The insects in Guy’s garden


Each week, an additional insect (or spider) from my garden will be added.

Whilst this is not food-related, it is garden-related and therefore of potential interest to the many of you who are gardeners. If you want to identify an insect that you have photographed, Museums Victoria’s Ask a Question is a great resource.

Ants, bees, wasps and sawflies (Hymenoptera)

Spitfire sawfly (Perga affinis)

The left hand photo (from my garden) is of a group of spitfire sawfly larvae (Perga affinis) and the right hand one (from the Internet) is of an adult.

Whilst the adults of this species are not often seen, the larvae are quite conspicuous, resembling large (up to 8cm long) hairy caterpillars.

The larvae rest in groups during the day (as in the photo) and then disperse at night to feed.

When they feel threatened, the larvae raise their heads, collectively resembling a much bigger creature, and can eject a strong-smelling, yellow-green liquid consisting predominantly of eucalyptus oil (hence the common name of spitfires).

Despite being called flies, sawflies are actually more closely related to ants and bees than to flies.


Beetles (Coleoptera)

Common spotted ladybird (Harmonia conformis)

The left hand photo is of a juvenile/larva whilst the right hand one is of an adult.

Both adults and larvae are predators, feeding on aphids and the like. The adults always have the same number of spots (20). The larvae have different numbers of orange stripes, depending on their age.

The common spotted ladybird is indigenous to Australia.

Ladybirds are a type of beetle. Beetles, like butterflies but unlike true bugs, undergo complete metamorphosis via pupation from non-flying, non-mating larva to flying, mating adult. Most beetle larvae are much more grub-like than those of the ladybird.

Fungus-eating ladybird (Illeis galbula)

The left hand photo (from the Internet) is of a juvenile/larva whilst the right hand one (from Pam Jenkins’ garden) is of an adult.

Both the juveniles and the adults eat fungus, particularly the powdery mildew on cucurbit crops like pumpkin and zucchini. The overwintering adults apparently feed on the pollen of wattles and privets during spring.

Pam says: “In spite of living on a windy hill, I have a lot of fungus amongst my leafy greens, mainly powdery mildew. Nature has provided a specific species of ladybird to help with this problem. I guess that they must be effective as, where I have found them, the leaves have been mainly free from fungus.


True bugs (Hemiptera)

Eucalyptus tip-wilter (Amorbus alternatus)

The eucalyptus tip-wilter has tube mouth parts that it uses to suck the sap out of eucalyptus leaves. So, a very apt common name!

The left hand photo is of a juvenile/nymph, whilst the right hand one is of an adult. As you can see, the colouration is very different between the two, such that the uninformed would presumably think that they are different species.

Both adult and nymph can apparently emit a foul odour if disturbed to deter potential predators.

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