Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mystery Insect

This extremely large mosquito-like creature hid itself in a cardboard gutter left over from the installation of my solar panels.

At 2 inches or 5 cm in total length, it flew away with legs dangling like something out of a horror movie.

It isn't featured in my trusty book, Wildlife of Greater Brisbane. At least, I can see nothing like it.

Checking out mosquitoes though, I can't say it really looks like them having no pointy bit at the front (probiscus) to suck up blood.

Next I checked the wasps, because of the pointy bit at the back, which I presume is an egg laying device (ovipositor) and because of the wasp-like stripes.

With the length of those legs it probably is not a damsel fly and with only one set of wings it cannot be a dragon fly. Does anyone have any ideas?

Though who has ever seen a wasp looking like this?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cat-proof Enclosure

This weekend a large-ish blue tongue lizard slithered from one clump of vegetation to the one at the back of the yard, the resident cat's favourite hide out.

Since the cat was lying by my feet and saw my sudden interest in the back yard, she was over there in three seconds.

I got the hose out and the tap on. She sprang back past me and under the house. I marshalled my materials and started to build the cat-proof enclosure I'd been thinking I would need one day.

Of course I was not properly ready and had to use the step ladder as a post. It was very wonky job. The resident cat waited and waited for me to lose interest in her movements. I tricked her, of course.

Eventually, she came out to investigate and lay by the new fence for a while. In the place I presumed adjacent to where the blue tongue hid. when the cat thought I wasn't looking she jumped up onto the fence and prepared to walk over the top to the new enclosure.

I yelled at her and turned the tap on. (The hose is connected to the tap even now.) I was able to catch her that time and shut her into the house.

The following day, Sunday, I purchased a roll wire to fasten to the top of the fence, pictured here.

Today, Monday, the cat has had a go at climbing the new style fence but lost her grip before she got to the top.

The front fence will have to be regularised, but that has to wait until my hand recovers from the hammering.

Is the cat's nose out of joint?

You bet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I'm Weeding in July

This particular July the two varieties of chickweed are attempting to take over the Mullum Yard, and a lot of other places too, I'm noticing as I walk around town.
Chickweed Start-Up

The what I call 'cool climate' chickweed, starts up as shown. This plant is perhaps five or six days old.  It isn't flowering yet but has thrown out five straggling arms to get as much sun power as possible in a semi shade position.

In my experience it tends to grow at the edges of plantings, such as at the edge of a grassy area, or my bed of violets, or among bricks, or between a pole and the surrounding grass.

The last apparently not a close enough fit to keep chickweed out. I believe it's growing just beside the edge of newspaper I usually put down, to kill weeds, before the wood chips.

Chickweed Getting Away

Before you realise it, the chickweed is flowering and has taken over half the yard. It is difficult to weed because it grows sprawled over other plants and it is quite delicate. IE you can't get a good pull going.

It's more a matter of gathering up the mats of it and leaving lots of bits and pieces behind.  I don't know yet to what effect, whether the bits will grow, as in many other weeds.

Tropical Chickweed

The tropical checkweed is always around, but is fruiting prolifically and on longer than usual stems this year. And as the fruit as small and sticky, there are not many days that I don't pick up some on my socks, shoes and or pant legs and spread them around.

Due to the seeds and the fact that tropical chickweed usually grows over bare ground or grass, it is always easier to cover it with newspaper or cardboard, and a layer of mulch.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Feeding the Fish

You may recall my experience in the second bath-pond with the monoculture of the azolla fern and the death of all the fish in that bath.

Since then I regularly push aside the vegetation in the main pond to keep a couple of holes, ponds within ponds for the fish. In the photo to the left are two blobs to represent two Red Tails. In the shot below are another two, one a Pacific Blue Eye, in the lower right hand corner.

I feed them irregularly about once a week, with a sprinkle of aquarium fish food. It's my ploy to see them. To find out how many survive. This week I think I saw four out of the six possibles.

Only one of the two Pacific Blue Eyes and three of the Red Tails. One worrying thing is that the smallest of the Red Tails is carrying at least three parasites, a little like miniscule remoras, suckered to its back and sides. Flashes of white where there shouldn't be any.

