insects

Blow me down

This fly takes the cake and eats it (probably literally). I thought my picture of a fly a few weeks back was pretty good (click here), but Bryan, this one is a beauty and has to be shared!. No research – don’t know what it is, so it will remain “Bryan’s Fly” until we find out differently.

Bryan's FlyImage courtesy of Bryan Milner, Flowerdale Landcare

Australia has some pretty weird and wonderful insects and flies have their special place in the environment, usually associated with breaking down protein, but are also useful pollinators. Great colours on this one and probably a ‘must enter’ for the Flowerdale Landcare Photography competition in July.

BTW; Wasp nest kills to 14.3.17…………  29

Wasp Alert!

As summer slips into autumn, and the nights become a little cooler, the salad days and outdoor living is marred by the huge increase of black and yellow invaders-we’re not talking Richmond Footy Club here, but something even more annoying. The plagues of European Wasps are back! The next month will see even more activity as they prepare to release queens  from the nest in April.

Last season, volunteers from our group located and destroyed 27 nests in our community, free of charge. With Melbourne Pest Controllers charging nearly $200 per nest, that is an effort valued at $5,400 to the people of Flowerdale. This year the problem looks like being even worse with at this stage 15 nests located and destroyed in the last couple of weeks, mainly in Coonan’s and Moore’s Reserves and along Spring Valley Road. We expect to eradicate probably another 40 nests over the next 6 weeks on the current trend, representing $11,000 of donated benefit to the community.

Finding the nests can be difficult. The way I do it at this time of year, is to go for a slow walk between 7:45 and 8:30 a.m., when the sun is still low. This enables you to pick up the shine on the wings and work out the direction they are heading. Most times the nest entrances are as big as a 50c piece and  in the ground. There could be tens of thousands of wasps in the nests, so there is a great risk of being stung badly if you disturb them. I frock up in my bee suit and go to work during the day with pyrmethrin powder and by next morning, when no further activity is observed at the nest entrance, I chalk up another kill.

Our native wasps are also active at this time of year. Their nests are often solitary such as the mud wasp species, which has made quite an artistic series of rosettes on a leadlight pictured below –

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mud-wasp-nest-1paper-wasp

Others wasps nest in small colonies such as those of the paper wasp above. Note the pupa in one of the cells. Thanks to Wayne Watson Photography for use of this image. These wasps will defend their nests, so do not interfere! Richmond for premiers – not this year!

 

I know an old lady who swallowed a spider ….

That wriggled and wiggled and tickled inside her

She swallowed the spider to catch the fly

I don’t know why she swallowed a fly

Perhaps she’ll die

Bryan Milner and Linda O’Brien have sent in some fine photos, the locally found orb weaver spiders. Arachnophobes look away now!

The first of these is the Golden Orb Weaver;

Caught in the right light, the silken web looks like golden thread. Photo courtesy of Linda O’Briengolden-orb-weaver

Honestly, these are quite beautiful spiders, unless you walk blindly headfirst into their web, which is quite an unpleasant experience. The spider itself won’t harm you; it’s just that creepy feeling of sticky webs across your eyelids, nose and mouth that raises the hair on the back of your neck and brings a primeval scream to your throat.

The next is the Garden Orb Weaver; photographed by Bryan Milner

garden-orb-weaver

In 2003 the Garden Orb Weaver was part of an experiment by Glen Waverley College students in Melbourne sending spiders into space aboard the ill fated Space Shuttle “Columbia”

The last of the trio is the Spiny Orb Weaver; photo courtesy of Linda O’Brien

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A particularly cute spider don’t you agree?

 

I know an old lady …

Who swallowed a fly

I don’t know why she swallowed a fly?

Perhaps she’ll die!

 

blowfly

Australia Day last week and the flies were out in force. Yes, every fly loves a BBQ. Within a few seconds of the snags, or the prawns hitting the barbie (depending on whether you live in Flowerdale or Double Bay)  the ‘meat inspectors’ will be there, from blowies to bluebottles, they are the fair dinkum, true blue Aussies (after snakes and mozzies) and on the 26th of January we saluted them all, bending an elbow, soaking up the sun (slip, slop and slap of course), having a laugh, poking fun at authority and each other. And while we celebrated what is great about this nation we were also mindful that Australia Day for the first peoples of this country is a “sorry” day. One day we will find a better date that we will all be able to celebrate. I acknowledge the hills that embrace us, the creek that flows through us and the Taungurung people, past and present, first people of the district known now known as Flowerdale. 

 

Flutter by Butter Fly

Swordgrass Brown butterfly

The butterfly pictured above was photographed at Kinglake last week and is the Swordgrass Brown Butterfly (Tisiphone abeona albifascia). Keep your eyes open for the many species active now the warmer months are here.

