Category Archives: Insect Life

Butterflies, Dragonflies, Bugs and Beetles

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

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!

wild_wings_swampy_things_stickinsects_strongfemale

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.

Ants in the trees

A little rain several nights ago with some follow-up drizzle this afternoon has freshened up the garden and given some relief to the new tree plantings which have had to be hand-watered.   Our dear neighbour whose property is also part of the Wild Wings & Swampy Things Nature Refuge suggested that we extend a water line from her bore to enable us to keep planting as we have had so little rain in the last two months – a generous suggestion which has worked well.  While our conditions cannot compare to the extreme dryness in parts of the southern states our rainfall is well below average.

Happily there is still lots to see and do…….

Green Ant construction Green Tree Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) are a common sight in Northern Australia, and very common in many of our exotic fruit trees.  They will aggressively attack predators which is unfortunate if you accidently come into contact with a nest, however their presence in a tree usually means an absence of paper wasps – and a close enounter with paper wasps is a much more painful experience often producing an allergic reaction.

Green Tree Ants bite with their jaws and then squirt a stinging fluid containing ascorbic acid  into the wound from the tip of their green abdomen.

The nests, which can appear in shape and size like a football, are made  by the ants pulling leaves together. Often quite a long chain of ants is required to hold the leaves in close proximity while the workers use silk produced by the larvae to seal them.  They are aggressive in defence of the nest and will rear up waving their legs frantically.

Green ant with larvae

Green ants play an important role in ‘cleaning’ up animal carcasses but they can be opportunistic and will attack a weakened creature or young bird before it is dead.  Not a pleasant scene to witness.

There is a  Green Ant in the second photo holding a larvae as they try to repair a damaged nest, ( it is the ant in the lower centre of the photo with the darker head).

long distance ant nest

And finally, to put a nest in some perspective in the landscape –  a more distant view of a fairly large nest quite high in a Paperbark tree on the edge of the swamp.

A variety of Scales

Ulysses (Papilo ulysses) on Callistemon flower

Ulysses (Papilo ulysses) on Callistemon flower

Towards the end of the ‘wet’ we often experience extended periods of drizzly rain but now we are happily enjoying some clear, starry nights and beautiful sunny days.  Although cool, the evenings are quite pleasant as long as we remember to put on some extra clothes and to close all the doors to keep in some of the day’s warmth.

Butterflies have been busy feeding on flowering Callistemon – a good height for some photos unlike the Melaleucas which are also very popular with the nectar lovers but too high for me to get a good photo.  Both Melaleuca and Callistemon flowers are constantly visited by birds and butterflies during the day and Spectacled Fruit Bats feast on the Melaleucas at night.  Even though this photo could have been sharper I can’t resist including it because I was so pleased to have two Ulysses in the one shot!   The host plant for Ulysses is Corkwood (Melicope elleryana) a fast growing Rainforest tree which we often include in our revegetation work.

Union Jack Butterfly (Delias mysis mysis)

Union Jack Butterfly (Delias mysis mysis)

The larvae of Union Jack butterflies (Delias mysis mysis) feed on the broad leaves of a red-flowering Mistletoe according to Common & Waterhouse.  Although Mistletoe is a parasitic plant it provides a good source of nectar and so we don’t make much of an effort to discourage it especially as it often flowers when there is little else available.

Now that the days are cooler the cold-blooded creatures are being seen a little more frequently as they make the most of any  patches of sunlight.  I disturbed this young Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) which was lying quietly on some dead grass until I walked down the hill concentrating on the water ahead of me and not watching where I was going. When I heard a movement on the grass I saw that I had disturbed this poor fellow but managed to get a quick photo before he slid off into another pile of mulch.  Although they are a venomous snake we don’t consider Red-bellied Blacks a threat to our safety.  Like most snakes they would prefer to keep out of our way whenever possible.  It appears that this snake has attempted to make itself look bigger by flattening out but I think it looks like it needs a good feed!

Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)

Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)