Mock Orange bounty

Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata) is popular with nectar-feeding insects when it bursts into flower, as ours did recently.

Green Scarab beetle on Mock Orange flowers
Green Scarab on Mock Orange flowers

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.

Brown Flower Beetles on Mock Orange
Brown Flower Beetles
Carpenter Bee feeding on Mock Orange flowers
Carpenter Bee feeding on nectar

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.

Lynx spider with wasp prey
Lynx with wasp prey

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.”

Mother love in the wilderness

Here’s a hold-over from my visit to White Mountains National Park a few weeks ago: a beautiful spider-web and its resident family.

The web, shining in the sunlight in the camping ground, caught my eye and when I investigated I saw that the piece of dead grass suspended above it was a spider’s retreat overflowing with spiderlings.

Spider web
Spider web

Continue reading “Mother love in the wilderness”

A very small problem

Sitting at my computer a few days ago, I was distracted by a tiny bug moving around on the screen. My first impulse was to identify it, and the way it moved, its body shape and what I could guess of its leg-count all said, “spider, not insect.”

My next impulse was to remove it without harming it, and this is the point at which things got really interesting: I discovered that it wasn’t on the screen at all, but inside it. That, naturally (for me, at least) called for a photograph. Out came the camera and the macro lens …

spider on computer screen
The distraction

But that was a problem, too, because photographing anything small, moving, poorly lit, obscured by its surroundings, or under glass is a challenge, and this was all five.

Let’s deal with the questions one at a time. Continue reading “A very small problem”

Walking in the Paluma rainforest

Paluma Dam track
The walking track

A recent trip to Paluma Dam with the good people of Wildlife Queensland was enjoyable for the wildlife and just being in the rainforest but was far from strenuous. We walked across the dam wall and along a vehicular track to the west of the dam, took a side track to down to the dam shore, and returned the same way Continue reading “Walking in the Paluma rainforest”

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”