Category Archives: Insect Life

Butterflies, Dragonflies, Bugs and Beetles

After ‘the wet’

So much colour outside our kitchen window!  After what seems like a long wet season,we are not the only ones enjoying some sunny days and our garden is busy with many birds and butterflies.   Golden Penda, (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) is a very popular ornamental native species which has been extensively planted in our region and it is now flowering prolifically, leaving a carpet of golden yellow stamens lying on the ground beneath each tree.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Dusky honeyeater on Penda

Dusky Honeyeater frantically feeding

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Macleay's honeyeater in Penda

Macleay’s Honeyeater – the eye only just visible in the flowers.

Its a wonderful time of the year to be out in the garden, not too hot and there is lots to do but also much to gaze at and I’ve dashed back to the house for my camera on several occasions.  The Macleay’s Honeyeater just won’t stop for moment in its feeding frenzy so I’ve had lots of trouble getting a shot that is even partially in focus.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Cruiser female on Costus

Female Cruiser (Vindula arsinoe)

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_male birdwing on Costus

Male Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus)

The flower in these photos is a native Costus (Costus potierae) which looks very similar to the exotic Costus speciosus but can be identified from the latter by the hairy upper leaf surface.  Costus potierae can be found in Cape York, some of the Torres St Islands and N E Queensland but it only occurs very close to sea level.  The white flowers attract many butterflies and small birds while the beautiful red bracts provide a brilliant colour accent amongst the verdant garden foliage.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Ulysses on Costus

Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses)

The flashes of blue from several Ulysses flying around is impossible to capture in a still photo – this splash of blue gives the general idea.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_yellow-spotted honeyeater1

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater

Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters are probably our most commonly sighted bird species and I was delighted that this one posed so nicely while deciding on where to fly next.

 

Cool pool rewards.

Since we converted our salt-water chlorinated swimming pool to a fresh-water swimming pond 6 years ago it has gradually become a more inviting habitat for many local creatures as well as being a delightful place to cool off during the summer months.

Fresh-water swimming pond with fish and plants.

Fresh-water swimming pond with fish and plants.

I walked into the pool garden this afternoon and was amazed to find a male Macleay’s Spectre hanging, in a typical pose, on the strap-like leaf of a Louisiana Iris that is growing in a pot on the steps.  This extraordinary Phasmid is widespread in parts of New South Wales and S.E. Queensland and it also inhabits North Queensland rainforests ‘though as you can imagine they are not easily found. After taking a few photos I invited it on to my finger so I could move it onto a shrub in the garden as it looked so vulnerable on the edge of the pool.  After waiting more than 20 years to find a Macleay’s Spectre on the property I didn’t want it to indulge in unnecessarily risky behaviour.

Macleay's Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum tiaratum)

Macleay’s Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum tiaratum)

In order to take a better photo of the head I had to gently encourage the insect to the top-side of the branch where it ‘froze’ in position no doubt trusting that its amazing camouflage would protect it from attack. After the photo session I watched as it made its way further into the protection of the twigs and leaves.

20131217_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Macleay's Spectre -close-up of head

Macleay’s Spectre head detail

Another delight in the pool garden this afternoon was the discovery of this exquisite nest which I am fairly certain has been built and used by a pair of Graceful Honeyeater although  as the nest is now abandoned I can not be sure of the owner/builders.

Hanging nest in Callistemon.

Hanging nest in Callistemon.

The King’s batty attendants

We could smell the heavy, musty scent of the flowering Durian  (Durio zibethinus)  as we approached our orchard last evening.  We only have 4 trees but they are laden with flowers and attracting quite a lot of attention, especially at night.

This photo only captures a portion of the tree with flowers  in various stages along the main and smaller lateral branches up to a height of approximately 10 metres.   As well as many blossom bats (possibly Northern Blossom Bats but we haven’t a positive ID), there are moths and beetles attending the flowers at night.  The flowers open from mid afternoon to late evening with most pollen being shed before midnight and all flower parts excepting the pistil fall to the ground.

Blossom bat on Durian flower

We walked under a tree and shone our headlamps upwards to watch the diminutive blossom bats flitting in and out, hardly seeming to stop on the flowers.  Blossom bats make a ‘kissing’ sound and when I imitated them I would have them swooping really close so I could feel the air movement from their wings on my head.  In the photo above you can see large drops of nectar spilling out – no wonder the bat has buried itself  in a flower!

Blossom bats on Durian flower

Allen didn’t realize he had caught one in flight until he looked at the photos on the computer screen.  We are fascinated by the tiny muscular ‘arms’ – the bats don’t waste any time when they are feeding, a brief moment on a flower and they are on the move again.

Blossom bat  tongue

All these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and it is particularly worthwhile in this case to see the detail of the tongue in action.


This rather attractive (as yet unidentified) moth was also taking advantage of the plentiful nectar  - and the next morning native bees were landing on the carpet of spent flowers lying under the tree, apparently gathering pollen.  So while we look forward,with cautious optimism (having had past disappointments), to a bountiful crop of this glorious King of Fruits many other creatures have benefited from the flowers already.

