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Pardalotes love eating lerps

March 8, 2014

Most households have words or phrases that have special meanings to them. To outsiders these phrases have a different meaning or even appear nonsensical. One of our phrases is ‘Pardalotes love eating lerps’. We read this sentence on an information board while camping at Wyperfeld National Park in northern Victoria. As we lived in the city at the time, we had no idea what a pardalote was, let alone a lerp. In our house this term is used to describe anything said that is meaningless or unintelligible. It is often directed at the TV, especially at politicians.

Spotted Pardalote looking for a lerp

Spotted Pardalote looking for a lerp

Now that we live in the bush, pardalotes and lerps are our neighbours. Pardalotes (Pardalotus sp.) (from the Greek pardalotus meaning spotted like a leopard) are brightly coloured birds closely related to scrubwrens and thornbills. They are common but not often seen birds that tunnel into the ground to build nests. The Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctus) pictured left and the Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) are widespread through southeastern Australia.

Lerps on the other hand are the protective covers that the larvae of psyllid insects build to protect themselves from predators and

Ants tending Sugar Lerps (Glycaspis sp.)

Ants tending Sugar Lerps (Glycaspis sp.)

parasites. The larvae exude honeydew which mixes with amino acids to form the crystallised honeydew lerp. As with the recently featured Gumtree Hoppers, which also exude liquid honeydew (click HERE to view), lerps are usually tended by ants (pictured right). In exchange for honeydew the ants offer protection against predators. Given the writing on the information board, I am guessing the ants aren’t very effective against predators such as pardalotes.

If this article makes no sense to you at all, you know what phrase to use. We will get the message.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    March 8, 2014 10:34 am

    Sorry if I am a bit dense – I cannot work out the analogy! but I will look out for the pardalotes gathering the sugary lerps. I have noticed lots of little birds high in the gums so maybe that is what they are eating! I love your stories of life in the country so keep observing and writing Ron. David regales a good story as well – particularly the travails of Wilma! Susan

  2. Lesley permalink
    March 8, 2014 10:58 am

    I had a little tribe of Striated Pardalotes here, and one Spotted, but with the arrival of the Grey Butcherbird, they vanished, I know not where. Hopefully they seized the moment to take a break, and wre not eaten. Have seen one since the Butcherbird moved on, (with a little encouragement from me).


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