We’ve had a couple of big mounds of mulch in our garden since the stump-grinding people did some work for us almost a year ago. “Leave us some mulch,” I said, and they did.
We have gradually spread it around and dug it in, but we’ve had a surprising amount of help from little friends – mostly big fat white grubs which are scarab larvae.
A big black wasp has been keen to help, too.
I’ve seen one several times in the last couple of weeks, flying up out of the heap as we disturbed it, or circling before landing and digging, but I haven’t managed a clear shot of it on the surface. This old photo, however, probably shows the same species.
As I said at the time, it’s a Hairy Flower Wasp, Scoliidae (I haven’t been able to identify it to species level but the genus is Scolia). They are “flower wasps” because the adults feed on nectar, as this one is doing. (It’s in the same genus but is not the same species – note the absence of yellow spots on the abdomen.) Their larvae, however, parasitise scarab grubs, so my wasp was digging down to lay eggs.
Our most common adult scarab is this beautiful metallic green creature. It’s in the scarab family, as are so many of our largest and most colourful beetles. I know it’s in the subfamily Cetoniinae – Flower Beetles – and it seems likely to be Ischiopsopha wallacei but I can’t be quite sure. In any event, its larvae have been very helpful in breaking down our mulch and are the likeliest targets of our wasp.
We have quite a few pots of Madonna Lilies (aka Peace Lilies, Spathiphyllum spp.) around the house; they do well until they are eaten, which happens with some regularity. Looking down into a pot yesterday, I saw a couple of the usual suspects lying on the dirt as though they were sleeping off their gluttony.
While we were sitting in the shade enjoying a snack, we were visited by a number of small yellow and brown wasps which I immediately identified as Yellow Paper Wasps, Ropalidia romandi, and warned people about: they sting when threatened. Fortunately we were all mature enough not to react thoughtlessly when the wasps landed on exposed skin, apparently in search of moisture, and no-one was hurt; but we did look for their nest.
I have known for some time about a Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis) research project undertaken by the good people of Wildlife Queensland, but that’s almost all I knew until they scheduled a visit to the site last Sunday as one of their regular monthly walks.
Their monitoring site straddles Ollera Creek an hour North of Townsville, between the highway and the coast. We gathered at the Paluma turn-off before driving in convoy through well-timbered grazing land to the beach near the mouth of Ollera Creek.
The Black Bean in my title is a local tree, Castanospermum australe, and it’s flowering now. Two of our neighbours have well-grown specimens and I am simply taking this opportunity to share a photo of its attractive flowers.