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Sticky beaks

August 23, 2014

Hover fly 1On sunny late winter days, a flowering Downy Zieria  (Zieria cytisoides) in our garden attracts a range of insects hungry for nectar. The zieria bush is native to Victoria, but not this district. The Common Hover Fly (Melangyna viridiceps) pictured at left and below, is, as its name suggests, skilled at hovering and can often be seen probing the small flowers with its proboscis (click on the photo for a closer look). The proboscis is a hollow tube used for feeding which is otherwise kept coiled – at least in butterflies and moths – not sure about the hover fly. Hover flies are beneficial as pollinators of native plants, while their maggots prey on aphids.Hover fly 2
Honey bee

 

 
As well as the hover fly, numerous feral Honey Bees (Apis mellifera), pictured below, visit the flowers. Feral honeybees, as opposed to managed honeybees, are generally considered detrimental to the Australian environment.

 

They are less effective pollinators of small native flowers and have been implicated in the decline of many species of flora.Their sheer numbers outcompete native insects and they are known to take up to 80% of floral resources, as well as possibly damaging the ovaries of some flowers by their size. They also, of course, occupy tree hollows (and nest boxes) which would otherwise be available for native birds and mammals.

Painted lady

 

 

Another occasional visitor to the zieria bush at the moment is the smallish butterfly pictured at right, which we think is an Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi), one of the first of the spring butterflies.

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