Gippsland Summer – The Insects

Of course summer is the time of year when all the insects come out in their droves, some quite neat and others extremely annoying. The Australian bushflies and blowflies are probably the worst of the lot, with March flies a good second. On the other hand, dragonflies are probably the most ‘summery’ of insects, especially in the bush, flitting about the riverbanks and occasionally allowing you to get a few shots. Our female hound can spend hours running up and down the river trying to catch these elusive insects, attracted by their sparkling wings. Some of the dragonflies are very colourful, others less so.

Dragonfly - Goulburn River Victoria

Dragonfly – Goulburn River Victoria

Dragonfly - Goulburn River Victoria

Dragonfly – Goulburn River Victoria

Other insects that are pretty much everywhere are the ants. They vary in size from ones that you can barely see, to sizes that you wished you couldn’t see. However, in the animal (or insect) world, size isn’t a factor determining survival, often the smaller critter can prevail, as I noted one day on a walk. In this instance, I don’t know whether there was a battle, or just a lucky find, but in any case, the smaller of the two ants was clearly in charge of the larger one. I have no idea for how long the long-haul had been going on, but in the time that I watched the efforts of the smaller ant, it had already moved well over a metre in a relatively short time; the life and death cycle continues all the time, regardless of creature.

Ant Victory - Goulburn River Victoria

Ant Victory – Goulburn River Victoria

And at the other end of the spectrum, there are the bigger insects winning over the smaller ones. In this case it was a Robber Fly making a meal of a bushfly (worth a photo). Anything that diminishes the number of bushflies (as well as blowflies) is a good thing and worth highlighting. While the bushflies and blowflies may serve a purpose in nature’s cycle, why they need to be in such plague proportions and such a pain in Australia is anyone’s guess. I vote for more Robber Flies, especially when I’m making a curry, to keep the blowies at bay who seem to be particularly attracted to my cooking (no, my cooking doesn’t smell or taste like what you’re thinking). And the bush is also host to weird looking beetles and whatnot, a never ending line of something new.

Orange-Legged, Black, Robber Fly with captured fly - Mirboo North Victoria

Orange-Legged, Black, Robber Fly with captured fly – Mirboo North Victoria

Longhorn Beetle (?) - Goulburn River Victoria

Longhorn Beetle (?) – Goulburn River Victoria

Then we have that other group, which also seem to appear just about everywhere in the world and they are the arachnids. The biggest of these in our neck of the woods is the huntsman spider, which lives under the bark of trees and, when you cut up dead trees laying on the ground, you’ll invariably come across more than one as you strip off the dried bark. Mostly they are quite harmless and don’t get overly agitated unless they are really harassed. We never kill these spiders, but persuade them to move to safer environs if we find them amongst the wood (or at home, or in the car etc). The variety of colours and shapes of the huntsman spider are sometimes surprising, and the sizes can send arachnophobes running off at a rapid pace. Our back yard also has its share of Orb Weaver spiders of all shapes and sizes.

Very large Huntsman spider (about 40mm from palps to tail) - Goulburn River Victoria

Very large Huntsman spider (about 40mm from palps to tail) – Goulburn River Victoria

Six-legged huntsman spider (about 35mm from fangs to tail) - Nunniong Plains Victoria

Six-legged huntsman spider (about 35mm from fangs to tail) – Nunniong Plains Victoria

Orb Weaver Spider - Mirboo North Victoria

Orb Weaver Spider – Mirboo North Victoria

And when it comes to the slower moving critters, you need to keep an eye out for them, as they can be easily missed, usually blending into their surrounds. And you can even come across weird, seemingly two-headed, caterpillars (no amount of searching gave me any clue as to its designation). I think, in this instance, the head is actually at the bottom of the photograph. The second one is a lot smaller and I didn’t see it there the day before.

Two-Headed Caterpillar - Mirboo North Victoria

Two-Headed Caterpillar – Mirboo North Victoria

Two-Headed Caterpillar - Mirboo North Victoria

Two-Headed Caterpillar – Mirboo North Victoria

The camouflaged insects can be some of the most interesting and you can stare at a plant for minutes and not see anything, and then suddenly you realise that you’ve been looking at one all along. Stick insects are very adept at camouflage and simply blend in like a piece of bark or a broken stick. This one was about 18cm (7″) long; however, we’ve had ones that have been much bigger where unfortunately, at the time, the conditions weren’t ideal for taking a photograph.

Stick Insect - Mirboo North Victoria

Stick Insect – Mirboo North Victoria

Stick Insect - Mirboo North Victoria

Stick Insect – Mirboo North Victoria

Stick Insect - Mirboo North Victoria

Stick Insect – Mirboo North Victoria

Stick Insect - Mirboo North Victoria

Stick Insect – Mirboo North Victoria

The variety of insects in the world is enormous, and one could photograph them for a lifetime and not cover even a portion of their number. While I find insects interesting, especially when something unique appears, I don’t generally go looking for them as a matter of course. This series simply started from our Christmas camping trip and evolved into a short story.