The Great Victorian Koala Count took place in early November. One Koala was reported by a member of our group and was added to the survey. This was Ted, (refer;  If you go down in the woods today ) who shows up every few months for a snooze in one of his favourite trees and then wanders off again. Ted hadn’t been seen since March and we feared he may have become road kill or died of old age- great to see him again. More Koala stories can be found in March is Koala month or Snippets or visit Great Victorian Koala Count

Flowerdale Landcare Newsletter, November 2015

Engaging with Our Community, Our Environment

Next event;

Sunday December 13th; Coonan’s Reserve, Flowerdale

Breakfast, Bird and Brook, End of year Celebration.

8:30 a.m.

Hi everyone,

There hasn’t been a newsletter issued for some 6 months, so bringing you up to date is well overdue. In case you missed our Annual General Meeting,-  the committee is now;

President – Derek Hall

Treasurer – Claude Baxter

Assistant Treasurer – Rick Wheeler

Vice President – Paul Michael

Secretary – Pam Watson

Ordinary Committee – Steve Brennan, Steve Joblin, Carol Stadelmann, Wayne Watson

We have since engaged in National Tree Day and Schools National Tree Day plantings as well as a successful Broom Busting day at Moore’s Reserve. These activities as always were followed up by a BBQ lunch and beverage. Since then a volunteer blackberry spraying day was again undertaken by the group. Thanks to Paul Michael, Derek Hall and Steve Joblin who put in around 20 hours on this project.

Flowerdale Landcare has now turned 3 years old and held the 2nd Great Flowerdale Duck Race last weekend. Last year we had a turnout of 23 people and a real fun day on both the Silver and King Parrot Creeks. This year the Landcare Group decided to have a Picnic on the Lawn at Flowerdale Community House in the hope of attracting locals as part of a Fire Awareness initiative.

Long time resident and CFA Fire education officer Judy Baker presented information on developing a family fire plan and staying safe through the fire danger period.

Our lunch was provided through grant support from Kinglake Ranges Foundation, which meant that any donations received on the day could be presented to the Flowerdale CFA. Thanks to Viv Phelan for the tasty sandwiches and cakes prepared for us. Flowerdale Landcare president Derek Hall was proud to present Judy Baker with a cheque for $115 which will assist our CFA community volunteers who put in many hours of training on our behalf. (By the way, Madam Secretary Pam Watson’s duck was first under the Bridge which gave her the prize of a meal voucher at the Flowerdale Hotel!). Thanks to our supporters and members Steve and Viv Phelan proprietors of Flowerdale Hotel , for their support.

Flowerdale Landcare years end will be officially celebrated again at the Coonan’s Reserve with a breakfast at 8.30 a.m. on Sunday December 13th. Come along and celebrate the achievements of the year, you might even be lucky enough to see a platypus or rakali as we did at lunchtime last year. This gathering will also be the opportunity to confirm events planned for the next 12 months.

In 2016 we will have access to 5,000 plants supplied by Fifteen trees  and we are grateful to our corporate sponsors for their continued support. In 2015, Flowerdale Landcare assisted in the planting of 4,250 seedlings which I believe was the greatest effort by any of the 16 groups in the Upper Goulburn Landcare Network. This effort was supported by Fifteen Trees and Pana Chocolate

What’s the Buzz???2

DSC_0045  Flowerdale Landcare Beekeeping for Beginners Course

Yea Beekeepers

Yea Beekeepers is an informal group of some 20 or more bee enthusiasts that have been through a course run by Steve Joblin over the last 4 years. The beekeepers come together around four times a year to swap stories/experience and hold activities bee related.

The last meeting of the Flowerdale Landcare committee agreed to welcome Yea Beekeepers into the Landcare Group and to offer bee related activities as part of our Landcare calendar. The logic is that beekeeping is a livestock activity and one that requires learning about the natural environment in the task of honey production.

Our most recent activities were a Beekeeping for Beginners course and a Honey Harvest Day. The highlight of the Honey Harvest Day was not only extracting fresh honey, but also an interesting talk from our guest speaker Ric Stubbings on making Honey Mead. The tasting was also a highlight!

 

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December/January is a great time for observing native bees and wasps. When everything else is looking for shade, these insects seem to be most active. The bee in this photo is actually one of a trio of native bee species that I noticed working a bank of  Black- anthered flax lilies (Dianella revoluta)273 on a hot December afternoon in Flowerdale.

This bee as far as I can identify, is commonly known as a Green and Gold Nomia (Lipotriches australica) and is a key pollinator associated with the Pale Flax lily (Dianella longifolia) and the Black- anthered flax lily. This bee, like most of the 1500 plus species of Australian native bees is a solitary bee, each female creating her own nest. By 277contrast  the European honeybee and the native stingless bees (Trigona carbonaria) are social bees that live as a hive with a queen bee. The Green and Gold Nomia constructs her nest by burrowing into the ground and creating cells. She places the pollen and nectar that she collects into the cell as provisions for the larva that will emerge from the egg she lays. Although solitary, she can share the entrance tunnel with other females of the same species.

