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!
These ants have turned up at a few different places around the garden, the seem to occupy a nest for a few months and then move on. They are semi aggressive and will swarm on you if you stand on their nest or get in their path. They don’t seem to bite though.
The photos are from the 3rd location I’ve seen them, and the first time I’ve seen them swarm in such a dense cluster. There was a lot of movement going on but it seemed ordered, like they were going about a task, some of the ants were carying white sacks around. I dropped a matchstick next to them to give a bit of scale in the photos and all hell broke loose. The ants swarmed so agressively that it made a sound, like a soft crunching. The matchstick was swamped. With all the new movement I got a better look deeper into the mound and could see many more white sacks underneath.
Whatever they were doing they had finished by the next day. The nest is still there and there are still lots of ants around, but nothing like the dense arrangement in the pictures.
I’ve got no idea what was going on, or what type of ants they are. I’ve been browsing CSIRO’s Ants Down Under page to try to identify them but it’s not proving to be an easy task. I don’t know what I’m looking for and the site is so painfully slow it’s not suitable to explore or browse about.
Nothing else to do but keep looking and post an update when I find out what these are.
These bugs were on a tree in the wildflower gardens. I’ve been trying to work out what they are. What bug is that looks comprehensive and has a good bug identification tool but I’ve been unsuccessful so far.
They’re quite distinctive looking, part of my problem is describing it in a way that someone who knows this bug would write about it. I found out entomology is very specialized and has a whole language of it’s own!