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).

fly
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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *