Category Archives: Beetles

Time for the Redcoats

Late summer and the Soldier Beetles are on the march. Well, not so much marching as breeding!

Triclour Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus tricolor)

I’ve often wondered why they’re called soldier beetles. A bit of reading reveals that, since they were named long before the days of military camouflage, their red and black colours evoked the soldier’s uniforms of the day. They are also called leather wings due to their soft wing covers or elytra.

Plenty of other beetles are around at the moment too. Acacias sport quite a few Calomela leaf beetles.

Calomela beetle on Golden Wattle. I’m not sure about whether the attached excrement is significant.
Belid Weevil
Up close

One night recently, I came across an unusually large number of dragonflies sleeping in our front yard, hanging from various shrubs. I think they are Blue Skimmers (Orhtretum caledonicum). Not very blue at the moment as I think they have just moulted. As their skins mature, the boys will go a powdery blue colour and the girls will go brown. It’s not often that I get such cooperative dragonfly subjects!

Blue Skimmer dragonfly
In profile

Insect waves

It often seems to me that different insect species often appear in waves throughout the period from spring to autumn. This year it seems particularly pronounced as each species’ wave seems to have larger numbers of Aindividuals than most years. A week or so ago I posted about big numbers of Belid Weevils. This week it’s Acacia Jewel Beetles.

Flat-headed Acacia Jewel Beetles (Agrilus australasiae) look at first glance like Belid Weevils, with long, cylindrical dark bodies, but close inspection show no snout and the iridescent sheen which gives them their jewel-like appearance.

Acacia Flat-headed Jewel Beetle

These beetles lay their eggs in wattles, especially Golden Wattles and Silver Wattles in our neck of the woods. The larvae are the borers that shorten the life of these wattles, leaving little piles of drillings at the base of the plant. This particular specimen seemed to have found itself on a eucalypt leaf for some reason.

Big eyes, up close.

A bit smaller but more iridescent, Diphucrania Acacia Jewel Beetles are also around in greater numbers than usual.

Diphucrania sp. on Golden Wattle

At this time of year, I often note the building up of numbers of Slender Bee Flies (Geron sp.) They move from the Shiny Everlastings as they finish flowering to the Sweet Bursaria that continue to flower at this time.

Slender Bee Fly on Sweet Bursaria

I had been keeping an eye on a Ladybird chrysalis on a Drooping Sheoak in our yard of late.

Ladybird Chrysalis

I was very pleased to check it recently as the Small Transverse Ladybird adult emerged, sitting quietly next to the shell as its skin hardened.

Freshly emerged ladybird.

Other recent macro finds were a tiny beetle, about 3mm long and a very small Hidden Snout Weevil (tribe Cryptorhynchi), both on Golden Wattle leaves.

A very small beetle
Weevil (Tribe Cryptorhynchi)

Beetle look-alikes. And some flies.

I’ve seen quite a few elongated beetles with rust/orange wing covers of late and assumed that they are Long-nosed Lycid Beetles (Porrostoma rhipidius) that I’ve photographed previously, but as I’ve seen them mostly on the wing, I’ve not been able to tell for sure. The first time I got a good look at my supposed Lycid Beetle through the macro lens, I was surprised to find it was actually a Red Belid Weevil – Rhinotia haemoptera. I’ve seen a great abundance of Belid Weevils this spring – more than I’ve ever seen, but none with these fantastic brick-red wing covers.

Red Belid Weevil on Rough Wattle

I was so stunned by its likeness to the Lycid Beetle. Then I found one of the the latter resting on a Cassinia.

Long-nosed Lycid Beetle.

Not just the red wing covers, but the black head and body are so strikingly similar. So I was intrigued to read on the very helpful brisbaneinsects.com that the Red Belid Weevil gets a considerable advantage by looking so like its Coleoptera cousin. It turns out that the Lycid Beetle is quite poisonous to eat and its bright colour signifies this to predators. The Weevil gets the same protection without having to be poisonous – just by looking like someone who is. It might also explain why both of these insects seemed utterly unconcerned by my interest, not for a moment considering themselves to be a meal.

