What’s around – mid March 2013

The past month has been unexpectedly dry. We have had scattered falls of 20 – 60mm but our total has been far less than in most years, and far less than points south of us have received. As I write, there are two cyclones off the coast (Sandra and Tim) but neither is expected to affect us significantly. In fact, the BoM has said that the monsoon conditions are weakening – and if that continues, this Wet season will have to be called a slightly-Wet season.

Jumping spider 8153
Jumping spider, Cytaea plumbeiventris

Anyway, our garden’s little residents are dealing with conditions as they find them. Spiders seem to be the most successful at the moment – there are lots of fat, happy St Andrew’s Cross spiders (Argiope keyserlingi) hanging in the middle of webs all around the flowerbeds and at least one close relation, Argiope picta, waving the flag for cultural diversity. The slightly smaller Silver Orb-weavers are doing well, too, and there are lots of small roaming predators, especially Lynx and Jumping spiders, with a few Flower spiders for variety.

Butterflies are quite abundant; we have enough Common and Blue-banded Eggfly (females now as well as males) that we see one every time we go outdoors, and nearly as many Crows, Migrants and Pale Triangles. Our Chocolate Soldiers, Junonia hedonia, have just returned after a few months’ absence but I still haven’t seen any Eurema. The largest swallowtails, Orchard, Clearwing and Cairns Birdwing, have also been absent – not for lack of food, either, since our Aristolochia vines are doing very well.

The small grass moths have been around in good numbers as usual but I have been noticing larger moths, too – mostly brownish with persian-carpet patterns like this family, but I haven’t tried to identify them.

We’ve had a wide variety of bees and wasps but numbers haven’t been high. Flies and ants are always with us and I have been noticing hover-flies and bee-flies again after a bit of a gap. Some of the ants have been sending out mating swarms – a typical wet-season event.

What of the ‘true bugs’, Hemiptera? Not a lot, actually. Shield bugs are the exception – I even spotted one standing guard over her eggs like this a few days ago. Beetles? A few ladybirds but only occasional larger species. Mantises? None.* Cicadas? One or two. Grasshoppers? Quite a lot of juveniles chomping through the greenery.

And so it goes. This time next month the Wet will almost certainly be over (the average rainfall for April is only about 30mm) and we will be able to say, “Well, that wasn’t much of a Wet!” Or perhaps not: one year we got a cyclone in the first week of April. Like the spiders, we will just have to deal with conditions as we find them.

This time last month and last year.

* Edit: I saw a very tiny nymph the day after this post, and where there’s one there are usually a dozen. But I don’t mind that I was wrong, since they are very cute.

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