Insects in ‘winter’

Our ‘winter’ (the scare quotes are due to the fact that we’re still hitting 28 – 30C most days and about 20C overnight) is a relatively quiet time for insect life in our garden. We’re still seeing the large butterflies – Cairns Birdwing, Ulysses, Crow and Eggfly – fairly regularly but there aren’t as many as there were a few months ago. The same is true for the less conspicuous insects, the wasps, flies, mosquitoes (no loss!), sap-sucking bugs, ants and so on, but there’s usually something of interest to photograph on an amble around the garden. Here is a sampling from the last three weeks. As usual, click on any image for a larger version in a lightbox.

Bee-flies (Bombyliidae) are flies which mimic bees, as their name suggests. Adults, again like bees, feed on nectar and pollen and are important pollinators. I caught this one late one afternoon, settling down to sleep for the night; the black background is an effect of the flash.

We see more of these little Flower Wasps (Tiphiidae) in the dry season than at any other time of year. The winged males fly down to meet the wingless females and then fly around, mated, for quite some time. Females have to be sturdy and wingless to dig down to lay their eggs on the soil-dwelling insect larvae they parasitise.

Mosquitoes need rain to breed and don’t live long, so we don’t see many after a couple of dry weeks. This Golden Mosquito, Coquillettidia xanthogaster, is a species we don’t often see at any time. I’ve never known one to bite me, but this one certainly wouldn’t anyway because it’s a male (the feathery antennae are a giveaway) and only female mosquitoes need blood meals.

The companion photo shows a Non-biting Midge, Chironomidae.  These midges look very much like small mosquitoes and the families are closely related (more about the relationship in Wikipedia).

Long-legged fly with prey

Long-legged flies, Dolichopodidae, are fast, fierce aerial predators, taking prey in flight just like Dragonflies, which are not flies, and Robber Flies, which are, but at a much smaller scale: they are only 4 – 6 mm long. The prey here seems to be an even smaller fly, but my camera is hitting its limits in that size range and I’m not quite sure.

Long-legged flies, by the way, are good to have in the garden because they eat plant pests. This US site lists “small mites, Aphids and flea hoppers, booklice, thrips, flies, silverfish, small caterpillars and other insects” among their prey.

The Circular Economy

The idea of closing the industrial production loop must be in the air this month. I just came across this report on the #CircularEconomy and it meshes so well with my recent post on industrial ‘composting’ that I had to share its key points.  Here goes:

This week, a roomful of sustainability coordinators, educators, government leaders, waste professionals, and various decision makers gathered to discuss one topic that will likely transform the state of all industries in years to come: the circular economy.

Hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF), the “Better Business, Better World” Sustainability Forum served as a springboard for leaders to brainstorm more sustainable and economically beneficial choices for their businesses. While the world turns away from a linear economy — when waste is an inevitable result of product development — a closed-loop system of reuse presents an opportunity for as much as $4.5 trillion in economic growth, according to consulting firm Accenture. However businesses must consider redesigning and reutilizing their products, and the main question is how to do that. …

Here are Waste Dive’s five key takeaways from the Forum:

1. The circular economy is inevitable

There’s no doubt that global economics are going to begin working in a circular way, as many companies are already implementing the ideals of a closed-loop system. As said by Jennifer Gerholdt, senior director of the environment program at the USCCF’s Corporate Citizenship Center, “The linear model, which has been viable in delivering economic growth and development over the past 150 to 200 years, is no longer viable.” …

2. The “system” must be kept in mind

Moving forward with a circular economy is not about changing one product or one method of recycling. It’s also not about getting a few businesses on board or changing some consumer behaviors. It’s about an entire system redesign …

3. Technology will be a key player

“Massive digital disruption” will be a factor of change in many different developments, especially economical shifts. Technology will have the ability to reduce demand in raw materials …

4. Consumer participation may present a challenge

While businesses will work hard to ensure that products are sustainable and offer a fuller lifecycle than traditional products, it will be a process to convince consumers to share the same focus on sustainability. …

5. Every industry can play a part

The Forum garnered representatives from higher education, corporate America, healthcare companies, technology startups, food and beverage giants, and other industries, all for one reason: the circular economy will affect everybody. Eventually, all companies will be forced to take a look at their waste streams and implement recycling, refurbishing, reuse, and redesign strategies to mitigate waste — or else they are bound to fall behind. …

Town Common in June

town common view
Looking over the Town Common from high on the Many Peaks track

Two weeks ago I took advantage of a free day to visit the Town Common for the first time since the very hot (but not very wet) Wet season and I’m now taking advantage of an unseasonably wet day to post some of the photos I took there.

I walked in from the Pallarenda car-park, around the wetland loop and then up the Many Peaks track for the wonderful views from the top. I continued half an hour further along the track, down from the hill-crest and through a large vine thicket, before returning the way I came. I heard lots of birds at the very beginning of the walk but they didn’t pose for me so the insects are the stars of my gallery. As usual, click on small images for larger versions in a lightbox, and scroll through the lightbox if you like.

Butterflies seen but not photographed include many of the milkweed butterflies (Plain Tiger, Marsh Tiger) which I see on every visit to the Common, mainly along lower sections of the track. I had half expected to see an over-wintering aggregation of Crows and Blue Tigers in the moister conditions of the vine thicket, as I had done at Bald Rock and Cape Hillsborough a few years ago, but only encountered a few stray individuals.

I have yet to walk the full length of the track. When I said as much to a park maintenance crew who were clearing the track they encouraged me to do it since it’s not too hard and good mobile coverage all the way (I asked) helps make it safer, but to wait another few weeks until they had finished the job because “the far end of the track is quite overgrown,” or words to that effect. Now all I need is a whole day clear of other commitments!