Coleoptera means sheathed wing and is the name for the order of beetles. The covers that protect their delicate wings are called elytra. These are modified forewings that allow beetles to get into places that would otherwise destroy their delicate flight wings. Many beetles favourite escape mechanism is to simply drop before flying off, presumably as it’s faster than deploying wings from under the elytra. Often,however, they are quite happy to pose for photographers, like this Comb-clawed Darkling Beetle.

Comb-clawed Darkling Beetle on Red-anther Wallaby Grass flowers

With the abundance of Shiny Everlasting blossoms happening at the moment, it’s a great time to get photos of flies as they collect pollen.

Genus Metallea
Hoverfly

Flies are often nervous, but I find that when an insect has found a flower that it really likes, it stays put even with a camera and big flash diffuser right over it. Is it that it’s so good that it’s worth the risk, or do they not identify me as a threat?

Sleeping flies are also a bonus for the photographer. One seemed to be asleep in broad daylight on a Golden Wattle leaf. I’ve not been able to identify this one, but wonder if it might be a Tachinid fly.

Tachinid fly?

A Hardenbergia in our yard is a favourite napping spot by night for Lauxaniid flies. I can guarantee finding quite a number of them most spring nights. They are always on the northern side of the plant. It took me a while to come up with the hypothesis that they liked the shelter from the cool southerly breeze that’s present however subtle on most nights.

Lauxiniid fly.

Black anthers, bees, other little things and a dramatic end

Black-anther Flax Lilies have (Dianella revoluta) been flowering for a while in our bush. At present, they are bearing both flowers and fruits in our bush at Strangways.

Being blue, they are beloved by our local native bee species. Lipotriches bees are regulars at these flowers.

Lipotriches

Lipotriches are sweat bees of the family Halictidae, nesting in burrows in the ground and attracted to the salt in human sweat – hence the name. The very helpful site aussiebee.com.au talks about the males of this genus gathering at dusk in large numbers on twigs or grass stems. I’ve yet to see this, but would love to.

Much smaller Halictids of genus Lasioglossum are also visiting the flax-lily flowers.

Lasioglossum on Flax-lily flower.

These tiny bees are also enjoying the Digger’s Speedwell flowers that are also still blooming.

And on Digger’s Speedwell

In amongst the flowers, I saw something that looked and behaved like a hoverfly, but seemed too big. When I got a close look through the macro lens, the mystery was solved.

Hoverfly love on the wing

Shiny Everlastings are also in full bloom. I found a little Lacewing larva lurking on one flower, presumably looking for prey.

Lacewing larva – an impressive juxtaposition of camouflage and pincers

Away from flowers, the leaves are also busy places. Leaf Beetles are munching busily.

Middle-bar Acacia Leaf Beetle (Peltoschema suturale)

ARACHNOPHOBE ALERT – SPIDER PHOTO AHEAD!

The truth of life for any animal who’s not a top order predator is that their is always someone looking to turn you into a meal. NO exemptions for cute little leaf beetles.

A Beautiful Badge Huntsman making a meal of a Leaf Beetle.

As spring unfolds…

With the warmer weather and many flowers emerging, the variety of insects in our yard at Strangways is increasing dramatically.

Leaf Beetles are very plentiful. One I found climbing on the flower buds of a Red-anther Wallaby Grass.

And a very green beetle on a Golden Wattle.

Leaf Beetle on Golden Wattle

And Ladybird Beetles are also around in numbers.

Small Transverse Ladybird Beetle (Coccinella transversalis) on Shiny Everlasting

With the flowers out, it’s also a big time for native bees. Blue flowers are particularly favoured and a Digger’s Speedwell is certainly pulling them in. Tiny Homalictus Sweat Bees (about 3mm long) get themselves right into the flower and seem to bite on the stamens. This one wasn’t going to let go no matter how much I twisted the flower around to get a good view.