The second of the trio that I noticed is probably one that is more familiar  in the Flowerdale are. This bee attracts attention with its short sharp runs and hovering in front of its flower target before darting in for a split second stay then darting off to the next flower. Commonly known as the Blue-banded bee (Amegilla cingulata), another solitary bee, it is highly attracted to blue flowers. It is another important pollinator of the  flax lillies. The Blue-banded bee has a peculiar method of collecting pollen through sonication also known as ‘buzz pollination’. Sonication is the rapid vibration of the muscles in the thorax between the wings that forces the release of pollen from the anther of the flower. The ‘buzz’ is quite audible. This bee is still around despite the Black-anthered flax lily having finished flowering. It can be seen visiting salvias, lobelia, lavender in the garden and tomatoes and strawberries in the hothouse. The Blue-banded bee is an effective pollinator of tomatoes and may be a back up if varroa mite enters Australia and decimates the European honeybee population.

DSC_0049Blue banded bee (buzz pollinator)

The third of the trio caught my attention with its irridescent markings as it searched the clay bank looking like a predatory wasp. It was too elusive for me to photograph but can be found by going to www.aussiebee.com.au and looking for the Neon Cuckoo bee (Thyreus nitidulus).

As the name suggests, the Neon Cuckoo bee lays its egg in the nest cell of its host, in this case the Blue-banded bee, and then leaves. The unsuspecting Blue-banded bee does all the hard work of digging the nest burrow, storing provisions of nectar and pollen and sealing the cell only to have its own larvae starve as the Neon Cuckoo bee larvae make use of the food supply.

The moral of this story is that just by planting native lily species, you can create a small ecological community. The lilies need their native bees and the Neon Cuckoo bee needs the Blue-banded bee. More detail on this relationship can be found at www.aff.org.au/Duncan_Dianella_final.pdf.

Interested in encouraging bees to your garden? Have a look at ‘Bee Friendly – A planting guide for European Honeybees and Australian native pollinators’ through www.rirdc.gov.au/pollination

Stay tuned to the Flowerdale Landcare site for an activities involving beekeeping during the year.

 

Flowerdale Landcare Launched with a Flotilla of Ducks

What started as a cool overcast morning quickly cleared to a warm day in the mid twenties. A perfect day for some 27 Flowerdalians who gathered at the Community House in Silver Creek Road for the Launch of Flowerdale Landcare.

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Native plants for small gardens

Community House provided us with a wonderful venue of well manicured, shady grounds, play equipment, and a BBQ. Participants were soon engaged in conversations about the marvel of bees and the art of beekeeping. The Playground was the first stop for Max and Connor. Others perused and purchased vegetable seedlings.  Native plants suitable for small gardens  were displayed by Rick (proprietor of RAW Plants a native nursery located in Flowerdale). John and Ellen put on a feast of sausages and onions  for those who had missed breakfast and kept up supplies for lunch as well

Sue, Steve and David wandered  down to the Silver Creek at the back of the house for some serious water creature investigation with Connor and Max. Armed with pocket magnifying glasses  several water nymphs were observed as well as a fresh water crayfish Euastacus armatus (listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee as threatened). Greater fun was had by seeing who could throw the biggest rock and make the biggest splash.

Whirligig Beetle Larvae

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Look Mum!

DSC_0098

Talking Compost!

While these children were engaged at the creek, Derek was discussing permaculture and composting in one of the meeting rooms, with a focussed audience. 

After lunch there was a short walk to the King Parrot Creek for the much anticipated Great Flowerdale Duck Race. Although there were only 30 entrants in this years field, the ducks were soon strung out over the course. With the first 4 ducks under the bridge to be awarded a prize, there were some pretty excited duck owners urging their chances along. DSC_0108The race was all but won when a swirling breeze blew straight upstream taking the ducks with them. To make matters worse, the ducks that were lagging behind then forged to the front with ducks belonging to Jenny, Carol, Deb and Paul claiming the prizes of organic moisturizers, a nest box, a rustic watering can and some gardening magazines.DSC_0110 Onlookers on the bridge also observed a fresh water crayfish (identifiable with it’s whitish claws) before heading back to the Community House for birthday cake to celebrate the second anniversary of the formation of the Group.DSC_0125

DSC_0115

Duck Retreivers

Thanks to everyone who assisted and participated in the day, including Joe who helped set up and Claude for cutting a safe walkway through the long grass to avoid snake surprises.The feeling amongst the participants was that the day was very entertaining and will most likely be an annual event fitting in with our objective of encouraging more people to enjoy and appreciate the King Parrot Creek. The water was very refreshing too for our duck retrievers Wayne, Paul and Steve. The turnout on the day was a great response considering the event was only advertised through our blogsite, the Flowerdale Flyer, Parrot Chatter and an email.  If you want to keep in touch with what is happening in Flowerdale Landcare, just click on the Follow button to join 66 other followers.

