Saturday, 29 March 2008

The Caterpillars

Since hatching began on the 17th and 18th March, I can't find any! There is negligible damage to the citrus and new shoots are not being touched!

I suspect the heat wave we had during the period Papilio anactus laid and the eggs hatching is responsible for such mortality. I don't believe any natural predation to be the sole cause of their disappearance.

It's possible Papilio anactus could still be active until May, but I doubt there will be another breeding event in my garden this year.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Wrap-around Spider

I'm pretty sure this is Dolophones conifera.

Only a small spider (about 1.5cm) and an expert at camouflage, the Wrap-around spider uses its concave abdomen to 'wrap around' twigs, small branches or flatten itself against bark, concealing itself very well. They are orb web builders.

Unfortunately, this one disappeared a few days after I took these shots. It may have been eaten or succumbed to the heatwave we were having at the time.

(Click image to enlarge)

Finishing off a bee before hiding for the rest of the day.

Getting ready to construct a web.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Vanessa kershawi

I suspect this Australian Painted Lady may have taken the journey from pupa to adult today.

After a quick feed on Bouvardia humboldtii, it moved to another part of the plant to sun itself.

In the shot above, the wings are not fully opened.

The rump view!

Friday, 21 March 2008

Papilio anactus 1st instar

Most eggs seemed to hatch exactly four days after I saw them laid. The caterpillars are minute - about 0.3mm. This image is a bit fuzzy. It was windy and I don't have an appropriate camera for this type of photography.

Apparently, some swallowtails mimic toxic or nasty tasting butterflies to avoid predation. The Dainty Swallowtail is one of these but due to to it's increased flight range to incorporate citrus orchards in the southern states, it's somehow lost it's ability to mimic.

I think many caterpillars have disappeared but a few remain and I will be checking their progress regularly.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Heteronympha merope

Common Brown or Western Brown:

Apparently not quite as common as they once were.

This female was playing hard to get, refusing to let me move close enough to take a photo of her fully open wings. She came into the garden to drink dew from the kikuyu (my enemy!)

H. merope uses Poa, Themeda triandra (Kangaroo grass) and Bursaria as well as couch and kikuyu as host food plants. All are represented in my garden.

Later instars are able to graze on kikuyu but apparently, it's toxic to 1st instars.

In Autumn, females deposit eggs on the leaf or at the base of the host provided it's lush. Otherwise, they lay on ground litter or on plants near the host. The caterpillars move to the host once new growth appears.

I had not seen this butterfly in my garden until Saturday morning.

Last June, I planted a number of species of native grasses, including Poa and Themeda triandra. I also planted several Bursaria spinosa as I wanted to attract a greater diversity of butterfly species to my garden. In this case, it's worked!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

True Bugs

UPDATE 20/3/2008

The fence post was inundated with Cottonseeds.


UPDATE 17/3/2008

I saw another smaller swarm on the same fence post yesterday.

Family: Lygaeidae
Cottonseed Bug (Oxycarenus luctuosus)

A week or so ago, I found this swarm of bugs emerging from a crack in a fence post. They were minute in size and I probably wouldn't have noticed them but for the blood red bodies of the nymphs.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Papilio anactus Eggs

With 39 degree heat yesterday, 40deg expected today and high 30's until the middle of next week, I won't be holding my breath for a hatch. I found at least 20 eggs on three citrus. These were on a cumquat. The eggs are about the size of a pin-head.

I found a couple of small spiders sitting close to some eggs as dusk set in last night!

Depending on when fertilisation took place, if the eggs are to hatch, it should be within three to four days, apparently. The eggs will turn orange prior to hatching and some will be infertile.

The citrus received a good watering on Wednesday night prior to eggs being laid. All I can do, I suppose, is to keep the soil damp to maintain a bit of humidity.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Lemon...

...could be in for it! :)

Right on cue, the Dainty Swallowtail returned to my citrus trees this morning.

