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.
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.
We have been moving lots of pot-plants recently, planting out many of them and re-potting others, and in the process disturbing a few strange worms … or so I thought.
All of them were typical worm size, perhaps 8 – 12 cm long and shoelace-thick; most were black, but one was a delicate lilac colour; and they were all very active, wriggling for their lives until they could vanish into any tiny crack in the soil. When I handled them, I found them very dry and slippery, which puzzled me. It didn’t intrigue me enough to stop work, however, or I might have trapped them for closer observation and discovered that they weren’t worms at all but snakes.