Mummy long-legs

Daddy long-legs spider with hatchlings
Daddy long-legs spider (Pholcidae) with hatchlings

I have known ‘Daddy long-legs’ spiders as long as I can remember. They are small-bodied and long-legged, and they make themselves at home in similar locations to the House spider I wrote about recently. I have had a close-up view of their family life over the last week or two: the group in my photo are in residence under a shelf just 30 cm above and behind my computer screen. I look up – and there they are. All the time. Doing almost nothing, as far as I can see.

I first noticed the babies on May 7 – two weeks ago – and they have stayed beside their mother ever since. They have gradually spread out, especially in the last few days, but many are still within 20 cm of her. What look like skeletons in the lower picture are not, so far as I know, signs of infanticide. Spiders moult their skins (really external skeletons, ‘exoskeletons’) as they grow and I’m pretty sure that we are seeing cast off exoskeletons. The first picture was taken on May 9, the second on May 15.

For more about the family, check out their page on, a wonderful new Aussie spider site.

Daddy long-legs spider (Pholcidae) with hatchlings
Daddy long-legs spider (Pholcidae) with hatchlings

Marsh Tiger

Marsh Tiger butterfly, wings closed
Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis

Another visitor: the Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis, is common on the swampy grasslands not far from us alongside Ross River,  but this is the first time I have caught one in our garden. It’s about the same size as the Eggfly or the Migrant, and the sexes are very similar as you can see in this photo which I took near Ross River last year.

These Marsh Tigers are sometimes called Swamp Tigers, but a real Swamp Tiger is a very different beast and you wouldn’t want to get so close to it. There’s a YouTube video about them here, but my first introduction to them and their unique homeland was a fascinating novel, The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh; it’s warmly recommended.

What’s around in mid-May

Here we are, six weeks into the dry season: sunny days with a top of 25C or thereabouts after a chilly 10C or cool 16-18C overnight and no rain to speak of. (We have been watering our garden for a month. It felt so weird at first, so soon after months of flooding rain!) As you would expect, the wildlife has changed: no dragonflies, as I said, but what do we see?

    Butterflies: lots of Junonia hedonia, quite a lot of Eurema and Hesperidae, and a few each of Cairns Birdwing, Common Crow, Common Eggfly, Lemon Migrant, Ulysses, Orchard Swallowtail, Clearwing Swallowtail … that’s quite a long list, but in a walk once around the garden you would probably see ten Junonia, two Eurema and one out of all the rest.
    Moths: Hawk moths, usually in the evening and occasionally coming to indoor lights, and a lot of smaller moths flitting around the grass during the day and likewise coming indoors at night. Here’s one of last night’s visitors:
Can I call it a copper moth until I find out the real name?
    Wasps: paper wasps, hatchet wasps, mud-daubers (not many), and miscellaneous smaller wasps including Braconid and Ichneumonid species.
    Bees: hardly any, but occasional leaf-cutters and resin bees.
    Flies: yes, mostly the tiny green long-legged Dolichopodidae, plus a fair few hoverflies, bluebottles and crane flies.  There are more kinds of flies than most people suspect and I’ll have to put up some pictures soon.
    ‘True bugs’ (Hemiptera): occasional Hibiscus Harlequin bugs and a few others, but not many altogether.

    Grasshoppers: a few Giant Grasshoppers, mainly immature.

    Spiders: quite a lot of small ones – Austracantha, Silver Orb Weaver, St Andrew’s Cross, etc – but nothing much bigger than my little finger nail.

    Cockroaches and termites: lots in the compost bin and underground respectively, as always.

    Beetles, Mantises, Lacewings, Ant-lions: very few.

… which doesn’t mean there is nothing happening, but the garden is far less active than it was – reminding us once more just how much all life depends on water.

The end of the dragonfly season

I recently declared the end of the wet season and now I’m declaring the end of the dragonfly season – at least in my garden. (I know I can still find them if I walk down to the banks of Ross River, but that’s different.) I spent two hours in the garden yesterday and only saw one dragonfly, down from dozens at their peak.
That means I’m going to stop postponing the task of sorting all my dragonfly photos, because I won’t be adding to them as I go. Here is the first result of the sorting-out: the commonest species here for most of the wet season, which I have finally identified as the Australasian Slimwing, Lathrecista asiatica festa.

Australasian Slimwing dragonfly, male
Australasian Slimwing

Clicking here will take you to my Flickr photos where you will find a few more shots of the same species alongside this one.

The Common Eggfly

Common or Varied Eggfly, Hypolimnas bolina, male

I was looking for an excuse to post the larger photo below and realised that I had just posted another ‘Common’ butterfly – Bingo!

Seriously, this is quite a common and widespread species. Its alternate name refers to its females, which occur in a wide range of colour forms (I have a whole lot of them here).

The males are consistently brown underneath with white markings, and black above with white eye-spots which flare blue-purple from some angles.

Males are territorial and will perch on some convenient vantage point ready to pursue any females and drive off any rivals, but they interpret ‘rivals’ very broadly indeed – not only males of their own species, but medium to large butterflies of any species (I’ve seen them harassing Cairns Birdwings, which are at least twice as big) and even dogs and people.

Most of my photography is done with strictly documentary purposes in mind but it is nice to relax a bit and play with images. I desaturated the one below and then played a bit longer until it pleased me.

Eggfly perching in foliage
Common Eggfly