Blue Banded Bee

Finally spotted one! I’ve been looking for a Blue Banded Bee since learning they are the likely creature behind the numerous holes and burrows found in sandstone in the area. These photos were taken over two days, the first day there was just one bee, the 2nd day there was a pair. They don’t stay still for long, it was hard to get focus and take the shot in time. I would have liked to get some better photos but this is all I could manage. I’m extra impressed now with the bright and clear photo’s others have taken that can be found in the links.

A Blue Banded Bee feeding on nectar in the garden. 4 stripes mean this is a girl, boys have 5
A Blue Banded Bee about to go for in for a feed. It’s long tongue with protective sheath is visible partially folded back towards it’s body. It uses this to suck nectar from the flowers

There are a number of species of Blue Banded bee found around the world. I’m pretty sure this on is Amegilla cingulata or the Common Blue Banded Bee which is a native of Australia. It’s found all over the country except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. They are solitary bees that build their nests in mud and soft sandstone, they’re also known to burrow into the mortar of old buildings.

Two bees visible here! The one in the foreground had latched onto a leaf stalk with it’s mandibles and was just sitting there for a short while. A quick rest perhaps? Others have taken photos of them doing the same thing so likely a common behavior

The Common Blue Banded Bee is 8mm – 13mm long with a furry red brown thorax and blue and black stripes on it’s abdomen. Males have 5 stripes, females 4. The have a long tongue protected by a brown sheath that looks like a spike. They use this to pierce flower petals then feed on the sweet nectar. They live around 40 days, baby bees remain in their eggs over winter but several generations can hatch over the warmer months.

Ruined stone huts in the bush

A few months ago the RFS did a controlled burn in bushland on Middle Harbour River behind East Lindfield. Not long afterwards while running the trails I happened to glance up the hill into the recently burnt bush and saw what looked like man made stone walls about 20 metres from the trail. I went up to have a look and it turned out to be the ruins of several stone huts! I’ve passed by that place countless times but never knew what was hiding so close. It was only after the fire had burnt away the scrub that it became visible from the main track.

One of the stone huts. This one is in the best condition of the lot, the entrance is visible and the entire perimeter is still present.

The huts are in a bad state with only the bottom half meter or so of the sandstone walls remaining. Some are in better condition than others with fireplaces still visible. There’s also a scattering of rubbish and other debris around.

The walls are almost completely collapsed on this one. The fireplace is still visible
Not much left of this hut. It’s on a clearing bounded by a stone retaining wall on one side, all that’s left is one corner and some twisted and broken scraps of corrugated iron

There’s a few artefacts scattered around the site too, mostly broken bottles and pots. There’s writing visible on one of the (unfortunately broken) bottles reading “Laurel Kerosene” There is an entry on the MAAS site that depicts exactly the same bottle! There’s a lot of background on it, they were manufactured by Mobil’s predecessor company, Vacuum Oil between 1920 and 1940.

One of the many broken bottles on site. This is an old “Laurel Kerosene” bottle. They were manufactured between 1920 and 1940
A broken steel kettle

I took a number of other photos of the huts and some of the retaining walls built around them. Check them out here

I’m really keen to learn the history of these places. I contacted my collaborator John, he’d heard of them before and knew of their location. He even had an old hand drawn map that marked the location of the huts and had them labelled as “The Ambassadors”

John’s hand drawn map. The ruins are labelled as “The Ambassadors”

The NSW Spatial Map Viewer shows that the area of the ruins is just outside Garigal National Park and is divided up into properties and lots complete with address points.

The red flags are the location of the ruins. Yellow arrows show the start of the two tracks that can be used to access them.

There are two ways to get to the ruins. The most direct way is a trail that runs from an abandoned bowling green at the end of Wellington road right through the middle of the ruins. It then continues down to two creeks track on Middle Harbour River. This track is very rough and looks seldom used but it’s so close to civilisation the ruins must be known to locals and others.

Carved steps on the trail to the ruins. There is a rough trail that starts from an abandoned bowling green that goes right through the ruins

The other way is to descend on Manuwi track at the end of Wellington Rd, East Lindfield. When it hits two creeks track turn left and walk for around 250m. There is a turnoff to the left to access the ruins at the trails highest point as it passes around the curve in the river.

The Manuwi track trail-head at the end of Wellington Rd. It’s less direct than the rough trail but easier going.

I feel like there’s a lot more to be written about the ruins but this is all I know so far. I’m still looking around, John is rechecking his sources too for any more information so I hope to have some updates soon. If you know anything about these huts I’d love to hear from you!

Sources and more info

Kangaroo Paw

A very well named plant! Kangaroo paw is actually the common name for a number of different species that are all endemic to south west south Australia. This particular one is Anigozanthos flavidus, commonly known as the tall, yellow, or evergreen, kangaroo paw.

Evergreen Kangaroo Paw. Native to South West Western Australia but widely cultivated in the eastern states. This one was in the neighbors front yard

Uncanny resemblance. This is actually a Swamp Wallaby from the back yard but they sure do look like Kangaroo paws.
A Swamp Wallaby with Joey

Sources and more info

Portuguese millipede

Ommatoiulus moreleti

These little guys are always crawling about somewhere in the garden. I’d never looked them up before and had always assumed it was a local centipede but after some searching I think it’s the introduced species known as the Portuguese millipede.

A Portuguese millipede. You can tell it’s a millipede because it has 2 pairs of legs per body segment. Centipedes have only one

I’d assumed it was a centipede because it didn’t have a huge number of legs. Generally millipedes have more legs than centipedes but despite the names centipedes don’t have exactly 100 legs and millipedes don’t have 1000. One of the ways you can tell what animal you’re dealing with is that centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment while millipedes have two.

Portuguese millipedes were accidentally introduced to Australia in 1953 possibly in ship ballast. They may have been introduced on several separate occasions, they are now spread over large parts of South and Eastern Australia, they are also found around Perth in Western Australia. They have no known predators and can breed to plague proportions. In 2002 50 trains between Melbourne and Ballarat had to be cancelled or delayed because Portuguese millipedes on the rails had been squashed into a gooey paste that prevented the trains from getting traction!

Portuguese millipedes are considered a pest in Australia. Once they caused the cancellation or delay of 50 trains!

I found this one in the bush just behind our house. While I was taking the photo I got bitten on the toe by a bulldog ant. Quite painful! It started with a mild sting then over 30 minutes became a strong dull ache over my whole toe. I can’t feel any pain now but from past experience it will flair up again tomorrow.

Sources and more info