Homalictus bee

On one of the many flowering Shiny Everlastings (Xerochrysum viscosum) I found another bee in the Lasioglossum genus of Sweat Bees- a Chilolictus . I often find that once an insect has found a flower that it really likes and starts getting stuck into the pollen, they will often sit there without regard to my very close camera and big flash diffuser. This little bee was totally immersed – literally.

Chilalictus immersed in Everlasting flower
Eventually getting out, covered in pollen.

This particular bee just crawled off the flower and onto my hand. It seemed quite happy on my skin, perhaps enjoying a bit of sweat, living up to its name.

Sweat Bees like sweat!

Geocorid bugs, or Big-eyed Bugs are also making an appearance on grasses and flowers. This one was on the flower buds of a Red-anther Wallaby Grass.

Big-eyed Bug

Ants are also into flowers. Wrinkle ants (Rhytidoponera) seem very fond of the Shiny Everlastings.

Rhytidoponera ant

 

Beetlemania

The Golden Wattles in our bush are playing host to myriad small beetles at the moment and they are very active by night. I don’t know what species they are and can add no notes of particular interest, but I thought it worth posting some photos. Certainly some have awakened from their winter sleep in a mood for making more beetles.

The love of beetles
A tiny beetle on growing Golden Wattle seed pod
Another tiny beetle on the leaf
Perfect camouflage for the nocturnal beetle

I also found what I at first took to be a tiny (4mm) wasp on a flowering Rough Wattle. When I got a good look at the photos, I saw that it had a long tube mouth folded backwards under its thorax, which indicates that it is actually a bug. Bugs belong to the order hemiptera (half wing) so named as the front part of the wings are often hardened into a protective surface whilst the back half remains a soft membrane. I don’t know what this one is, but suspect it might be a seed bug (Lygaeid bug) nymph.

Tiny bug showing tube mouth part

I’ve also been pleased to find a few Plume Moths. They are the most striking looking animals!

Plume Moth

The time of small things

As winter bites, there are still plenty of invertebrates about, but they are almost all very small.

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha)flower buds are still a target for beetles, but they are mostly 3mm long or less.

Tiny beetle on Golden Wattle
Tucking in on a cold night

There are plenty of spiders around and often less than a mm long, like one I managed to photograph of a Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) at night.

Minuscule spider

Elsewhere on the same Sheoak were a couple of small Psyllid bugs, a safe distance from the tiny predator. These were only a couple of millimetres long.

Psyllid bugs

After a bit of rain, we’ve had another mass surfacing of springtails (Collembola) from the leaf litter. As I mentioned in a previous post, these are not insects in spite of having three pairs of legs.

Springtail profusion

Today there were many clusters of thousands of these little creatures (<1mm long) – writhing masses of little lives all tumbling over each other as they dispersed.

Springtails really know how to teem

These little creatures have a very important role in breaking down decaying vegetable matter and fungi. There is a great article on them on The Conversation. And I think they are very cute.

The sweetness of the springtail.

 

A Robber Fly at last (& one spider shot at the end)

Autumn has seen a lot of Robber Flies at our place. I love getting photos of these amazing looking animals – they certainly look like they come from the realms of science fiction. So far I’ve had little luck getting shots of them as they have been very restless. In the cool of a recent afternoon, I was pleased to find one perched very sedately on a Cassinia bush.

Robber Fly

Robber Fly

Perhaps it was the cool conditions slowing it down, but I was able to get some good close up shots. They are called Robber Flies as they grab their prey in their strong claws and whisk them off somewhere safe for a feed

Robber Fly

Looking a bit otherworldly

There are also a few small Leaf Beetles of various types about at the moment and they are heavily favouring Golden Wattles (Acacia pycnantha) and especially their developing flower buds.

Beetle

.Leaf Beetle on Golden Wattle

Nocturnal excursions into our bush have also yielded a few finds. One was a small wasp, about 10 mm long snoozing on a native Clematis in our yard.

Wasp

Wasp

And here is the spider warning for the arachnophobes!

