What’s around – mid April

The Wet season has departed, we think, since my mid-March report. It went out with a bang (splash?), too: nearly 500 mm in the week of March 15 – 22. In fact, our last night of real rain was the night that brought us a tornado. It swept in past Magnetic Island, cut a narrow but destructive swath through the suburbs of Garbutt, Heatley, Aitkenvale and Annandale, and went on to fizzle out somewhere inland.

We have had a grand total of just 2 mm since then.

Something similar happened a year ago when our Wet also ended with a 150 mm deluge (but no tornado).

In the newly-dry garden, our frangipani are losing all their leaves and the poplar gum is losing some of its heavy canopy but doesn’t look like it will lose the lot. Hibiscus, ixora and pentas are still flowering, but not a lot else. Insects are less active and there has been something of a change of relative abundance.

Grasshoppers, Crickets and Katydids (Orthoptera): Giant and the smaller brown-black grasshoppers are still around, but not very many of either and no nymphs to speak of. I did spot a tiny brown Katydid nymph this morning, though:

Brown Katydid nymph
Katydid nymph - the enormously long antennae tell us it isn't a grasshopper

Dragonflies: Very few are left, just a couple of the beautiful golden Neurothemis stigmatizans and dark-winged Sapphire Flutterers, Rhyothemis princeps.

Wasps and Bees: The Blue-banded Bee, Amegilla sp., is the most common at the moment. I have seen one Mud-dauber Wasp making a nest and a few smaller wasps.

Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera): Cairns Birdwings are visiting regularly to lay eggs on the Aristolochia and one of two Clearwing Swallowtails look like joining in. One or two of the large, handsome Orchard Swallowtails have passed through, too. Common Eggfly females are back (“At last!” say the males) and I have seen a courting flight (the male flying close behind and below the female, just as the Cairns Birdwings do – e.g. here) and a female laying eggs on ground-cover plants.
There are a few Zebra Blues flitting around the Plumbago bush, as usual, and some Eurema, Junonia and Hesperidae.
We have noticed the depredations of Hawk Moth caterpillars on our pentas but haven’t seen the moths themselves. That is perhaps not too surprising since they tend to visit in the evening, when we are less often in the garden.

Spiders: I have seen several cute little jumping spiders (Salticidae) and just one young Huntsman since getting back from my trip but the little orb-weavers are doing well – the spiky Austracantha, the Silver Orb-weavers and (especially) the St Andrew’s Cross spiders.
I have gradually been realising that most of our spiders are very very small and therefore escape notice. One that didn’t get away was this beautifully delicate spider, unidentified so far, whose head and body together are about the size of a grain of rice. It was hanging beneath the broad leaf of a weed this morning.

silver spider

At the other end of the scale, we didn’t get any of the huge Golden Orb-weavers here during the wet season at all, although we had them from January right through to July last year. Some people wouldn’t think that was disappointing, of course, but I do: they are impressive in exactly the same way that eagles and pythons are impressive, beautifully formed for their role as top predators in their separate spheres.

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