Upcoming Community Event:

Remembrance Day will be observed at the Flowerdale Community Hall on the 11th of November with the involvement of the Primary School and the Men’s Shed Choir. Everyone is invited to join in this observance. Flowerdale Community House will be running a bus for those who need assistance with transport. Arrive by 10;50 a.m. for an 11;00 a.m. start

 

Week 35 – Now showing in a locale near you

With spring approaching all sorts of things are starting to pop up. In week 35 of this calendar year some things that have been observed for the first time this season up on Junction Hill are:

Early Nancys (Wurmbea dioica) (see previous post) – first lily bloom

hypoxis glabella IMG_5711Tiny Stars or Star Grass (Hypoxis glabella) – another member of the lily family

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Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi) – first butterfly of the spring

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DSCN3152Frog spawn – coming to a pond near you. Obviously all that croaking was not in vain.

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buttercup DSCN3431Australian buttercup or Yarrakalgamba (Ranunculus lappaceus) – I saw the leaves in the bush and thought for one horrible moment the parsley had gone feral. Then I saw the flowers.

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The first magpie swoop of this nesting season

Keep your eyes peeled. With the start of warmer weather everything is beginning  to reveal itself.

What’s the Buzz???

A few people have been curious about the bee in the headline photo of our blog. Knowing that I am a hobby beekeeper, some thought it may have been one of my European honeybees (Apis mellifera) in action. The bee in the photo is actually one of a trio of native bee species that I noticed working a bank of  Black- anthered flax lilies (Dianella revoluta)273 on a hot December afternoon in Flowerdale.

This bee as far as I can identify, is commonly known as a Green and Gold Nomia (Lipotriches australica) and is a key pollinator associated with the Pale Flax lily (Dianella longifolia) and the Black- anthered flax lily. This bee, like most of the 1500 plus species of Australian native bees is a solitary bee, each female creating her own nest. By 277contrast  the European honeybee and the native stingless bees (Trigona carbonaria) are social bees that live as a hive with a queen bee. The Green and Gold Nomia constructs her nest by burrowing into the ground and creating cells. She places the pollen and nectar that she collects into the cell as provisions for the larva that will emerge from the egg she lays. Although solitary, she can share the entrance tunnel with other females of the same species.

The second of the trio that I noticed is probably one that is more familiar  in the Flowerdale are. This bee attracts attention with its short sharp runs and hovering in front of its flower target before darting in for a split second stay then darting off to the next flower. Commonly known as the Blue-banded bee (Amegilla cingulata), another solitary bee, it is highly attracted to blue flowers. It is another important pollinator of the  flax lillies. The Blue-banded bee has a peculiar method of collecting pollen through sonication also known as ‘buzz pollination’. Sonication is the rapid vibration of the muscles in the thorax between the wings that forces the release of pollen from the anther of the flower. The ‘buzz’ is quite audible unaided. This bee is still around despite the Black-anthered flax lily having finished flowering. It can be seen visiting salvias, lobelia, lavender and tomatoes in our garden. The Blue-banded bee is an effective pollinator of tomatoes and may be a back up if varroa mite enters Australia and decimates the European honeybee population.Blue banded bee (buzz pollinator)

The third of the trio caught my attention with its irridescent markings as it searched the clay bank looking like a predatory wasp. It was too elusive for me to photograph but can be found by going to www.aussiebee.com.au and looking for the Neon Cuckoo bee (Thyreus nitidulus).

As the name suggests, the Neon Cuckoo bee lays its egg in the nest cell of its host, in this case the Blue-banded bee, and then leaves. The unsuspecting Blue-banded bee does all the hard work of digging the nest burrow, storing provisions of nectar and pollen and sealing the cell only to have its own larvae starve as the Neon Cuckoo bee larvae make use of the food supply.

The moral of this story is that just by planting native lily species, you can create a small ecological community. The lilies need their native bees and the Neon Cuckoo bee needs the Blue-banded bee. More detail on this relationship can be found at www.aff.org.au/Duncan_Dianella_final.pdf.

Interested in encouraging bees to your garden? Have a look at ‘Bee Friendly – A planting guide for European Honeybees and Australian native pollinators’ through www.rirdc.gov.au/pollination

Stay tuned to the King Parrot Creek Environment Group site for an activity involving bees later in the year.

Posted by Steve Joblin