Paper wasps again

Most people don’t like paper wasps because they have such a painful sting but I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to dislike them (the wasps, that is, not the people).

I find them interesting because their lifestyle bridges the gap between the social insects, like honey-bees and most ants, and the non-social majority. Paper wasps are technically semi-social, as shown in a chart borrowed from an introductory entomology course.

“Primitively eusocial wasp colonies, such as Polistes, are commonly inherited by dominant workers on the death of a queen,” according to a short but fairly technical article on Scitable about evolutionary advantages (through kin selection) of sociality.

All of which is an introduction to these recent photos, taken on one of the regular Wildlife Queensland walks. The first shows a paper wasp adding to its family home.

Paper wasp Polistes stigma
The wasp with construction material

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Rowes Bay wetlands

I took my camera down to the wetland boardwalk behind Rowes Bay Sustainability Centre and the (new) Landcare Nursery a week ago. It was a very hot day but I found a good shady spot with views to nearby swamp and perches, and waited for the birds to forget I was there.

They did, and I got nice photos of half a dozen species. The best of them have already been shared online so I will just post links to them as they appear on iNaturalist: Sacred Kingfisher, Masked Lapwing, Koel (female), Hornbill Friarbird, and Pheasant Coucal.

But I’m a bug-hunter too, so here are some of the smaller creatures I saw from the boardwalk.

Leaf beetle
Leaf beetle

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Header images

The wide images at the top of each page on the site are called ‘header’ images in WordPress, the software package used here. Each time a user visits a new page, the software chooses one at random from a pre-formatted collection. New images are added from time to time but many of them are not identified, so here’s the current collection with the captions they deserve.

The extreme ‘letterbox’ format required poses some challenges, of course, so the famously flat landscapes of  Western Queensland may be over-represented, but the Town Common, one of our favourite local places, lends itself very well to the format too.

As usual, click on them for full-size versions.

Wildlife great and small

Jumping spider, blurred by the speed of his jump

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Birdwings in winter

The weather has been so beautiful recently that sitting indoors to write blog posts is less appealing than wandering outside, with or without a camera.

Cairns Birdwing butterflies, Ornithoptera euphorion, are abundant here (because we grow their food plant) and always beautiful but we don’t often get a photo showing the upper wings of the males because they always (well, 99.99% of the time) shut their wings together while resting. Why? If they didn’t, they might as well be shouting, “Eat me!” to the birds. (Ulysses Swallowtails are the same, only more so. So are many other butterflies – bright in flight, camouflaged at rest.)

So here’s one I caught while he was hovering to feed, and again while resting.

Cairns Birdwing butterfly
Resplendent

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Common names and Latin names

The science community tries very hard, as described in my post about Birdwing butterflies and their food plants, to make sure each species is uniquely identified by a single Latin name. So long as the Latin names are correct, however, we can have as many local vernacular names as we like without causing significant confusion.

One species, one Latin name, many common names

One species may have several common names, even in the same language in the same region, let alone different languages and different countries.

A smallish ground-feeding black-and-white bird is a good local example, being known as a Magpie-lark, Pee-wee, Peewit or Mudlark. None of those names are wrong, and any doubts about the identity of the bird can be resolved by pointing to one or referring to its unique Latin name, Grallina cyanoleuca.

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