The ant that wasn’t

ant-mimicking jumping spider
Crawling on the edge of an outdoor table

Sitting in the back garden yesterday, I glanced down to see an ant wandering along the edge of my table – or so I thought. But it wasn’t moving like an ant: they are purposeful, even if we may not divine their purposes, and this maybe-not-an-ant was wandering rather slowly and aimlessly. At a closer look, its antennae weren’t very convincing, either Continue reading “The ant that wasn’t”

Birdwing emergence

When they are ready to pupate, Cairns Birdwing caterpillars drop off the Aristolochia vine they had been eating and climb a neighbouring plant. There they find an appropriate twig or leaf, reinforce it with some of their silk, make a sling with more silk, and hang there in their new hard brown skin (which is what the chrysalis is) while they miraculously re-organise inside it (see this blog post for more details). When the time comes …

cairns birdwing butterfly
Just out – wings still damp and collapsed

Continue reading “Birdwing emergence”

Eating for the planet

Our dietary choices affect our lives on several levels. The question which arises most often is probably, “What is best for our health?” After that, many of us want to minimise the pain and suffering we cause, to follow the dictates of our religion and to minimise our negative impact on the environment. Are these goals compatible? If so, to what extent? And what is the optimum diet for ourselves, for other living creatures, and for the planet?

To answer these questions, we might begin by defining the four broad categories of diet which most of us recognise, and mentioning some of their variants.

1. Vegan

Veganism is often considered a lifestyle strongly anchored in animal rights, rather than just a diet. The Vegan Society defines it as, “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose … In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” Continue reading “Eating for the planet”

Bonanza!

poplar gum flowers
Poplar gum flowers

Around this time every year our huge poplar gum bursts into flower, producing a bonanza for the birds which come from miles around to feast on its nectar. We delight in the display, too, even while we deal with the mess the tree and the birds make. Thousands of flowers pop their caps, which litter the lawn like miniature caltrops, then the rainbow lorikeets arrive to squawk and squabble, Continue reading “Bonanza!”