I was working in the yard when Jess called me over to see a beetle she’d found. I was a bit reluctant to stop work but she convinced me “c’mon dad, you’ll love it!” She was right. With a quick search this beetle was simple to identify as a Fiddler Beetle.
Fiddler Beetles are native to Australia, they are found all the way up and down the east coast. The first thing you notice about them is their appearance, they are black with a striking pattern of yellow or green markings that look like they have been applied as part of a carefully thought out tribal design. The one Jess found had green markings. Not sure if it was male or female, often in nature the males are more visually striking than the ladies but I couldn’t find any sources that distinguished between the two in appearance. Fiddler beetles live in heathland, eucalypt forest and suburban parks and yards. They lay their eggs in rotting logs or damp soil. After hatching the grubs eat wood until they are ready to emerge as adult beetles in the early summer.
It took 4 years for me to finally work out what my “Unknown Bug” is! Finding the Cotton Harlequin Bug was what lead me to it. I recognized that they look quite similar in structure and shape. This gave me some more terms to search for ( shield bug ) and I finally got a match!
So it’s with belated pride I’d like to introduce to you, the “Gum Tree Shield Bug” otherwise known as a “Stink Bug”!
The bugs that I found appear to be in the nymph stage. The nymphs spend most of their time under the bark while the adults roam about on the outside of the tree and are better camouflaged. The patterns on the nymphs is captivating, it looks like an Aboriginal painting come to life.
Gum Tree Shield Bugs are found all over Australia in open forests or woodlands. They get their Stink Bug label from their ability to secrete a smelly corrosive substance as a defence against predators. Glad I avoided that.
A few weeks ago we visited friends in their new highrise apartment in town. It was an awesome place, typical modern apartments, all fitted out with parking and facilities including a great indoor pool that we had a lot of fun in with the kids. They were on the 30th floor ( I think ) very high up anyway. It was the last place I would have expected to see some interesting wildlife but while Jess and I were out on the balcony scaring ourselves with the hight ( ok, mostly me being scared ) I spotted a strikingly coloured bug crawling on the tiles. I gave it to Jess, we both marveled at it and took some photos. I’ve found it hard to identify bugs in the past and didn’t expect to be able to work out what this one is, but by luck someone had found exactly the same creature and sent in a photo to the North Shore Times where it was identified by the Australian Museum as a “Cotton Harlequin Bug”!
The Cotton Harlequin bug is a true bug in the jewel bug family. They are found Northern and eastern Australia; New Guinea, some Pacific islands and are common in the summer months. They suck sap from hibiscus plants and related species and are also considered a minor pest for cultivated cotton.
The individual we found is a male, their colouring is reported to be quite variable but it seems common for them to be red with striking metallic blue markings as we found. The females are orange with smaller metallic blue markings. I think another case of the males being prettier than the females!
The family spent the long weekend at Wombeyan Caves. They are a group of a few hundred limestone caves set in the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve located about 70Km west of Mittagong.
It’s a remote location, there’s a lot of wildlife in the area, we saw a few different species of kangaroo and a lot of birds.
On of them was the Satin Bowerbird. I noticed one loitering around under the camp table during the day, one of our friends we were with identified it. As usual a new one for me. The one near the table was a male, all black with a brilliant blue sheen. I’d noticed a group of dusky green birds cavorting around in the early morning, it turns out they were the females.
Satin Bower Birds are meant to live all up and down the east coast of Australia from Cooktown in northern Queensland down to near Melbourne in Victoria. I’ve not seen one before, or at least not recognized one.
As with many birds Satin Bowerbirds display strong sexual dimorphism, the males are black with a glossy blue-purple sheen. The females have a dusky olive green head and back with cream and olive green speckles on their necks and chest. Their wings and tail are brown. Both male and female satin bowerbirds have bright lilac-blue eyes.
Bowerbirds have an interesting courting ritual. The male builds a bower which consists of an avenue of sticks and twigs oriented in a north – south direction. He then decorates it charcoal and saliva, at the platforms at each end he places any blue objects that he can collect. In natural environments these can be feathers and berries, nearer to civilization bower ornaments can consist of any number of blue plastics and other man made materials.
Prospective mates are attracted by the males creations, the male will strut about his bower making hissing and chattering noises and offering up some of his blue collections. If the female is impressed enough she’ll proceed into the bower to mate, then leave to make a nest and rear her young on her own.
I used to read a book to the kids called “Bushranger Bill” I’m pretty sure Bill is a Satin Bowerbird