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.
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?
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!