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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The burrowing wasp

We’ve had a couple of big mounds of mulch in our garden since the stump-grinding people did some work for us almost a year ago. “Leave us some mulch,” I said, and they did.

We have gradually spread it around and dug it in, but we’ve had a surprising amount of help from little friends – mostly big fat white grubs which are scarab larvae.

A big black wasp has been keen to help, too.

Flower Wasp
Wasp digging into the mulch

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Weevil or beetle?

Let me begin by admitting that my title question is misleading: weevils are different from most beetles in a very recognisable way but they are in fact still beetles, a family within the order Coleoptera which includes longicorns, elephant beetles and all the others.

Wikipedia informs us that Curculionidae, “the “true” weevils (or “snout beetles”) … are one of the largest animal families, with 6,800 genera and 83,000 species described worldwide.” It’s not surprising, then, that, “with so many species, a spirited debate exists about the relationships between subfamilies and genera,” (Wikipedia’s polite way of saying that the experts are still arguing).

CSIRO’s invaluable site says that weevils are, “Highly variable in form, but usually moderately to strongly convex, robust, heavily sclerotised and often clothed with scales or bristles. Head always more or less produced [i.e. extended] in front of eyes to form a rostrum, which is usually much longer than broad; antennae always geniculate [elbowed] with long scape and more or less compact club.” Many of those features can be seen in my photos of an individual I found in my garden recently:

weevil
Weevil on a frangipani branch

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Eat, Lay, Love – insects’ search for fulfilment

Life is simpler for insects than for us. Like us, they have to eat and reproduce. Unlike us, they don’t seem to want to achieve anything more than that, unless you count avoiding predators as an ambition.

These photos were taken in my garden at different times and don’t have much else in common except that their subjects are doing something more than merely resting.

Longicorn beetles (Cerambycidae) are usually identified by their exceptionally long, curved antennae. Their larvae are wood-borers and adults usually eat bark, although this one (probably a Double-coned Longicorn, Zygocera plumifera) seems to have no aversion to lichen.

longicorn beetle
Longicorn beetle eating lichen on a frangipani branch

When I started taking an interest in insects I quickly found that flies (Diptera) were far more numerous and more varied than I had guessed; better-looking and less harmful to us, too, if not positively beneficial. Many of them mimic colourful wasps, while many adults are nectar-feeders and some larvae are predators of plant pests.

The Soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, looks and behaves like a rather sleepy black wasp. Adults don’t feed at all, so they can neither bite us nor transmit diseases. The larvae are scavengers and decomposers, which makes the compost bin a particularly suitable place for the female to lay her eggs.

black fly
Soldier fly laying eggs under the lip of a compost bin lid

These lovers are also wasp-mimicking flies, Plecia amplipennis. They don’t really have a common name in Australia but are known overseas as ‘Love Bugs‘ for their habit of staying mated, like these two, for extremely long periods and even flying mated. When not engaged in this way, adults feed on nectar and pollen to keep up their strength.

black flies
Plecia mating on a bottlebrush twig