Thursday, March 25, 2010

Let out your Inner Communist!

This year, a special farewell wave to Senator Nick Minchin, who has just announced his retirement from politics. His best-known comment on climate change action is:
For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they've always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and they, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion. *
Therefore, I must be a Communist. Come and join me on the Dark Side! Literally!

* From the transcript of Four Corners' "Malcolm and the Malcontents", first broadcast 9 November 2009. When the program was first broadcast, Adelaide was experiencing its first ever November heatwave (five days or more where the maximum temperature reached 35 C/95 F). The heatwave ran for eight days.

Friday, March 19, 2010


My Grandma used to say this old rhyme:

The redback spider is a curse,
Just one bite will send you off in a hearse.

Between 1870, when they were first identified, and 1956, when the antivenom was developed, there were 13 known deaths from redback bite. Bites are relatively common, as the spiders like our back yards; in fact five people required treatment for bites in NSW on the 15th of March this year.

I noticed this attractive young Latrodectus hasselti in the top of the chooks' water container today. She's only small -- that blue cap is about 3cm across. Big redbacks have a 1cm abdomen and would therefore fill the lid. I think youth might account for the patterning of the abdomen too; older redbacks tend to favour a Little Black Dress with a single red stripe. More information on our poisonous little friend here.

Redbacks have a very distinctive tangled web, with lots of three-way joins:

I think this tiny fellow wrapping the sandwiches is the young lady's boyfriend. His is a short life: redbacks are a feminist species and usually eat their mate as part of the breeding process.

Both spiders met an untimely death after these photos were taken.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Removing the (Literal) Dead Wood

This afternoon was good gardening weather with comfortable temperatures of about 22 C. So it was time to bring out the pruning saw and the secateurs for an afternoon of removing dead trees and shrubs. You might remember that last summer, we spotted borers in a wattle tree. Well, the tree finally bit the dust, and here is some of the damage the borers did.

As I started cutting back branches on a Fringe Wattle, I found one of the culprits! This fellow is a relative of the witchetty grubs of Central Australia, probably the larva of a cossid moth.

I was sorry to see that my Sydney Red Gum had also succumbed. As it is a native of our sandstone country, it had struggled here, but I was keen to have one of these beautiful trees. In more than ten years it had grown no taller than I am! We are hoping to replace it with a Parramatta Wattle as it's about as far from our house as we can get it. You can see a "little" Parramatta Wattle in the background.

I may have lost my hop-bushes, a wattle, a gum and a tea-tree today, but some other plants are doing well. Here is the last flower on our Eucalyptus 'Summer Beauty': summer is indeed over.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mystery Solved!

While trying to identify the blue-spotted bee the other day, I found out the name of this fellow, who showed up in my Christmas Leftovers post in 2008:

He is a Punctate Flower Chafer Beetle. More information from the Australian Museum here.


We found this gorgeous creature hanging around with the honey bees this morning, getting nectar from a basil bush.

As they say at Aussie Bee:
The Neon Cuckoo Bee, Thyreus nitidulus. Stunningly beautiful, with glittering metallic blue spots, these bees lead a life of deceit! They prey on the nests of blue banded bees.

I do see blue banded bees regularly; they would be one of the commonest native bees in suburbia. I've never seen a Neon Cuckoo Bee before though, and unlike our native stingless bees she's a bit hard to overlook!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Listada di Gandia

If anyone speaks Italian, they can tell me the correct preposition: you'll find it sold with de, da or di as the middle word. At any rate, it is a beautiful eggplant. I picked this one today, but I'll have to develop my ripeness sensor -- it's still green. Taste test results to follow.