Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata) is popular with nectar-feeding insects when it bursts into flower, as ours did recently.
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.
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.
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.”
This year’s Eco-Fiesta, a few days ago, was much like those of previous years: a lovely day in the park with all sorts of loosely ‘greenie’ and ‘alternative’ people and organisations. I wrote enough about the 2014 and 2013 events that I shouldn’t need to present an overview this time, so I will dive straight in to the things which caught my attention.
Wildlife Queensland had a well-staffed stall featuring a great gallery of flying fox photos. These animals get a bad press and need all the support they can get.
North Queensland Regional Plan had a very boring stall (I’m sorry, but it’s true!) which tried to engage visitors in planning for our region, the local government areas of Charters Towers, Burdekin Shire, Hinchinbrook Shire and Townsville. It’s a state government initiative and welcomes online input here. I told them about our declining rainfall. What’s your concern?
As I’ve said before, Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) take small flying insects on the wing, swooping from their perch and returning to juggle their prey for consumption. I saw this bird fly from our neighbour’s power line and was just able to get a shot through foliage a minute later. Its prey is, appropriately, a European honey-bee.
We’ve had 70 – 100 mm of rain in the last couple of days and are nearly ready to say that the Wet has hit Townsville at last. December only brought us 41 mm and our gardens – to say nothing of Castle Hill and the Common – were getting desperate.
The insects have responded to the moisture immediately. I have seen two flights of winged termites, setting off to find mates and establish new colonies, and a walk around the garden this morning revealed a swarm of native bees as well as a variety of other little wildlife.
The bees (Tetragonula species) were flying in a loose swarm near a couple of pot plants for most of the day. Dozens were in the air at any one time, with smaller numbers resting (like the one above) for a while and then taking off again.
Sitting down in the middle of the swarm, as I did to take the photo, felt a bit weird just because we’re so used to the idea that bees sting and should be avoided. These bees don’t sting – can’t sting, in fact – and I was perfectly safe. They didn’t even bump into me. Some of them did, however, blunder into the web of a Silver Orb-weaver just above them and paid the price.
Elsewhere in the garden I saw a beautiful mantis nymph, translucent against the underside of a sunlit leaf, a pretty little green spider in its daytime retreat on a hibiscus leaf (I had to poke it out with a twig to take photos) and a fat green hawk-moth caterpillar happily chomping through the leaves of my sweet potatoes. Oh, and ants and butterflies and grasshoppers … the whole world comes to life with a good fall of rain. Less happily, that means we are soon going to see lots more mosquitoes.
Bug hunters love flowers, not just for their own sake but for the bugs they attract. This set of photos shows most of the insects I saw in just ten or fifteen minutes on one profusely flowering shrub in Anderson Park, beginning with the wasps.
This wasp is possibly a Blue Flower Wasp, Scolia soror, and certainly a close relation if not that particular species. There was another similar one feeding on the same shrub, distinguishable by a bright yellow patch on the back of its head; it may have been Scolia verticalis (see them both here, on Graeme Cocks’ site).
Scoliidae is just one family of wasps, the Flower wasps. Gasteruptidae (top pic) is another (BugGuide calls them “Carrot Wasps” and you can see why, but I don’t think they have a genuinely common name), and there are many more including Polistinae, the Paper wasps. This index page on Graeme’s site shows them with their nearest relations, the bees and ants.
This small native bee (Colletidae) is similar to one which appeared on my earlier all-on-one-plant post. The beetle below is not just similar – it is definitely the same species:
The odd angle of this shot was forced on me by my uncooperative subject but does allow me to point out a neat bit of mimicry: the eye-spots and tails on the lower part of the wings are a surprisingly good imitation of the butterfly’s head and antennae (there’s an even more striking example here, on a related butterfly). I’m sure this is not a coincidence, since tricking predators into attacking non-vital parts is great for survival.
All the other insects here were attracted to the flowers. This dragonfly just wanted to perch for a while and found a suitable bare twig. He happens to be the first carnivore (insectivore?) on the page and he may well be looking out for prey amongst the smaller bugs attracted to the flowers. As I said in the beginning, bug hunters love flowers.