Mock Orange bounty

Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata) is popular with nectar-feeding insects when it bursts into flower, as ours did recently.

Green Scarab beetle on Mock Orange flowers
Green Scarab on Mock Orange flowers

The gorgeous green scarab above, which I wrote about earlier this month, is one of a group known as Flower Beetles or Flower Chafers (Cetoniinae) which are nectar feeders as adults; most of them are quite big and heavy, but they fly well. The Brown Flower Beetle (Glycyphana stolata) below is half the size of the green one, at 12 – 15 mm long.

Brown Flower Beetles on Mock Orange
Brown Flower Beetles
Carpenter Bee feeding on Mock Orange flowers
Carpenter Bee feeding on nectar

Not a very good photo, I’m afraid, but our Great Carpenter Bees deserve a mention. This one is a female and it’s in the Koptortosoma sub-genus of Xylocopa (I’m not going to hazard a guess at which species since they are all rather similar). They are often called “Bumblebees”  (an understandable mistake when you look at a photo) but the real bumblebee is an exotic, not a native, and doesn’t live in our area.

European honeybees also visited for the nectar but surprisingly few butterflies seemed to care for it. The resident spiders don’t want the nectar themselves, of course, but are very happy to lurk beneath leaves for those who do. This Lynx (Oxyopes sp.) has caught an unidentified wasp or bee.

Lynx spider with wasp prey
Lynx with wasp prey

Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata) is an understandably common shrub in Townsville gardens, growing well with little water and scenting the air with its flowers. It is popular with birds when its flowers become fruits, but therein lies a problem: the birds deposit the seeds far and wide and they grow wild. The shrub is an invasive pest in NSW and Queensland and is better avoided by home gardeners. (We acquired two well-grown specimens and one smaller one with the house and haven’t removed them – yet! – but we uproot seedlings on sight.)

Grow Me Instead recommends a few good alternatives, beginning with an almost-seedless cultivated variety and a Native Mock Orange (Murraya ovatifoliolata) which is a local species if we don’t define “local” too narrowly, since it occurs naturally in “the drier rainforests of northern Queensland.”

Update, 7.1.21 : The Grow Me Instead website has been down for a week. It may be gone for ever, but I will leave the links here in case it comes back after the Christmas – New Year break.

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