A tough little spider

Brown spider on dead leaf
Basket-web spider, probably Cyrtophora exanthematica, on a macadamia leaf

I took this photo just a couple of days before cyclone Yasi arrived and made a real mess of much of north Queensland, including our garden. It shows a small brown spider nestled comfortably inside a dead Macadamia leaf, which in turn is suspended inside the spider’s loosely-woven basket-shaped web. Some people call it a ‘Double Tailed Tent Spider’, ‘double-tailed’ for the two rounded points of its abdomen and ‘tent’ for its web, but that just goes to show the inconsistency of common names.

Anyway, cyclone Yasi came and went, and I had more important things on my mind for a while than spiders. When I did start to take an interest again, the web was either still there or had been replaced in exactly the same spot, so I assume it’s the same individual spider.

She is still there now. Here is yesterday’s photo of her – standing in the middle of her web on the remains of one of her captures, a sap-sucking bug, Poecilometis sp.

Spider and prey amongst dead leaves
Living the good life, Cyrtophora style

Afterword, 7.7.11:
Checking on the web last week I saw that it had fallen into disrepair. It was even more dilapidated early this week and I decided that its inhabitant was no longer with us. Today brought confirmation, in the form of a new Paper-wasp nest amongst the web’s remnants:

Paper wasp nest in macadamia foliage
Paper-wasp nest in macadamia foliage

The very red dragonfly

After my Morning on Mount Stuart I arrived in town at morning tea time. It was too nice a day to sit indoors without good reason and I still had some coffee and fruit with me so I stopped off in the parkland beside Ross River, looking back up to Mt Stuart (the lookout mentioned in my previous post is at the foot of the radio towers).

View of Mt Stuart from Ross River parkland
View of Mt Stuart from Ross River parkland

The insects were enjoying the sunshine as much as I was: innumerable tiny grass moths, so many that a dozen would fly up at every footstep; a couple of larger moths, Utetheisa and Nyctemera; half a dozen species of butterfly, including the Bush Brown and Eurema I had seen on top of the mountain; a couple of kinds of spider; a native bee, Amegilla sp., with its distinctive blue tail; green ants (I felt them before I saw them!); and several dragonflies.

One of the dragonflies was the reddest possible – bright red abdomen, thorax, face, eyes, and even some of the veins in its wings. Another, about the same size, was a dull orange-tan. When I got home I discovered that it was the female of the same species (the fine dark line down the abdomen, with wider blotches, was the confirmation). Here they are, then – the Scarlet Percher Dragonfly, Diplacodes haematodes, male and female. As usual, clicking on the pictures will take you to a larger image.

Bright red dragonfly, Scarlet percher male, on dry grass
Scarlet percher male
Scarlet percher dragonfly, female, on dry grass
Scarlet percher female

One morning on Mount Stuart

View over Town Common, 16 km away, to Palm Island, 70 km away
View from Mt Stuart over Town Common, 16 km away, to Palm Island, 70 km away

Townsville winters are lovely. The weather has been so beautifully clear recently that I figured it would be worth getting up early just to take photos from the top of Mt Stuart of the sun rising over the ocean. Then, I thought, if I take food and coffee with me, I can wander round the mountain-top taking pictures of insects and trees and so on.

And so it was. I was on the road very soon after 6 a.m. and at the lookout on the mountain almost in time for sunrise. Continue reading “One morning on Mount Stuart”

National Day of Action 5 June

I don’t want to get too political here, but I do think we need to act to reduce climate change and the Greens’ National Day of Action on Sunday June 5 is one way of getting involved.
Even apart from that, recent Galaxy Poll results make fascinating reading in the light of the claims by some Opposition politicians to speak for ‘ordinary Australians’ in opposing action.
That’s enough politics for Bugblog for now. Back to the bugs soon.

Giant grasshopper

Giant grasshopper resting on leaves
Giant grasshopper, Valanga irregularis

Valanga irregularis is Australia’s largest grasshopper (females to 75mm, males not quite so big) and a regular in our garden. Young ones grow up here, at the expense of our pot-plants, at the end of the Wet, and adults visit throughout the dry season – here is one from 2009, and here is a mating pair from 2010.

Giant grasshoppers are really quite spectacular – even more so when they take wing, but I have yet to get a shot of one in flight. A quick web search seems to show that no-one else has achieved it either, but Graeme Cocks shows the open wing of a dead specimen and that will give you some idea what they look like.