Species: Amegilla cingulata
Common names: Blue-banded Bee
Australia is home to several thousand species of native bees of which all but about a dozen species are solitary. Like the other solitary bees the blue-banded bee can sting but does so rarely and only if highly provoked. It was a frequent visitor to the Commelina flowers but was rather difficult to photograph because it only spent a second, or two at the most, at each flower. As you can see in the photo it has already extended its tongue ready for a quick drink of nectar before it even alights on the flower. It is a buzz pollinator although this isn’t relevant for feeding on the Commelina flowers. In our garden it is the main bee attracted to our Dichorisandra flowers. To gather the pollen from these flowers it vibrates the pollen bearing part of the flower with a loud buzzing sound. Other bees such as the European honey bee and native stingless bees never bother visiting the Dichorisandra flowers as they don’t possess this buzzing capability and so cannot obtain anything from the flowers.
Species: Apis Mellifera
Common names: Honey Bee; European Honey Bee
A few weeks ago a large swarm of European Honey Bees appeared in the reserve near the end of Eddystone Road. However before the swarm could be collected it disappeared into a large dead tree where the bees now seem to have established a permanent new nest.
Common names: Nomia Bee
Most Australian native bees, of which there are over a thousand species, are solitary like this Nomia bee with its brightly striped abdomen. The female builds her nest in either the ground or rotting wood where she lays her eggs and cares for her larvae. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to track the bee when it flew off. I had hoped that I might be able to find where the bee was nesting (assuming that this is a female).
While I was collecting leaves to feed some caterpillars, I inadvertently collected the pupa of a Tachinidae fly. The larvae of this fly live inside the caterpillars feeding on the body of the caterpillar, leaving the vital organs till last. However what emerged from the fly pupa case was the ichneumonid wasp pictured, whose larva had fed on the larva/pupa of the Tachinidae fly. It’s a jungle out there.
Species: Iridomyrmex purpureus
Common names: Large Purple Meat Ant
Ants of this genus have been in the news lately as a possible control for cane toads. I know of two nests of these ants in the Reserve – one in the picnic area beside Fort Road and the other on the ridge to the east of the Passionist Fathers’ property. These aggressive ants develop very large colonies and build massive underground nests with many entrances under a gravelly dome. They dominate their territory. Note how they have cleared the area around their nest in the picnic area of all vegetation and maintain a cleared pathway to a feeding area near Fort Road. These ants lack a sting but have powerful jaws and they repel any attacks by their sheer weight of numbers. Is there any boy who hasn’t stomped across a meat ant’s nest just to watch the ants “boil” out of their entrance holes to defend their territory? Note the size of the gravel on the top of the nest. The stones are just small enough to be carried down an entrance hole. These ants are active all year and they use the stones to “air condition” their nest. The stones heat up during the day and can be carried into the nest on a cold night.
I recently found another nest on the northern side of the reserve.
Species: Megachile (Eutricharaea) chrysopyga
Common names: Gold-tipped Leafcutter Bee
This bee is from a different family of solitary bees. It has a large head and stout body. It cuts circular sections from the leaves of a wide variety of plants (even from the cat’s claw creeper) which it uses to line the tunnel of its brood chamber.
Common names: Sawfly
The Ficus fraseri (Sandpaper Fig) has had many of its leaves reduced to a skeleton by an invasion of sawfly larvae. The sawfly is related to wasps and their larvae usually feed in groups removing all the soft tissue from leaves. On maturity they drop to the ground where they pupate in the soil before emerging as adult sawflies. Even though this tree has lost a lot of leaves it is carrying a bumper crop of figs that the fig birds find irresistible. It often appears as if it is in a mini tornado when it is beset by a flock of feeding fig birds. (January 2009)