This is where an interest in insects comes in handy. Insects are 'ectotherms', meaning that their energy must partially come from an external heat source, usually in the form of light. Mid-morning as the sun climbs higher is a great time to go
looking for them, letting you have that potentially necessary sleep-in from the night before. Thank you, thoughtful ectotherms!
For this weekend's foray into the world of my six-legged buddies, I take an easy stroll around Ferguson Park, in the north-west Brisbane suburb of Enoggera. It's basically a small patch of lawn bordered by a weed-infested creek, though a glorious Tree Fern (Cyathea species) survives.
|Creek along Ferguson Park perimeter. INSET: Golden-Orb Weaver and Grey Butcherbird|
In this altered and degraded habitat, there's less opportunity for insects to hide, and the first thing I notice are their predators. Several different types of spiders abound here, including Golden Orb Weavers (Nephila plumipes) and a flowering bush full of juvenile Tent Spiders (Cyrtophora moluccensis). A Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus) also patrols the lawn areas, devouring low-flying insects.
|Clear-sided Bush Cockroach|
Bolder insects in the park are usually the ones that can protect themselves somehow. In the afore-mentioned 'spidery' bush, Brown Flower Beetles (Glycyphana stolata) fly brazenly around the blossoms, reassured by the strength of their hard body armour. This protective casing over the wings and abdomen is one of the main differences between a 'beetle' and a 'bug', with the latter being able to defend themselves using their strong, piercing mouthparts instead. In the photo below, you can see the transparent, fragile wing of the Flower Beetle slipping out from underneath its armour as the little guy prepares for take-off.
|Brown Flower Beetle|
If you can't be invisible or strong in the insect world, then it pays to be very quick! Around the perimeter of the park, Wide-banded Grassdarts (Suniana sunias) weave nimbly through the long grass. As their name suggests, the shape of their wings resembles a dart or an arrow and gives them great speed and manoeuvrability. What it doesn't give them, however, is long-distance flying power, which is a skill given to broad-winged butterflies like the Lemon Migrant (Catopsilia pomona). For this reason, the Grassdarts become quite territorial over their little patches of the park, defending their food plants from each other with aerial chases and wing displays.
An hour and a half of witnessing these tiny survival dramas sees me leave the park feeling restored in a way like no other, ready to tackle more human dramas and that inevitable Monday morning.