What’s around – mid February

Green Katydid
Katydids have much longer antennae than grasshoppers. This nymph's antennae are about twice its body length.

Our Wet has been pretty half-hearted so far. We have had showers and storms but nothing like the widespread soaking rain that we expect.

If I had to summarise what’s happening now in our little world of insects, the key word would be ‘green.’ There has been enough rain to encourage all the plants to grow, and the plant-eaters – especially grasshoppers and hawkmoth caterpillars – are taking advantage of the abundant food. Not only that, most of them want to stay camouflaged and so they are as green as what they eat.

More systematically:

  • Grasshoppers: lots of young ones, plus some young Katydids (mentioned here because Orthoptera covers Grasshoppers, Crickets and Katydids).
  • Butterflies: Pale Triangles (some yellow form now as well as the blue variety); Common Eggfly and Blue-banded Eggfly, but all of them males; Migrants and Crows; passing Ulysses, always special; occasional Orchard Swallowtails and what looks like a caterpillar; a fair number of Hesperidae; still no Eurema or Junonia.
  • Moths: Lots of little grass moths; a few adult hawk moth sightings, and lots of their caterpillars munching their way through our Pentas.
  • Mantis: still a few Neomantis nymphs on the weed I found them on, but they seem to leave home as soon as they can fly.
  • Dragonflies: a few in the garden, lots more closer to permanent water.
  • Flies: lots of red-eyed blue blowflies (Calliphoridae), some Soldier Flies, Stilt Flies and little, long-legged, green flies (Dolichopodidae) but hardly any Hover-flies (Syrphidae). Mosquitoes are Diptera (flies) too, and they are making up for the shortfall in the numbers of their relatives.
  • Wasps and bees: a few active mud-daubers and paper wasps; not as many Ichneumonidae as there were a month ago; a few Resin bees and Blue-banded Amegilla bees.
  • Spiders: some Lynx and Jumping Spiders, and quite a lot of Silver Orb-weavers. A few adult St Andrew’s Cross spiders, and a lot more to come because I have seen hatchlings. Still no little spiky Austracantha; and still no big Golden Orb-weavers  although last year we had them from December through to June.
Jumping spider and grasshopper
This grasshopper was not well enough camouflaged and not quick enough, and the Jumping Spider got him.

Hawk moths

Convolvulus hawkmoth, Agrius convolvuli
Convolvulus hawkmoth, Agrius convolvuli

Like the Rhinoceros beetle (previous post), hawk moths are wet-season visitors, with occasional strays turning up as late as the end of May and as early as the end of October. We get several species – Hypotion rosetta and some adults I haven’t identified such as this camouflaged brown one. They generally feed on the wing, like this one.

They often fly in around dusk so we don’t see them as often as we see their caterpillars, which spend all day eating their way through our Pentas plants and will do the same to Madonna lilies if given the chance. (We might like them a bit more if they liked the weeds, actually.) The caterpillars are large – here is one on my hand to give you an idea – and come in green, brown or black, often with eye-spots and usually with a horn on the tail end.