Summertime is insect and spider time. Most insects zoom or scuttle past fast with little chance of me getting a photo. Wasps are busy couriering paralysed and legless spiders (sometimes larger than they are) to their burrows, so their babies can feed on fresh flesh when they hatch (ain’t Nature great? so pragmatic!). But I found this cutie the other day. It was about 6 cm long. The Australian Museum says it is the burying mantis, Sphodropoda tristis. It’s called a burying mantis because the female digs holes to lay her eggs in and covers the holes over afterwards.
[Update] The Entomolgy Department of the Queensland Museum says:
Remarkably, one of Joy’s photographs shows the diagnostic feature needed to separate the four similar species of the genus Sphodropoda to which the mantid belongs. The row of white spots on the inside of the bases of the forelegs are characteristic of Sprodropoda tristis. This species is often called the Burying Mantid, because it has been suggested to bury its egg cases in the ground, but this may not always be the case. Below is some information on the species taken from a reasonably recent paper (2005) on this group of mantids. “Milledge, G.A. (2005) Revision of the genera Sphodropoda, Trachymantis and Zopheromantis (Mantodea: Mantidae: Mantinae). Records of the Australian Museum 57(2): 191–210.”
The species is found through most of mainland Australia and also southeast Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. This species is a shrub and tree dweller, usually found on stems or trunks. A female of this species from Brisbane has been recorded as laying its oothecae (eggcase) in the ground. This behaviour may not be obligatory however, as oothecae have been collected from the “paper” bark of melaleuca trees in the Cairns region. Females in captivity have also laid oothecae on the roof and sides of the container, although oviposition (egg-laying) was not observed.
Here’s a miscellany of other small critters. Some IDs are out with the Queensland Museum, and I’ll update those when I get a reply.
Below is the underside of a female St Andrew’s cross spider, Argiope keyserlingi (the male is much smaller). The ‘cross’ on the web is faint in this shot – you can just see a strand parallel to each top leg – but often is very clear and gives the spider its common name. Nearby is the greenish egg case with newly hatched spiderlings (the following photo), presumably belonging to this spider.
According to the Australian Museum:
The role of the cross-like web decoration, called the stabilimentum, has long been a puzzle. At first thought to strengthen or ‘stabilise’ the web, more recent ideas associate it with capturing prey or avoiding predators. The ribbon-like silk reflects ultra-violet light strongly. Such light is attractive to flying insects, which use it to locate food sources like flowers and to navigate through openings in the vegetation.
The ringbarker above is a bit worse for wear, possibly having been attacked by a bird. The Complete Field Guide to Stick and Leaf Insects of Australia (CSIRO) says this species is regarded as a pest when it congregates in the thousands, defoliating some species of Eucalyptus trees. Individuals live for roughly two years, with the female laying about 150 eggs. The one below (same species) is in better condition.
The stick insect below (found at home) is a spur-legged stick insect (Didymuria violescens), also called the violet-winged stick insect. [Update] The Queensland Museum says:
It is a male stick insect belong to a species within the genus Didymura. Given the locality where the photograph was taken, Didymuria violescens, the Spur-legged Stick-insect, is a likely candidate.
If you would like more information on this species the following website may be of interest: http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_hoppers/SpurLegged.htm
This female orchard swallowtail (Papilio aegeus) is a bit worse for wear, but the beauty of its wings still impresses.
Now we are feeling the blues, in a good way. The blue-banded bee, Amegilla (possibly) cingulata, is a native Australian. You can see how tiny it is compared to the peg it sits on. Its four stripes identify it as a female (males have five).
Update: Thanks to Roz for ID-ing this gorgeous wasp (see her comment below) as the large cuckoo wasp, Stilbum cyanurum. According to Museum Victoria, they are called cuckoo wasps because they lay eggs in the nests of mud wasps:
Cuckoo Wasps visit flowers to feed on nectar. Females lay eggs in Mud Wasp nests. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the food stored in the nest intended for the Mud Wasp larva, or on the Mud Wasp larva body. If attacked by the Mud Wasp host, the intruding Cuckoo Wasp protects itself by curling into a ball.
[Update] The Queensland Museum, in response to my query, says:
[This is] a species of cuckoo wasp (Family Chrysididae, subfamily Chyrsidinae). These wasps are generally kleptoparasites. They lay their eggs inside the nests of other wasps (often mud-dauber or potter wasps) and when they hatch they consume the host wasps larva and the food resources that were supplied for its development. Hence the name kleptoparasite – stealing their food supply. The particular species is Stilbum cyanurum.
Here’s a female fiery skimmer dragonfly, also known as the bog skimmer (Orthetrum villosovittatum). The male looks the same except for a bright pink body.
[Update] The two mating on the door of my car (below) are a mating pair of a species of soldier beetle, Family Cantharidae. The Queendland Museum says : “The likely genus is Chauliognathus but a species level identification isn’t possible from a photograph.”
The little things do count, don’t they?