Thursday, 9 June 2016

Into the garden wilderness

Small brown paper wasps, East Brisbane.

I’ve been battling a chest infection this week and haven’t felt like venturing too far from home.

Luckily, when it comes to nature, it’s not necessary to. 

A quick study of the invertebrates in my East Brisbane courtyard on Wednesday was enough to satisfy my outdoor yearnings while I recovered from illness.

Coastal brown ant, East Brisbane.
First up were the ants.

Most people see ants and feel satisfied with an ID of ‘ants’—oh to have one’s curiosity so easily met!

The large colonies of tiny brown ants living under the pavers in my courtyard are coastal brown ants (Pheidole megacephala), a species that has spread so far around the world that scientists aren’t entirely sure where it began its journey from.

Native tropical pedicel ants (Technomyrmex sophiae) were also present, scouting along invisible trails they’d left on the outdoor furniture.

Earthworm, East Brisbane.

Lynx spider, East Brisbane.
Under a stone was a large and healthy looking earthworm, possibly the introduced Aporrectodea trapezoides.

It seems earthworms are the exception to the idea that exotic species are detrimental to our environment—there are plenty of introduced varieties in Australia.

Living among the leafy garden vegetation were several lynx spiders (Oxyopes species).

They were dwarfed by a much bigger spider—though this one still a young individual—the coastal golden orb-weaver (Nephila plumipes)

Coastal golden orb-weaver, East Brisbane.

Under the leaf litter in the garden, I found a small spider that at first appeared to be a white-tailed spider (Lamponidae family).

Long-spinneret ground spider, East Brisbane.

Wasp nests, East Brisbane.
The body shape didn't look quite right for that ID however, and I thought that perhaps the pale abdomen tip was tricking me. After searching the excellent "Find-A-Spider" website, I think it is most likely a long-spinneret ground spider (Molycria species).

All of these spiders are fairly harmless, but one invertebrate capable of inflicting pain is the small brown paper wasp (Ropalidia revolutionalis).

I found several of them clinging to their vertically-suspended, stick-shaped nests in the garden shrubbery, and also on the townhouse exterior.

I find this species to be a peaceful little creature unless its nest is tampered with; the adults pollinate flowers and catch pest insects to feed their young, so are beneficial to have around.

Fruit fly, East Brisbane.

A variety of flies live in the garden also, including a species of fruit fly (Drosophila sp) and the large greenbottle (Chrysomya rufifacies).

Large greenbottle, East Brisbane.

Last of all was a buzzing mosquito that I managed to have a closer look at.

The white lyre-shaped marking on the thorax identified it as a domestic container mosquito (Ochlerotatus notoscriptus), a pest species that breeds in small pools of water, such as in pot plant saucers and tree cavities.

Domestic container mosquito, East Brisbane.

It is a vector of several diseases including dog heartworm and Ross River virus—given that I already felt sick, I thought it was a sign I should get back to bed!

The experience was a good reminder that nature isn’t “out there” somewhere, it actually surrounds us at all times, in our gardens, by our driveways, inside our homes.


  1. Sorry to hear you have not been well and I hope your chest infection clears up quickly. It's good that you were able to get out into your garden to go on these lovely photographs of the critters you find

    1. Thank you Margaret, I appreciate your well wishes and am on the mend! :)

  2. We're impressed by your macro photography and your knowledge of all things great and small Christian.

  3. Get well soon - in the meantime the enjoyment you have derived from your garden is quite wonderful. As you say, nature is everywhere. Right now I am watching a spider scurry across my desk!

    1. Thanks David, I have recovered well. Glad you recognise the living things all around, even on your desk haha!