We are experiencing a heat wave, with hot northerly winds, so I hope any eggs laid are not affected.

I found taking photos of this female depositing eggs quite challenging as they flutter furiously while they lay.

I wasn't going to put the photo below up, but what the heck! Neither are particularly good but I will offer this excuse! Because I'm likely to only get one opportunity as so many of our butts are thin
on the ground around here, I will be grabbing any shots I can with both hands.

I have just braved the ferociously hot northerly wind to take some photos of the cream coloured eggs. If they are any good, I'll add them later.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008


Papilio anactus

(Also known as the Dingy Swallowtail or Small Citrus Butterfly.)

I first noticed this butterfly hovering, then landing on my tallest lemon tree.

It spent some time feeding on Salvia microphylla (Huntington Red)

Last night, I saw a Lesser Wanderer (Danaus chrysippus) at about 6pm but wasn't able to get a photo. Hopefully, it will return sometime today.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Bee Flies

Diptera - Bombyliidae
(As usual, the "disclaimer" is relevant!!)

I photographed these on the 29th February. The larger one was about the size of a bee.

Bee flies are believed to be helpful pollinators and the larvae of many bee flies are alleged to parasitise the eggs or larvae of other insects, possibly those of grasshoppers and locusts.

Probably male and female in this shot.

Bombyliidae have a distinctive veining in the wing. I have another shot that shows this, but it might not reproduce very well after severe cropping.

The plant the bee flies are feeding on is Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew) a member of the Asteraceae family. Parsley in the background!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Oenochroma vinaria Adult

(For Gaye)

These photos could have been cropped better - but I can't find the originals!

This gives you a bit of an idea as to what to look out for.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Lynx Spider

I'm taking a wild stab here but I think this is a Lynx. (Family Oxyopidae)
This one is quite pale, about 1.3cm and has obvious spines on the legs.

(Click image to enlarge)

I will keep my eye on her and hopefully, be in a position to take a shot of the spiderlings when they hatch.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Spiderling Gallery

Although my amateur study has concentrated on lepidoptera, I am also interested in other aspects of entomology. These days, any invertebrate attracts my curiosity!

The clarity of these photos could have been better. A little wind makes the task difficult with such tiny subjects!

I thought the formation in the first photo was interesting. The spiderlings are still on the plant this morning, in large numbers.

(Click the images for enlargement)

These are the Hanging Geranium batch.

These spiderlings have since dispersed.

Friday, 7 March 2008


It's hatching time!

On Saturday, an egg mass contained in a dense brownish coloured web strung between two twigs of a small tree began moving. The spiderlings were cream with a dark stripe down the middle of the abdomen. I think they may be Orb-weavers (Araneidae.)

I have had the pleasure of sharing my evenings with a number of Garden Orb-weavers over the summer. Three days ago, however, they all disappeared. Either one very hungry noctural predator took the lot or they have deposited their eggs on some foliage near their web sites (although I am yet to find them) and subsequently died.

The egg mass on my hanging geranium began hatching late yesterday afternoon (see Unidentified Cocoons for photo.) The spiderlings are black with a white U-shape on the abdomen. A very large number of spiderlings were active this morning.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

DIARY - 5th March, 2008

Vanessa itea (Yellow Admiral)

I have one taunting me! I saw it mid-afternoon on Monday and yesterday, at about 4.30pm, it landed on the footpath close to a host food plant, Baby's Tears (Urticaceae). If butterflies could poke their tongues out or give a two-finger salute, this one would be doing just that - particularly when I am attempting to take a photo!

I will be doing regular inspections of some nearby grapevines from now until pruning. Insecticides are not used in this vineyard, nor the one next door, apparently. I was told by the viticulturist there is a lot of caterpillar activity after harvest up till pruning. Hopefully, I may find Hawk Moth caterpillars as I concentrate my inspection of those vines growing near native trees.