All posts by Joe Lipson

About Joe Lipson

I live right next to Garigal

Holes and burrows in sandstone

In the bush nearby you can often see sections of sandstone that have clusters of regular sized holes around 10mm in diameter. Sometimes these pieces of sandstone are on a walking track where they get worn down to show the internal paths these holes take. I have a distant hazy memory of being told the holes are made by native bees. A bit of the old web searching brought up some more information!

Holes in sandstone with $5 note for scale. This was taken in the upper sections of Carroll Creek near Forestville
This piece of sandstone was part of the track and has been worn down by the tread of many feet. It reveals the paths the burrows take. Sneaker toe for scale. The location of the photo is just above Berowra creek out the back of Westleigh

The holes in sandstone are apparently the burrows of a native bee called the Blue Banded Bee. Blue Banded bees are found all over Australia except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. They are solitary bees that build their nests in mud and soft sandstone, they are also known to burrow into the mortar of old buildings.

I’ve not seen one of these bees myself so I don’t have a picture. They are described as being 8mm – 13mm long with a furry red brown thorax and blue and black stripes on it’s abdomen. They live around 40 days, baby bees remain in their eggs over winter but several generations can hatch over the warmer months. They are meant to be common, I’ll be keeping an eye out to try and get a picture.

Spider wasp catching a spider

It was over a year ago that I first saw this flying insect that had caught a large spider and was dragging it off somewhere presumably to eat. I’d never seen anything like it and I spent a while researching to try and work out what it was. At the time I thought it was a robber fly but now I think it’s a spider wasp!

Robber flys do indeed prey on some spiders and other insects but the images really dont look anything like what I’d seen.

The spider wasp is a much closer match. I’ve seen a few now, here’s some pictures of a smaller spider wasp with another decent sized spider. This particular one was struggling a bit with it’s prey. It even tried to fly a bit and only just managed it. Looking at the picture the spider could easily weigh more than the wasp!

Spider wasps are known to chop off the legs of the spider to make it easier to carry. All the ones I’ve seen the spiders are missing their legs. Nature is brutal!

Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp with a big spider. Spider wasps are known to remove the spiders legs to make them easier to carry

Resources and References

Have you ever seen a fly catch a spider?

[update] – When I wrote this I thought the creature was a robber fly, now I think it’s a spider wasp.

Here’s something you don’t see every day, a large fly like creature walking along carrying a sizeable spider underneath it! Now that’s a prey reversal! A bit like seeing a huge rat hauling a dead cat somewhere.

The fly was black, about 4cm in length with long legs that allowed it to carry the spider underneath it and still walk easily. The one I saw was on a mission to get somewhere, it walked quickly over the pavement for about 4m and then climbed a wall before I lost it. It had wings but didn’t try to fly, maybe the spider was too heavy for it. The spider was slightly longer than the fly and looked bulkier, all the spiders legs were gone and it was being carried inverted with it’s abdomen towards the front of the fly.

I think this is a robber fly, it’s somehow caught a large spider and is hauling it off somwehere

Curious as to if this was normal I did some searching. The closest thing I could find that lives in the area is a robber fly. “Robber flies are large, bristly flies that catch their prey (usually other insects) mid-flight.” Robber flys are known to catch and eat spiders, the fly I saw didn’t have the same enlarged powerful chest as the robber fly photos on the articles. It looks like there is some variation between robber fly species so maybe it’s just a different species that I saw.

It was moving fast and I only had my phone on me so I found it hard to get a clear picture, but you can see the size of the spider compared to a garden hose and a house brick. The spider looked like a huntsman, I’m not sure how the fly would have killed it and removed it’s legs, or maybe it found the spider like that?

Fly hauling a large spider away somewhere

Fly hauling a large spider. Garden hose for scale, shame the subject is blury

Resources and references

The Black Cockies are back

They’re back, and they still have an appetite for destruction! Every year about this time the black cockies visit for a day or two, tear up the Banksia trees in our yard then leave.

Black Cockie tearing up a Banksia
Black Cockie tearing up a Banksia

Sulphur Crested Cockies are here in abundance year round, Black Cockies only visit for a few days per year, sometimes I miss them altogether. Yellow tailed black cockatoos are larger than their sulphur crested cousins, they have a louder and more piercing shriek too. A few days before I saw the black cockies this year I heard a chilling shriek in the valley after dark, for a moment I thought it sounded like a person in distress, but I figured it was more animal like. After I saw the Cockies I now think that’s what it was.

Black Cockie in the Banksia tree
Black Cockie in the Banksia tree

This year the black cockies visited on July 23rd, a few weeks earlier than previous years.