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.”

The burrowing wasp

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.

Flower Wasp
Wasp digging into the mulch

Continue reading “The burrowing wasp”

Very hungry caterpillars

Madonna Lily
Bud and flowers (some moth-eaten) of a Madonna Lily

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.

Continue reading “Very hungry caterpillars”

Strange things in trees

This post supplements my previous post, about a trip to Ollera Creek.

A nest but not the right nest

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.

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Mother love in the wilderness

Here’s a hold-over from my visit to White Mountains National Park a few weeks ago: a beautiful spider-web and its resident family.

The web, shining in the sunlight in the camping ground, caught my eye and when I investigated I saw that the piece of dead grass suspended above it was a spider’s retreat overflowing with spiderlings.

Spider web
Spider web

Continue reading “Mother love in the wilderness”