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.
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.
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 getting between Grey Box leaves
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 from above
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.
Spider walks on water.
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) and leafhopper nymph.
Nearby on a Golden Wattle a few Rhytodoponera ants were fossicking.
Deeper in the bush a colony of Muscle Man Tree Ants have burrowed their nest in a Grey Box tree.
Muscle Man Tree Ant (Podomyrma adelaidae) as she carries wood pulp from the nest
and keeps carrying it…
…and she drops it from the edge of the branch.
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.
Iridomyrmex sp. carrying debris from the nest
Emerging from the nest.
And just because it’s beautiful, a Leaf Beetle.
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 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.
We also have various stages and species of Eucalyptus Tip Wilter Bugs sucking on eucalypt leaves.
Eucalyptus Tip Wilter Bug nymph I (Amorbus alternatus?)
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.
This Acacia Horned Treehopper shows the honeydew that the ants get in exchange for protecting the leafhopper.
Acacia Horned Treehopper
Acacia Horned Treehopper and ant.
Soldier Beetles are also out in force and lots of them are finding mates.
Soldier Beetles mating.
And just because it’s beautiful, a Belid Weevil on a Silver Wattle
The bush around the Mia Mia is very quiet at present with bird numbers lower than I can recall since the Millennium drought.
Nonetheless there is plenty to see if you take your time and stay alert.
Jacky Winter, Mia Mia Road, 14th February 2018
aka Jacky Lizard
I was intrigued by this Golden Orb-Weaver, attended by two males … I hadn’t realised that this occurred until today!
The highlight was bumping into a couple of researchers from Monash University on my way home. They had just caught an already banded Eastern Yellow Robin as part of ongoing studies into the genetics and biology of this beautiful woodland bird.
Eastern Yellow Robin … a recapture about to be released
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 adult on Shiny Everlastings doing some night hunting
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.
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.
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!
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.
On 21st January 2017 I noticed a cocoon on Newstead Natives’ smaller greenhouse, posted a photo of it on the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Facebook page and people kindly identified it as being made by the caterpillar of an Australian Faggot Casemoth.
female Australian Faggot Case Moth cocoon (Clania ignoblis) 21 January 2017
Exactly 12 months later I notice a similar structure has been built on my nursery trolley! It lacks the one long twig at bottom.
male Australian Faggot Case Moth cocoon (Clania ignoblis), 19 January 2018
Anthea Fleming said, “The long twig (on the case on the greenhouse) is provided by female so winged male can land on it and visit for mating – she drops eggs from her case and then dies. The second case (on nursery trolley) is a male’s – so no long twig. During the larval phase they move about quite a lot. Pupating cases may stay a long time”.
I wondered why the creature built onto man-made things and not onto trees (which are plentiful here at Newstead)? Madeleine Nayru says, “As far as I know there’s not really much research on why/how they choose where to pupate. There’s some suggestion that man-made structures often have less airflow and activity from other animals, and no growth that could disturb the pupa, but really we don’t know. Fun side fact though, there’s been research that has found moths and butterflies maintain memories from when they were caterpillars”.