Category Archives: Insect Life

Butterflies, Dragonflies, Bugs and Beetles

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!


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.


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

Stick Insects

Well guess who was given “The Complete Field Guide to Stick and Leaf Insects of Australia” by Paul D Brock and Jack W Hasenpusch?  Its a wonderful book that we’ve both been enjoying;  we’re also having lots of fun finding and trying to identify stick insects…so here’s hoping we’ve got the ID right on this one!


The first photo is a female Strong Stick-insect (Anchiale briareus) that I found in a Callistemon.  I was walking past with my secateurs and decided that the bush needed a tip prune to prevent it becoming leggy – and there she was, beautifully camouflaged as part of the branch.  Continue reading

Feeding and Fluttering

Nectarinia jugularis was commonly known as Yellow-bellied Sunbird but now is referred to as Olive-backed Sunbird…….however, my friend Joanna refers to them as ‘Sunnybirds’  which I think is wonderfully descriptive.

This female was enjoying the plentiful nectar available in the flowers of Xanthostemon verticillatus – Bloomfield Penda. Continue reading

Drifting amongst Dragonflies

Setting the scene with this photo you will have to use your imagination to picture the canoe (slightly muddy from previous weeding excursions) with occupant paddling slowly through the water lilies on a beautiful sunny afternoon.  The same morning I had spent some time on the ponds checking for and removing some weeds and Continue reading

Caterpillar & Cuckoo in Carallia

Male Little Bronze-Cuckoo (Chalcites minutillus)was trying to get himself a feed while being harassed by other insect eating birds, in particular a persistent Rufous Fantail.  The caterpillar attracting so much attention was the distinctive larva of a particularly bright day-flying Moth (Dysphania numana) which is often seen in the late afternoon and is known by the common name of Four O’clock Moth. Continue reading

Cricket on the Beach

An outing to the beach after Olga had moved on – it was still very humid with a slight off-shore breeze and millions of mosquitoes.  The southern end of Cape Kimberley beach meets the Daintree River mouth – we were not there to risk swimming with ‘stingers’ or with crocodiles – rainforest, beachfront vegetation including quite an interesting selection of mangroves provides plenty of interest.

Grey Mangrove, (Avicennia marina), Red Mangrove (Rhizophora stylosa) and River Mangrove (Aegiceras corniculatum) were growing together – about the middle of the first photo.  The prevailing winds blow seed and lots of rubbish from passing boats into this corner.

And the lovely Thespesia populnea was flowering next to its close relative Hibiscus tiliaceous – its spent flowers decorating the beach detritus.

However, I am drifting away from my topic.

We walked as far as we could along the rocks then had to start making our way back before the incoming tide cut us off.   A movement near one of the rock puddles caught my eye and I called out to Allen for the camera – I haven’t been able to identify this cricket yet although I have sent the photo to a couple of entomologists I know, so I’ll update the post as soon as I have more information.

Body length  approx. 25mm.

Its worthwhile clicking on the image to look at the detail – wonderfully intricate patterms and fine filaments.

Update from Dr Roger Farrow

Your image looks like a male nymph of Cardiodactylus novaeguineaensis (Gryllidae:Eneopterninae) which has run out from the rainforest edge and got lost. The winged adult is quite distinct with 2 white dots on the forewing.  As the name suggests its also found in PNG and is probably a recent Asian invader (when there was the land bridge).

Fluttering by

Female Birdwing on Phaleria Lovely sunny days following some good soaking rain;  we are entertained with bird song from very early morning, butterflies provide extra splashes of colour  amongst the green and the air is redolent with a variety of perfumes now that many different plants have burst into bloom.

Cairns Birdwings (Ornithoptera priamus euphorion) were very attracted to the flowers of Scented Daphne (Phaleria clerodendron) and as I stood by this small tree they fluttered around me.  The flowers only last a few days and the butterflies were making the most of the available nectar.  Scented Daphne is a delightful rainforest tree/shrub which grows and flowers well even in a semi-shaded situation.  The flowers are followed by bright red fruit which are eaten by Cassowary but happen to be quite toxic to us.  Not a plant recommended for gardens frequented by small children.

Male Birdwing on Phaleria

You can see from the blurred wings that  these butterflies were busy feeding, they just kept flitting from one flower to another.

The larvae of Cairns Birdwings feed on a native vine, Aristolochia acuminata. Although the adults will lay eggs on the introduced Aristolochia elegans, commonly called Dutchman’s Pipe,  it is poisonous to the larvae and they don’t survive.

A couple of days later I managed a better photo of the male while he was resting in the dappled light of a Rain tree (Samanea saman). This large tree species, a native of Central and South America, was often planted by early settlers in this district after they had cleared much of the native vegetation.

A further comment on fluttering – on one of our recent ‘toading’ expeditions we stopped to admire the masses of flowers on our Durian trees.  These large, creamy flowers are pollinated at night so the major pollinators are moths and blossom bats.  Several of these delightful blossom bats were fluttering through the tree mostly alighting for only a second before they moved to another flower.   So far our photographic attempts have been unsuccessful but the experience is unforgettable.