I haven't seen that froglet since I moved it in.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mystery Insect Housing

Rolled Leaves
Many of the outer leaves of the Native Mulberry bush (Pipterus argentus) are rolled and tied with webbing making dozens of cosy little houses for some insect kind.

I haven't found any yet but I know it isn't just this bush that suffers this malady. I'm calling it that, because for the plant it isn't that good to have a hundred or more leaves out of food production. Not a lot of photosynthesis can happen in a rolled up leaf.

I'm assuming it is the same insect that rolls leaves in the different varieties of teak, crows ash and the like.

In my ignorant past I would've cut the leaves off and burnt them. It's quite difficult to stand by and just let it happen. After all, a hundred rolled up leaves means a hundred insects eating the shrub. I unrolled a couple and did not find anything other than droppings. In other words, the insects gone.

Hence I'm doing the usual, taking a look every day to see if I can see any changes, or signs of (insect) life though I can't imagine why these bugs aren't at home, with nights cold enough for frosts.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Irony in the Mullum Yard

It is ironic that these leaves and branches, that were a plant that added very little to the life cycles of the yard, should now host in amongst their litter a number of groups of fruiting bodies of a macro (meaning they can be seen without the help of  microscope) fungus I haven't seen before.

When first seen they were little funnels, dark grey with black gills. And appear to be grow in the ground, on clay, not on a substrata of wood.

The next day I found another couple of clumps and them becoming paler. The hole in the middle closed. The largest of the caps is about 10 mm in diameter and their height is between 20 and 30 mm.

Although it is July and one of the coldest months in the year, I am still finding fungi such as these quite delicate ones, as well as the less ephemeral sorts that last for a year or longer.

Monday, July 4, 2011

StinkBug Reprise

Jason wonders whether perhaps the stinkbug I discussed here, is some other insect.

Unidentified Stinkbug 
When I don't recognise something I use triangulation to make a best guess.

It is merely the process we all use to find out anything. You observe a thing and test it by running it through a couple of filters.

In this case, I watched the insect at its work. Sucking sap. It's true that I didn't show that - I've said more than once that I am still learning my camera. Usually I pick the best shot I manage.

However, the insect reminded me a lot of the bronze stinkbugs that are local pests on citrus trees. Seen below in a huddle. Not sure why they do that. It's different from the pair-mating behaviour.

Bronc=ze Stinkbugs in Huddle
Both these insects have the diamond shaped glittering bronze area on their lower backs. In the new specimen that looks remarkably, at a glance, like the drop of water that often hangs from its host tree's leaves. And notice that its colour is exactly that of the host tree's leaves.

Both these insects have that stinkbug shape, feelers, six legs, smooth back.

The Brisbane Wildlife Guide describes seven stinkbugs but not the one in question.

Brisbane Insects Site has dozens of stinkbugs, of many wonderful colours and patterns. Check it out. It's well worth it.

Though I haven't found mine there yet, there are enough other stinkbugs pictured there with one or other similarity to the bug I found, that I am convinced.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Freshwater Snails

Water Snail Sliding Along Upside Down
Freshwater snails normally move around in the water either on, through and around the plants, as well as up and down the bath tub sides.

But on sunny days they sometimes cross open water. I don't know why I only see them do it on sunny days, I often stop and stare. Temperature of the water?

I know the critters in these photos look rather blobby. But I assure you each one is a water snail not swimming, but sliding, upside down along the bottom of the water meniscus.

It's an amazing sight and well worth taking the time to stare and stare into the water to see it in action.
Watersnail Grazing on Azolla Fern

I was lucky a couple of days ago seeing both these enjoying the slightly warmer layer of water at the top and both of them grazing their way to the edge of the azolla fields, then having to cross some open water to the next field.

The top critter is waving its eye stalks to the left. Its shell can just be seen rimming its "foot" at the right.

The spotted animal has just arrived somewhere and is flattening against a water lily stalk, before attempting to slide over, or rather under, it.