We have still had very little rain so far this (nominally) Wet season so the insect activity in the garden hasn’t built up in the way it usually does at this time of year. However, we’re still seeing a few butterflies (Birdwing, Ulysses, Eggfly, Migrant, etc) and getting a few visitors in the house at night, attracted to the lights.
The biggest event in the garden in the last month has been the flowering of our poplar gum, plus the paperbark, macadamia and bottlebrush. All attracted their quota of nectar-feeders – birds and flying foxes as well as insects.
The weather news is simple: we had a little bit of rain which triggered the flowering of our trees, and since then we have had rather warmer nights and slightly warmer days, with slightly higher humidity. Temperatures are now consistently dropping to 16C overnight (not 8 or 10) and going up to 28 in the daytime, and I do mean ‘a little bit’ of rain – the BoM recorded 1.4mm on August 20 and none before or since. The invertebrates have responded to the warmth and food with a surge in numbers and variety:
Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera): numerous Chocolate Soldiers and Eurema; a few Varied Eggfly and Evening Brown; and visiting Cairns Birdwing, Orchard Swallowtails and Ulysses. Magpie Moths are common again, and I loved the Zodiac Moth on the poplar gum. Nearer ground level, I spotted a pretty white moth, Amerila rubripes. It does have a ‘common name’ – Walker’s Frother – but it’s not well known enough to be a genuinely common name.
Flies and their relations (Diptera): Tiger craneflies are abundant, to the extent that I saw half a dozen mating pairs in half an hour one morning, and the orange-headed Plecia flies are also mating. Our tiny metallic Dolichopodidae are as common as ever, and there are a few blowflies too. Mosquitoes? Yes, unfortunately, but not too many.
Wasps, Bees and Ants (Hymenoptera): Honey bees came to the flowering trees and various native bees are also around. The small parasitic wasps (Braconidae) are back, and so are paper wasps and mud-daubers.
Spiders and other Arachnids: The orb-weavers suffered housekeeping agonies from the poplar gum as flower debris kept falling into their webs, making them useless for trapping prey. Spiny spiders and the Silver Orb-weaver are the commonest at the moment, with a few St Andrew’s Cross spiders for variety. Jumping spiders, Lynx and flower spiders are all to be found, too.
Others: A praying mantis was resting on our lounge-room wall last night and I have seen a few dragonflies cruising through our airspace. There very few grasshoppers of any size or variety but lacewings, both green and brown, have been attracted to our lights in the evenings. Of the Hemiptera, my little aqua-legs sap-sucker is back and I have seen a few others; not many, though, and I suspect they are waiting for more new greenery.
I was thoughtless enough to leave a window open and a light on in my study on Wednesday evening and by the time I noticed, there were dozens of little bugs around the light and resting on the ceiling. There were several green lacewings, at least one brown lacewing, a creature I thought was a katydid but turned out to be a cricket, some bugs which looked like small pale mosquitoes but were non-biting midges, many tiny moths and flies, and miscellaneous others. Here are some of them.
These five all look roughly the same size on screen but in real life the midges are only 4 – 5 mm long and the others are two or three times their size.
The room has a resident population of spiders and they benefited from the influx of prey. The fly here is not a house fly but about half that size, so the spider is correspondingly minute.