about this blog

This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics.
Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

why do people hate insects?

There is a whole industry devoted to killing insects. I don't understand this widespread hatred of insects. Some insects are so-called pests and some are supposedly useful to us humans, but as long as none are in plague proportions they are all part of the biodiversity needed for a healthy ecosystem.

Insects eat and are eaten and they pollinate flowers. They are so diverse it is practically meaningless to generalize about them. But I guess that's what prejudice is - it's about stereotypes and over-generalization.  Who's going to advocate for insect rights?

Robber Fly, species unknown

The insects above are one of hundreds of species of fly from the family Asilidae, commonly known as Robber Flies, or Assassin flies. I asked the experts at the Melbourne Museum if they could identify it but they said the exact species can't be determined from the photo because it doesn't show how big it is, and it doesn't have a dorsal view to look at the wings and other features. 

These flies eat other insects, and catch their prey mid-flight. They're found all over Australia, living in forests, woodlands and urban areas. They have their rather alarming name because each leg of the robber fly has a pair of strong claws that they use to catch their prey, before injecting it with a powerful poison. Enzymes help to digest the meal until all that remains is a discarded exoskeleton.

Bush Fly, probably

Another fly, another photo not good enough for exact identification of the species. Here's what Simon from the Discovery Centre at the Melbourne Museum wrote:

It could be a bush fly but it is too hard to be sure without also getting a dorsal image of the fly. It is important to be able to see the wings as the venation allows you to place in to family.

Bush flies give other flies a bad name. They breed in dung and are said to spread harmful bacteria. And there's a lot of cow dung in Australian because of the cattle industry.

Bush flies used to be very common when the weather turned warm, but there aren't so many of them now because of the Australian Dung Beetle Project. Scientists imported and released several species of dung beetles from Africa and Europe. The beetles bury the dung, depriving the flies of their breeding grounds and successfully controlling their numbers.

European Wasp

I hope scientists discover a way to control the spread of European wasps. I hate these insects and find them really scary. They are very aggressive and can sting repeatedly, unlike bees that sting you once then die. When I realized there was a wasp nest in the compost I ran away and they chased me, stinging me on the back of my legs. That was quite a few years ago but it's not something you forget.

Unlike bees, wasps don't collect pollen from trees and flowers but they're still attracted to nectar. This one is having a feast on some fennel flowers.

Dead Passionvine Hopper

Scolypopa australis, commonly known as Passionvine Hoppers, have transparent wings and elongated mouthparts that form a tube to enable them to feed by sucking up the sap of plants. They can be found on the bark of tree trunks and branches, and leaves. When you try to catch them or touch them they jump up very fast and very high. They're native to Australia and are found in urban gardens in Eastern mainland Australia and Tasmania. They are regarded as pests because they excrete honeydew that leads to the growth of black-grey mould on the cultivated and ornamental plants they frequent.

They look like a small moth but they're not moths. This one posed for me because it was dead. Alive, they're hard to photograph because they're so fast.

Live Planthopper, photo by Jeevan Jose for Wikipedia
photo by David Taft
Heat, humidity and a bit of rain means plenty of food for Redback Spiders to eat. There are a lot of them around at this time of year living in people's gardens. I haven't seen any here for a while. This one was in my friend David's garden. The female spider is tending to her egg sacs. Inside each egg sac are about 250 eggs. They won't all survive because stronger siblings eat weaker spiderlings and unhatched eggs. You've got to be careful around this spider because its bite will hurt, but they still have their place in a biodiverse ecosystem, and they help us by eating insects like mosquitos. 

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