Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Little Critters

Yesterday much of my time was spent in the orchard watering and doing a bit of cleaning up of the trees, which gave me a chance to discover a few interesting little critters. As most of the trees in our orchard are citrus, we regularly see the Orchard Butterflies Papilio aegeus aegeus and their larvae that feed on the citrus leaves. They do very little damage to advance trees so we leave them to develop into beautiful butterflies like this male, that was not long out of the pupa. The pupa is also quite interesting with its girdle keeping the pupa in position on the branch and I managed to find one with the metamorphosis as yet incomplete

This species is restricted to Australia and a number of Islands in Torres Strait and is quite common down the east coast. Many native plants in the Rutaceae family provided the original food source for the larvae but the widespread cultivation of citrus has enabled the growth in numbers of this butterfly. At present you will find a few of these in the orchard floating around looking for suitable leaves to lay eggs or looking for a mate.

Something a little more bizarre, although with striking colours is the Two-spined spider Poeclopachus australiae that was resting on a leaf.

This genus of spiders has species spread through tropical and sub-tropical regions and Australia has a number of species with extraordinary shapes and colours. They are web spinners that capture a vast array of insects during the summer and are harmless to humans.

Another predator in the insect world are the Robber Flies, but rather than wait for the prey to come to them they are active hunters, catching other insects on the wing. It is a large family of flies some being large specimens and one of those is the Robber Fly Asilidae-Asilinae which is a stout hairy fly with strong legs and with very large eyes to assist in the hunt for fast flying insects. The example I found (50mm long) in the orchard, had just captured a bee and then landed to devour its catch.

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