Reference:  “Tropical Tree Fruits for Australia” Queensland Department of Primary Industries 1984

Living on Beans

When picking beans this morning I was busily dodging the Green ants who live on the vine, doing a good job of keeping the bean fly away, when I noticed there were quite a few grasshoppers hiding on and amongst the leaves.  They are, no doubt, enjoying some nutritious fresh, green bean leaves.  I don’t usually worry too much about our vigorous bean vines but this crew may give them a bit of a beating so I’ll keep an eye on things.  I may have to resort to some relocation!  Given a chance these beans –  a Dwarf Snake Bean and a Rattlesnake Bean – will keep growing through the wet season when many other vegetables struggle, although so far we’re still producing a good supply of capsicum, eggplant, shallots  and an assortment of edible greens.

wild_wings_swampy_things_Valanga irregularis

The bean leaf should give some idea of the size of this Giant Grasshopper, (Valanga irregularis).  There is a lot more information available on the Brisbane Insects site including photos of nymphs of various sizes – many of which I noticed today.

wild_wings_swampy_things_Valanga-irregularis_backviewThe back view, above, shows the spines on the back of the legs which they will use to defend themselves when necessary although their first defence when disturbed is to move into shadow under a leaf .   Below; caught with a mouth full of green and some conspicuous holes in the leaf nearby!

wild_wings_swampy_things_Valanga-head

Punk or Puberty?

Returning from a stroll around the ponds I saw movement on the ground under the bamboos; although obviously a Black Butcherbird (Cracticus quoyi)  I thought, at first, that it must have a bamboo leaf stuck on its face.

wild_wings_swampy_things_birds_black butcherbird

However, it was just beautifully camouflaged amongst the fallen leaves, which it was picking up and throwing aside while looking for insects, worms, or whatever unsuspecting creature might be hiding under this damp carpet.

wild_wings_swampy_things_birds_black butcherbird

As several pair of Black Butcherbird have successfully raised young in the last few months and the juvenile birds were a rufous morph, we presume that this one is in an eclipse phase.   And in spite of  the Black Butcherbird’s voracious appetite there are still large numbers of reptiles, small birds, frogs and insects living here so the property seems quite able to support them.

wild_wings_swampy_things_dragonflies_Striped Swampdragon

And now for something completely different - a Striped Swampdragon (Agrionoptera longitudinalis biserialis) Continue reading

Damsels and Dragons

We’ve been spending a lot of time in our gumboots exploring the vegetation around the ponds to see what Dragonflies and Damselflies we can observe and hopefully photograph.  They are fascinating insects to watch and at this time of the year there is a lot happening.   Some of the Damselflies are so small they can easily be overlooked while some of the larger Dragonflies can prove frustrating because they seem to be continually on the move.

Its a wonderful wet season activity and this year has been particularly rewarding although a little challenging at times having to dodge the ‘scattered showers’ that can sometimes become an isolated downpour.  I spent quite a while retracing my steps around a pond to find an umbrella I had absent-mindedly hooked over the belt holding my secateurs (I like multi-tasking) but which had dropped into the mud while I was concentrating on a Silver Wisp (Agriocnemis argentea).  Raincoats would be more practical in one sense but they are just too uncomfortable to wear - the humidity is around 90% and when the sun does come out ….. well I don’t think I need to explain further.

wild_wings_swampy_things_Silver Wisp - Agriocnemis argentia

It is hard to give a sense of perspective but this damselfly is very small and delicate –  Silver Wisp is an apt common name.   We suspect that the individual in the photo may be a female or immature male as the mature males are described as being covered in a white pruinescence.

And while I was down at the ponds, Allen was Continue reading

Fairies in the garden

Not real fairies but a strikingly beautiful stick-insect – and if you’ve never considered these insects to be attractive then just look at these photos!

This description of the Hasenpusch Family Stick-insect (Parapodacanthus hasenpuschorum) really paints the picture.  From   the book written by Paul Brock and Jack Hasenpusch  On several occasions visitors to the rainforest at Garradunga have reluctantly reported seeing ‘fairies with pink wings’ flying overhead between the trees..”

And recently we have been lucky enough to see a female on two separate occasions.  Neither Allen nor I have observed this species prior to having a copy of the aforementioned book and I’m sure that we would remember.

The females are a vivid, glossy green with bright pink/cerise wings – we have not yet seen a male of this species but they also have pink wings and the pink spiny tubercules.   Both males and females can fly well; certainly the females we have seen could and they really do look like pink-winged fairies.

wild_wings_swampy_things_stickinsects_parapodacanthus               Parapodacanthus hasenpuschorum

In order to be able to photograph the wings Allen gently held the insect – she didn’t emit any unpleasant odour which apparently they can do when handled so I don’t think she was too stressed.   I just took a couple of quick photos and then he let her go and she took off  fast and  high into a nearby tree.

wild_wings_swampy_things_stickinsects_parapodacanthus

And while I’ve been writing this post yet another species of stick-insect has appeared Continue reading