Category Archives: Invertebrates

Pollinators plus and some untimely ends

As flowering progresses in our yard at Strangways, the pollinators have become more active. The blue flowers of Digger’s Speedwell (Veronica perfoliata) and Black-anther Flax-lilies (Dianella revoluta) are favourite targets for many native bees. Many native bee species have a strong preference for blue flowers.

The Digger’s Speedwells are covered with tiny sweat bees, too quick for me to catch with my camera. One slightly larger bee, about 3mm long was busy digging into an unopened flower and was oblivious to the proximity of my lens.

Lassioglossum?

Bee on Digger’s Speedwell

At about 10mm long, Lipotriches bees live in burrows, but apparently large groups of males may gather on branches at night to share warmth and protection.

Lipotriches bee

Lipotriches on Black-anther Flax-lily

These are amongst the Halictid bees and carry pollen on their legs.

Strangways, Vic.

Lipotriches

In contrast, the megachilid bees carry pollen on their abdomen, far less efficient for the bee, but great for pollinating more plants.

Megachilid bee

Megachilid bee on Shiny Everlasting

Quite a few different fly species are also busy feeding on the flowers.

Fly

Fly on Shiny Everlasting

Foraging for pollen is not always safe. Flower spiders are common in our garden and are very effective hunters.

Crab Spider

Flower Spider on Shiny Everlasting

Megachilid bee, after encounter with a flower spider

Bee victim of Flower Spider

Another successful Flower Spider seemed to be losing her trophy to some enterprising ants.

Hoverfly

The dismantling of a Hover Fly

Mass movement

Quite frequently on a warm and humid night, the dark sky of our place at Strangways is filled with tiny delicate flyers. Attracted to our house lights, they manage to squeeze through any gap in a window or screen. They are termite alates, winged versions of underground denizens, undertaking a nuptial flight – moving out en masse to find a mate and a new abode.

Friday night saw one such event and for once I got some photos.

Termite alate

Termite alate

I usually experience these nocturnal trysters as a nuisance as they flood the house and drown in our dogs’ water bowls, but on close inspection, I was struck by their delicate beauty.

Termite alate

Looking for a landing

On reading about this process, I found out that the males are from unfertilised eggs and have unpaired chromosomes (haploid) whilst the females are from fertilised eggs and are diploid (with paired chromosomes).

I found it interesting to watch each alate, very shortly after landing, bend and jerk slightly to shuck off their wings. Within moments, they paired up and walked off.

Termite alates

Pairing up and heading off

Only after finding a suitable spot for a nest will they mate and start a colony. Given the huge number of pairs of alates teaming up on these nocturnal trysts and the much smaller number of termite nests in our bush, the vast majority must not make it. Many don’t even get to land and a good number of those end up in the webs of spiders.

Termite alate

A sticky fate

Again, on close inspection, the discarded wings have their own beauty, like this one caught in a web – gossamer wings in gossamer threads.

Termite alate wing

Alate wing.

Unrelated to the above, I am on occasion finding tiny leafhopper nymphs, less than 2mm long. Tiny and intriguing beings.

Leafhopper nymph

Leafhopper nymph

Life and death on a Cypress Daisy Bush

The beautiful (local) Cypress Daisy Bushes  Olearia teretifolia planted in our front yard are heavy with flower at present, some branches so weighed with flowers that they droop to the ground.

Cypress Daisy Bush

Cypress Daisy Bush

This abundant and aromatic source of nectar is currently attracting many pollinating insects. Quite a few beetle species make for relatively easy photographic subjects, not inclined to fly off at the approach of the camera.

Beetle - Dermestidae

One of many small beetles collecting nectar and distributing pollen.

Beetle

Tucking in.

There is a profusion of long thin and very hairy beetles. I wonder if they might be Clerid beetles, but would appreciate any better leads to their identity.

Darkling Beetle - Alleculinae

A Clerid Beetle perhaps?

Darkling Beetle - Alleculinae

Getting a good feed.

Quite a few flies are also feasting on the nectar and are clearly very important pollinators.

Fly_18-09-26_1

Fly on Cypress Daisy Bush

Lauxiinid fly

Lauxiinid fly?

Hoverfly

Hoverfly

Quite a few native bees are also active, but managed to escape the photographer. Many European honeybees also feed on the flowers and I was quite puzzled when I found this deceased specimen on a flower as if she died in the middle of feeding.

European Honeybee, mysteriously deceased

Deceased European bee.

Less mysterious causes of insect mortality are also about, with a pair of Brown Thornbills Acanthiza pusilla using the bush as a larder from which to obtain invertebrates for the fledglings they are raising in our front yard.

Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla)

Brown Thornbill

Cup-moths and cuckoos

Cup-moth caterpillars are again creating havoc in the local bush.

Cup-moth damage on a Grey Box leaf

Cuckoos are having a field day, although in some areas, such as west of Mia Mia Track, the damage is largely done. This pattern is a feature of the ecology of box-ironbark forests, however there is some speculation that infestations are becoming more severe and more frequent. I’ll be watching this patch closely for signs of recovery over coming months.

Pallid Cuckoo with Cup-moth, Mia Mia Track, 16th September 2018

Pallid Cuckoo calling …

… then departing

Shining Bronze-cuckoo sunning in the early morning sunshine

Shining Bronze-cuckoo with Cup-moth caterpillar

Waking from the long sleep – and still needing a sleep

Although a few hardy invertebrates stayed active during the winter at our place at Strangways, it’s been a lean time for the macrophotographically obsessed. With the warm weather, some are waking from their long sleep.

Even so, ubiquitous in the animal world is the need for regular sleep and a venture into the bush means some of those emerged from the long sleep are easily photographed during their over night naps. On a branchlet of a Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) a sleeping wasp is undisturbed by the bright lights and camera.

Wasp

Wasp on Drooping Sheoak

On a Golden Wattle, what I think might be a wingless Coreid bug rests.

Coreid bug - Agriopocoris

Coreid Bug?

Coreid bug - Agriopocoris

And from the side.

Since the Golden Wattles have been flowering, there have been many tiny flies feeding on their blooms. I’ve found them very hard to get a decent photo of, but at night they are much more amenable.

Fly _18-09-10_6

A tiny fly sleeps on a Silver Wattle leaf.

Not all insects in our yard are asleep. Little Notoncus nocturnal ants are busy at night and have been throughout the winter cold. This tiny lady is on a blooming Silver Wattle.

Notoncus

Notoncus ant on Silver Wattle

By day I have been photographing Tall Sundews. Even though they have only just started setting their tiny traps, many have already caught some insects. On one I found this hapless fly, which looks like the ones on our Wattles, struggling for its life.

Fly on Tall Sundew_18-09-12_1 crop

Fly on Tall Sundew

Apparently, the genus name for sundews, Drosera comes from the Greek word for dewy.

Tall Sundew (Drosera sp)

Tall Sundew up close

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

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