual photographed below was sighted last weekend at the reserve – hunting insects in the eucalyptus canopy to the north of the shelter. I watched as it left its perch and snatch a bush cricket from a branch. The bird then proceeded to bash the stunned insect against then wood and gradually dismember it. Bush crickets or katydids are common throughout the box ironbark country and rely on their camouflage to evade predators. In this case Katy didn’t!

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Rise and Shine, 3rd June 2018

II

III

A drink of dew

Invertebrate life above the soil is a little harder to find as the weather cools, although there are still plenty of spiders and moths.

I found a paper wasp on the handle of our flywire door yesterday morning. Very cold, it wasn’t moving much. I shepherded it onto a Hardenbergia leaf and to my surprise it started enthusiastically drinking the dew.

Paper Wasp

A cold paper wasp

Paper Wasp drinking dew off leaf

Having a good drink

I continued to wander around the garden and found a few Rhytodoponera ants on a Silver Wattle. These ants seem particularly fond of Silver Wattles. As I looked closely through the macro lens at one ant, I could see that she too was filling up on the previous night’s dew. I wasn’t sure how much was for her and whether she was going to get this load back to her sisters. Nothing was happening fast at this point!

Rhytodoponera with dew drop

Rhytodoponera with dew

Rhytodoponera with dew drop

Up close!

Away from the dew and the insects, I also found this magnificent scorpion under a rock. She was pretty curled up and was not keen on the camera, but I think she was about 25 mm long.

Scorpion

Scorpion

Mysterious Moths

On Thursday 17th May Newstead Landcare has a treat in store for nature-lovers: Steve Williams will be giving a presentation on moths at Newstead Community Centre at 8pm. Steve will convince you that without these invertebrates we would not have many of the wonderful birds you see featured on this blog. Steve explains, “Because Lepidoptera are almost exclusively feeders on plant material in one form or another they are critical in food chains, indeed much more so than most researchers have believed. They are the invertebrates that everything eats including other invertebrates. To avoid being eaten they are great at hiding, particularly in their early life phases, and hence are difficult to research.”

Steve has been unpacking the biology of Lepidoptera in Box-Ironbark forest ecosystems for the last decade and during that period has documented the life histories of nearly 400 moth species; many for the first time. This along with nightly recording of adult moth activity over the same period is providing important insights into ecosystem functions. Steve will share the fascinating life stories of a few of these amazing animals and then present and discuss how understanding this biology has implications for land and biodiversity management in Box-Ironbark forests.

Stangia xerodes - PLUME MOTH - pupa on Acacia aspera - ROUGH WATTLE photgraphed by Steve Williams close up

One of the Plume Moths Stangia xerodes in its pupal form, between larva and adult. It has pupated in the open, on the Rough Wattle it had been feeding on. Photographed by Steve Williams.

Everyone is welcome to attend. A gold coin donation will help Newstead Landcare cover costs.

What is this wasp doing and some waterskimming

I have been watching this wasp (or a series of identical ones) visiting this same little stuck-together leaf hideout for some weeks. The wasp seems to spend a lot of time snuggled between the leaves but also comes and goes a bit. The wasp looks very like but not identical to paper wasps busily making nests under our eaves. I wonder if it’s a paper wasp and if so what business does it have here (and it doesn’t seem to be carrying off prey) or is a different species?

Wasp - Polistes sp

Wasp getting between Grey Box leaves

Wasp - Polistes sp

Checking out the intrusive fool with a camera

Insect subjects are a bit harder to find at present, perhaps due to the dry as much as the onset of autumn. But there has been plenty of Water Strider activity on our dam of late. I find these fascinating insects very hard to approach with a camera as they scoot off very quickly. I did get a few close up photos and am amazed by their other-worldly appearance.

Water Strider

Water Strider from above

Water Strider

This Water Strider was happily anchored on some debris and let me get a profile shot at last.

But the Water Striders weren’t the only invertebrates walking on the water. This little spider – perhaps a Wolf Spider from the layout of its eyes – made little forays across the surface of the water from the shore. When it returned to terra firma, it was very hard to see. In this photo, it is on the surface of the dam, a few millimetres above the bottom. I presume it may be looking for a Water Strider for tea.

Walking on water

Spider walks on water.

 

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