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.

Friday, 29 January 2016

habitat garden, garden habitat

Finding drowned insects in the bird bath made me realize that it's not only birds that need water. So I've placed a large stone to provide a safe platform for thirsty insects, while still leaving enough room for birds to have a bath.

In this post I showcase some of the diversity of insect life I've found in the garden (and the house) this summer.

Conocephalomima barameda

This katydid appeared in the laundry. I managed to relocate it to the garden but first used the opportunity for a photo shoot. I think it's doing a poo. 

Katydid is one of its common names. Thanks to Simon at the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum, I'm able to identify and describe the exact species. It's a native species found in southeast Australia where it occurs from coastal heath or sub-alpine woodland. Apparently it can be very abundant and during drought times may seek water in gardens - or, as in this case - in laundries.

Orb spider web

I think spider webs are one of the wonders of the natural world. Different kinds of spiders build different kinds of webs. This one is an orb web, most efficient for catching flying insects - and blundering humans who can't see it unless the light is right!  I don't know which spider made this web because when I found it early one morning, the spider wasn't there.

In one part of the garden I often see these strange structures made of webbing. I asked the Discovery Centre for an explanation and got this reply:

It can be difficult to tell what constructed the webbing without seeing the occupant, or least evidence of the occupant. Insects and spiders leave behind evidence such as cast skins and frass (wastes) which can often give a clue. Without further evidence, the webbing is most likely to be from the Social Spider (Phryganoporus candidus). Adult spiders are about 1 cm long, and pale silvery-yellow, found in every state in Australia. They are particularly common in the drier areas of Victoria. The nests are usually occupied during summer so if it is this species, it's probably a nest from last summer.

Inside this webbing is, or was, a large community of critters, consisting of about one hundred spider siblings, as well as opportunistic parasites and scavengers. Not that it's a harmonious, truly cooperative community like a beehive. Spiders are notoriously individualistic. The fact the siblings aren't eating each other is probably due to pheromones. Kind of like the use of antidepressants with us humans.

More info on these spiders can be found at http://www.arachne.org.au/01_cms/details.asp?ID=1824

 Didymoctenia exsuperata (from above)
 Didymoctenia exsuperata (from below)

This tiny moth, two cms from one delicate, intricately patterned wingtip to the other, kindly went to sleep on a window, enabling me to photograph it from both sides. I couldn't find much info about this moth on the web, other than it is a species of Ennominae that occurs in Australia.

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