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.
A cold paper wasp
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
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.
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.
On December 29th 2010 I wrote about a colony of Common Imperial Blue butterflies at Yandoit.
A couple of days ago, almost seven years later to the day, I dropped by on a trip south to see how they were faring. The air around the copse of Silver Wattles was delightfully alive with these remarkable butterflies, with pairs mating and ants in attendance around the pupae. You can read here, at the Strathbogie Ranges – Nature View blog about their fascinating life history.
Common Imperial Blues, Yandoit, 22nd December 2017
A cluster of pupae with attendant ants
This copse of Silver Wattles is home to the colony
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?
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
It seems that there is always so much to discover with some magnification at night in Box woodlands. With a bright headlight and some reading glasses I found what seemed to be very strange looking ant, with red blotches of various sizes. The macro lens revealed a very serious infestation of mites affecting this poor lady. She seemed to be feeding normally, taking something from the little gland at the base of the leaves of Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), but was a little slow. I think the ant might be a Golden-flumed Sugar Ant, but would be happy to have a more certain identification.
Ant with mite infestation
Ant with mite infestation feeding on wattle leaf gland
On the same wattle, I found a tiny bug, barely visible with just glasses. I’ve met this one before and the folk at bowerbird.org.au identified it as a Tingid Lacebug (Nethersia sp.)
Tingid Lacebug (Nethersia sp.)
Another small inhabitant of the bush that I’d met before was a Sutural Belid Weevil (Rhinotria suturalis). They make a great macrophotography subject as they tend to stay very still. This one was on a Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata)
Sutural Belid Weevil
Sutural Belid Weevil up close
Climbing around on a Long-leafed Box sapling was this tiny translucent bug. I’m not sure of its identity, but it looks a bit like a Mirid Bug nymph to me.