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.
by Patrick Kavanagh
A nocturnal venture into the bush at our place at Strangways at the moment means encountering a myriad of tiny spiders. Some, like this Crab Spider (about 10mm long including legs) pretend to be a bit of plant matter hanging in the web as soon as my light hits them.
This slightly larger green spider was too intent on wrapping up its prey to be bothered by the paparazzi.
Many of the spiders in the Golden Wattles at the moment, are however much smaller – a millimetre or even less in length.
A tiny spider with Golden Wattle flower bud
What did surprise me recently though, was the number of tiny midges that I at first assumed were trapped in the tiny webs of these arachnids. But as soon as I got too close, they would fly off. It seemed that they were using the webs at least for perching. But is there some other purpose? I’d appreciate any information about why they might choose to linger on the trap of a predator. I think they are midges rather than mosquitoes as their back legs are down. And I think the feathery antennae on this one mean it’s a male.
By day, there have been quite a few small black wasps on both Golden Wattle and Cassinia arcuata bushes and there have been a few Eucalyptus Weevils about.
Wasp on Golden Wattle
Another mystery for us was a strange looking multi-legged animal in the tub in our laundry. We fished it out with a Grey Box leaf and having no idea what would be an appropriate habitat, took some pics of it on the leaf before letting it go in the garden. Typing “bug with 15 pairs of legs” into Google quickly identified it as a House Centipede. It seems it would have been more accurate to photograph it in the house – their preferred habitat in which they hunt other invertebrates. There are native species, but I think this is the introduced one, Scutigera coleoptrata. We don’t know if it was living at our place or came back with our washing from a recent camping trip in NSW. A striking photographic subject even if it shouldn’t be here.
Although the number of arthropods visible around our place at Strangways has dropped significantly as the cooler weather moves in, there are still some insects around by both night and day. And a profusion of spiders. I have been quite surprised to encounter a few nymphs in the last week. It seems a little late in the season for young ones.
By day I have encountered a lone Coreid bug (Eucalypt Tip-wilter Bug) nymph on a Grey Box sapling, as well as an adult Acacia Horned Treehopper on Silver Wattle with retinue of attendant ants. The ants declined to be included in the photo shoot.
Coreid Bug nymph
Acacia Horned Treehopper, pretending to be a thorn.
Slender Bee Flies are still taking advantage of the afternoon sun and the second-flowering Shiny Everlastings.
Slender Bee Fly
By night I found a sole Treehopper nymph, again with attending ants. I suspect this one will moult into another Acacia Horned Treehopper.
Treehopper nymph on Golden Wattle
Also by night I found what I think is a Lauxaniid fly sheltering on a Long-leafed Box leaf and a wasp hiding in Silver Wattle foliage for the evening.
Wasp on Silver Wattle
Amongst the many spiders hunting in the bush at present, I found this small gem under a Grey Box leaf. It’s only small, but the pattern of the eyes, the splayed out legs and lack of web make me wonder if it’s a very young Huntsman.
Spider on Grey Box
by Patrick Kavanagh
One of the joys of decent rainfall at our place at Strangways is the profusion of flowering of grasses. Especially striking are the Red-anther Wallaby Grass Joycea pallida flowers. Lovely to look at with the naked eye, they are a real treat through a macro lens. Quite a popular hunting lair for spiders too it seems.
Red-anther Wallaby Grass, Strangways, November 2016
III … with what looks like an orb-weaver?
I ventured briefly into the front garden today and was rewarded with a trio of ‘short stories’.
- An Australian Magpie spying and then snaffling an unsuspecting Wolf Spider
- A young Grey Currawong paying a fleeting visit – I was tricked at first as most recent currawongs have been of the pied variety
- Superb Fairy-wrens posing on the ‘garden ornaments’
Australian Magpie, Wyndham Street Newstead, 12th May 2016
Tough luck for a Wolf Spider!
… it’s an immature – see the yellow gape
doing what currawongs do!
Superb Fairy-wren (male in eclipse)
A popular vantage point … female Superb Fairy-wren
by Patrick Kavanagh
A short (20m) excursion into the bush at our place on a warm Autumn night last Friday revealed that there is still plenty of action even in the somewhat cooler evenings. My first and most surprising encounter was with a Marbled Gecko, hunting on a Golden Wattle. Whilst I’ve seen a lot of Thick-tailed Geckos at our place, this was a first. This beautiful reptile was quite a good sitter for lots of photos, but was not going to move to a spot where I could get a view of the whole magnificent little body. Just up the limb, nocturnal ants were tending a what looked like a sort of Flat-headed Treehopper, harvesting the honeydew secreted by the insect.
Marbled Gecko, Strangways, 6th May 2016
Treehopper and Ant
Walking around with a headlamp at night in these conditions shows up the jewel-like glowing green eyes of Wolf Spiders on the ground. Their numbers increase dramatically after a bit of rain, so it will be interesting to do a check over the next week or so.
Other spider species were also abundant. One green Orb-weaver flattened itself as my light fell upon it, presumably trying to look a bit more like a bit of leaf. The very large palps had me wondering if this is a male and is ready to transfer some semen to a receptive partner. A bit translucent in the light of my flash, I thought it looked very reminiscent of a luminous squid in deep dark waters.
Green Orb-weaver (male)
Also of interest was the remarkably camouflaged Dolophenes spider. I normally see these in wattle species and this one was in a Hedge Wattle. When they are on a branch, they are very hard to distinguish from a small dead leaf. This one in the middle of the web offered a great opportunity to photograph its spinarets.
Not many visits to the local bush go by without coming across Varied Sitellas. These small woodland specialists move in tight flocks foraging for insects along the branches and trunks of eucalypts. I’ve often seen them pause to swallow prey, but its unusual to actually see the victim. On this occasion one of the party has clearly snaffled a small spider.
No doubt they consume hundreds of these on a daily basis – just another part of the complex web of life in our wonderful box-ironbark ecosystem.
Varied Sitella, Spring Hill, 27th July 2015.
Typical foraging posture.
A tiny spider has been extracted from under the bark of a Grey Box.
Down the hatch!