Most of the Huntsman spiders that we encounter tend to be fairly large specimens and quite impressive. However, when I’m snooping around the bush at night, I often encounter quite small ones that I assume are young examples of the larger varieties, as they look so similar. These small spiders are usually hiding on a leaf of some type. Although the one I’m presenting here looks very imposing, it was only about 20 mm across.

Huntsman

Small Huntsman on Grey Box leaf

 

The pollinators have finished, it’s time for leaf munchers and sap harvesters

With few plants flowering in our bush now, the pollinators have taken a back seat and my forays with the macro lens reveal other invertebrates feasting on our native vegetation.

Common at this time of year, but less so this year than in most, are Eucalypt Tip-wilter Bug nymphs (Amorbus sp.) Nymphs are juvenile stages which look like the adult, as opposed to larvae like maggots and caterpillars which look utterly different to their adult forms. Each stage of moulting the skin is referred to as an “instar”. One Amorbus species at our place has early instars that are brilliant orange with blue-grey edges. These are about 12mm long.

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug instar (Amorbus sp)

Early stage Amorbus instar

Being bugs means they have tube mouth parts, which in the case of these bugs they insert into eucalypt stems to suck the sap.

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug instar (Amorbus sp)

Inserting the tube

In the next few stages, the instars are less brilliantly coloured, but seem to have a pair of fake eyes on their abdomens. The bugs rely on smelly secretions to deter predators and are therefore fairly happy to sit still for photographs. They’ve yet to be upset enough to spray me.

Eucalyptus Tip-wilter Bug instar (Amorbus sp)

A later Amorbus instar

Beetles are also out and about, chewing happily on leaves. I found one tiny beetle, <4mm long, on a Grey Box leaf.

Shield Bug nymph

Beetle #1

I found another beetle with a very elongated thorax on a Golden Wattle leaf. I’ve not been able to work out what species it is.

Beetle - Cordus sp.

Beetle #2

Weevils are also beetles and they are also around feeding on eucalypt leaves.

Weevil

Weevil

A variety of ant species also seem to be harvesting things from the branches of shrubs and trees. Rhytidoponera ants (or Wrinkle ants) are common on our Grey Box suckers.

Rhytidoponera sp.

Rhytidoponera sp.

When I looked closely at some of the photos of this lady, she was carrying a small drop of fluid in her mandibles. As there’d been no rain or dew, I assume it may be some sap she’s gleaned from the plant.

Rhytidoponera sp.

With some precious liquid

Black-headed Sugar Ants (Camponotus nigriceps) have always seemed particularly beautiful to me, in temperament as well as appearance. This lady was so engrossed by whatever she was getting from this Grey Box that she was completely indifferent to the interference by a photographer trying to get a good angle.

Black-headed Sugar Ant (Camponotus nigriceps)

Black-headed Sugar Ant

Black-headed Sugar Ant (Camponotus nigirceps)

Up close

Of course, there will always be predators. This Praying Mantis nymph was patrolling a Golden Wattle by night.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis nymph

Praying Mantis

Telling me to go away

Beetles and a different use of a flower

On recent nights’ excursion into the bush, there have been a few beetles to be found. On  new shoot of Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa), a small Leaf Beetle, about 10mm long.

Leaf Beetle?

Leaf Beetle

Nearby, on another Grey Box sucker, a somewhat larger beetle.

Beetle

Beetle.

Beetle

Head on.

I also found a beautiful Ladybird on a Golden Wattle.

Ladybird - Tirbe Coccinellini

Ladybird.

I have to say that, although the invertebrate numbers have lifted a little with the onset of Spring, it is still harder to find subjects than in previous years. I assume this is the result of the dry conditions.

On checking on the ever-reliable Shiny Everlastings in our bush during the daytime, I was pleased to find this tiny wasp.

Wasp

Wasp

As I kept watching, she seemed to be laying eggs in the flower. The flowers she was most interested in had brown discolourations in the central flower parts. I’m not sure if a diseased flower attracts the wasp, or wasp have changed the flower.

Wasp

Laying in the central flowers