A stroll around the Palmetum

The Palmetum is one ‘campus’ of Townsville’s botanic gardens. Its special focus is palm trees, as its name implies, but palms range across so many habitats, from rainforest to desert, that the gardens are very varied. I found lots of wildlife to photograph on a Saturday afternoon stroll, even well into the Dry season.

grey honeyeater
Little Friarbird, Philemon citreogularis.

There were plenty of birds – Rainbow Lorikeets, Ibis, Black Duck and a few other familiar species, plus one which I had to look up. My first thought that it was a honeyeater, since it was about the size of our Blue-faced Honeyeaters and had a similar patch of bare skin on its face, but it turned out to be a Little Friarbird. I hadn’t been far wrong, however, since friarbirds are members of the same family (Meliphagidae) as honeyeaters.

But insects claimed most of my attention, although numbers were down in the park just as they are at home. I found a peculiarly-equipped bug,  several species of orb-weaving spiders, damselflies around the lagoon and in the rainforest, a few dragonflies and a few butterflies.

two brown butterflies on a leaf
Getting acquainted? Two Orange Bush-brown butterflies, Mycalesis terminus.

These butterflies are seen year-round but their colours, like those of other leaf-mimics,  depend on the season. Melanitis leda, the Evening Brown, is my favourite example of how they change – look at this collection.

Miridae? What are they?

Mirid on mango blossom
Mirid, Helopeltis sp.: the spike protruding from the back of the thorax is distinctive

After two years of wandering around my garden with a camera I don’t expect to find too many new species but last week I came across my first member of a whole new family: Miridae.

What are they? Hemiptera, or ‘True Bugs’, which are mostly sap-suckers. Shield bugs and the gorgeously-coloured Harlequin Hibiscus Bugs may be the most familiar members of the extended family.

Miridae is a very large family, with over 10, 000 known species; most are under 12 mm long and they often camouflage themselves in drab colours or, like the one I noticed, try to look like wasps so that predators leave them alone. Mine is one of the Helopeltis species, or Mosquito bugs, and would only be 4 – 5 mm long without its antennae.

I put the same photo up on Flickr and the spike surprised some Field Guide to Insects of Australia group members. See comments here, with links to photos of more spike-adorned Helopeltis.

(Apologies for a longer-than-usual gap in posting. A technical problem popped up last week and I didn’t have enough time to fix it until today.)