What’s around – mid January

The wet season I was greeting a month ago has been playing hide and seek ever since. We have had very little rain out of it so far, although areas around Townsville have had a little more, and have been watering our garden most weeks. Insect life in the garden has reacted accordingly: a slight increase in numbers because there’s really not much more food around, and a bigger increase in variety because it really is a change of season.

Large butterfly on pentas
My first female Common Eggfly of the season

Butterflies: some Migrants, Crows and Ulysses, one or two Cairns Birdwing and Blue-banded Eggfly, and the first Eurema and female Common Eggfly for many months; a slight increase in Hesperidae; lots of Pale Triangles; very few Chocolate Soldiers (for the first month I can remember, they don’t outnumber all the rest).

Moths: dozens of little fawn grass moths and a few larger ones which come indoors in the evenings.

Wasps and Bees: the Blue-banded Amegilla are still around, as are the tiny native bees and the Resin Bees. I haven’t seen many Paper Wasps or Mud-daubers, and the number of Ichneumonids has dropped a bit.

colourful jumping spider
Jumping spider, possibly Cytaea sp.

Spiders: the gradual return of the orb-weavers continues with St Andrew’s Cross Spiders joining the Silver Orb-weavers, but we still have no Austracantha. Lots of Jumping Spiders and Lynxes but not as many Flower Spiders as there were a couple of months ago.

Flies: not many, really – not even as many of the tiny green Dolichopodidae as usual. Only the Soldier Flies have maintained their populations.

Other  insects: lots of small Grasshoppers; hatchings of Mantis and Neomantis; a noise of Cicadas – not a deafening one here as it was on Hervey’s Range; a scattering of sap-suckers; a small number of Dragonflies.

Other wildlife: the skinks and geckoes have been very active, and we are seeing lots of little ones of all species. The birds, especially the large Blue-faced Honey-eaters and Friar-birds, have been (frankly) crazy, calling continually and chasing each other round the garden.

I am still discovering new insects in my garden, and learning more about some that I have known for a while. I have become aware of another kind of predatory wasp – Gorytini family – after noticing them carrying their large white prey to their nests. A particular pleasure in the last month has been observing the pretty little Neomantis, watching them from babies to adults. And I have just photographed an insect which looks like a weird cross between a fly (look at those big eyes!) and a wasp (look at those wings and that yellow-banded black body!)

Wasp-like insect
Wasp? Fly? Chimaera?

With the help of my friendly local expert I have identified it as a Hover-fly, probably Ceriana ornata. It is very different from most other Hover-flies, e.g. here, here and here; many of then look slightly bee-like or wasp-like but none of them take the mimicry nearly as far.

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