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All creatures small and smaller

February 19, 2020

Very often we don’t spend the time to stop and smell the roses…or in this case smell the honey. Many eucalypts are flowering at the moment and you can be forgiven for not noticing given the flowers are pale yellow and high up in the trees. Locally there is a Swamp Gum (Eucalyptus ovata) with its crown bent over so that the flowers are at ground level. The heady scent of honey is attracting all sorts of critters, in particular wasps. So I have been staking out the tree to try and photograph some wasps for an upcoming talk.

Whilst sitting and waiting I noticed all manner of small insects also attracted to the rich nectar source. These I would not have noticed (you can get some idea of their size by comparing what they are sitting on) unless I had stopped and watched. Pictured left and below is an Ant Fly (Family Sepsidae), so called because they usually gather in large groups and from a distance look exactly like ants. The adults are nectar feeders. The one pictured is ‘bubbling’, the practice of evaporating all the water out of the nectar so that it can consume more of ‘the good stuff’. These flies are usually found around manure where they lay their eggs. The larvae are efficient composters of it.

Smaller still was this Chalcid Wasp pictured (right) on a eucalypt leaf. Again the adults are nectar feeders. Most species from this family of wasps are parasitoid – they lay their eggs on a live but paralysed host i.e. they are parasitic but resulting in the host’s death. Some species though are termed hyperparasitoid (now focus) they lay their eggs on the eggs of wasps that lay their eggs on a host. Small in size…large in confusion.

I wonder what the term is for a wasp that lays its eggs on the eggs of a Chalcid Wasp?

More Swamp Gum tales to follow!

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