There aren’t a lot of good things you can say about extreme cold weather, but the one positive of cold climates is there are fewer insects. In Canada, there were flies, black flies, and mosquitos, plus the occassional other annoyance in summer. In Australia, it never gets cold enough to kill things so there are a lot of different bugs. Flying bugs. Crawling bugs. Spiders. Flies. All varieties. A common phrase in the house is
“Hey, wanna see the ‘coolest’ ‘most interesting’ ‘freakiest’ (choose one, or two, or all…) bug you’ve ever seen” and often it is cooler or freakier than the one that elicited that statement a couple days earlier. Here’s a rundown of some of our favourite, least favourite, and most interesting ones. Unfortunately, many of these are very transitory and also appear at night, so we don’t have a lot of good photos. Which we know you all really want to see! Some of the photos here are ours, some borrowed…
Beetles: By far the most interesting (well, maybe not, there are some fascinating bugs here) insect around. There are something like 2000 different beetles in Australia all falling under the generic name of Christmas Beetle, because in the two or three weeks leading up to and surrounding Christmas, they are everywhere. Everywhere.
As night falls in Wagga, they wake up and get stupid, flying into lights, walls, people, whatever they can run into. If whatever they hit is hard, they bounce off and land on their back and then squirm around like a turtle for a while, trying to get upright. Dumb bugs. And if what they hit is soft, such as a person, they stick…to your clothes, hair, whatever. Lisa finds them annoying, partly because of how many there are – they chase us indoors in the evening, because on our little patio there could be upwards of 100 at a time, buzzing, bouncing, sticking… They sometimes would get into the house, if we had the patio door open or they could squeeze in other ways, and this thrilled Lester to no end. Mmmm, crunchy snacks! Usually, these beetles only come out at night, but there are odd occasions when you will see them in the day – such as when we were down in King Valley for New Years and cycling one day around noon on the rail trail. They were out in abundance that day, huge ones too, bouncing off of us. It was like a game of frogger except with bugs and bikes.
Jumping/flying bugs: We’re going to lump grasshoppers, mantids and crickets together. No reason really except sometimes grasshoppers and crickets look and act the same, and we’ve also been confusing our grasshoppers with mantises recently. We usually have a mantis of some sort hanging around the house. Usually literally hanging on…they like to be on the walls and windows. They are a lot bigger than the ones we were used to in Canada.
At times, we have also thought that some of them – usually the brown ones – might be stickbugs but are pretty sure they are just some sort of mantis. Then this year we’ve had a lot of matchstick grasshoppers, cool skinny stick-like bugs that are almost impossible to see until they move. The green ones look like a blade of grass; brown ones blend in perfectly with the sugarcane straw mulch we have on some of the garden beds. Even when you see them go, you might see them land but not be able to find them. Then there are the crickets. Big black field crickets, all over the place. They are in the garden, on the patio, in the garage…occasionally one gets into the house for Lester to play with. They aren’t a worry at all, and really no reason to write about them except to point out that they are huge. And they seem to have a short lifespan, and end up dying on the patio and front steps, where they get devoured by ants.
Ants: Everywhere. Tiny black ants, always seeming to be going somewhere in a long line, back and forth. And something we have learned about ants since moving here is that they are carnivores – at least these ones. Crickets, spiders, beetles, etc., when they die, quite quickly get devoured by a bunch of ants. Some days, it seems that there are endless trails of ants, scurrying about doing their ant business, back and forth on a very determined path. One day, it got a bit much…their paths were going over our feet on the patio! So Dan went to Bunnings for some ant spray and sprayed the patio. Well the ants are too smart for that: next few days, ants all over the table and chairs. Luckily the spray didn’t work to well and they are now back on the ground where they belong, keeping the other dead critters cleaned up.
Wasps and bees: There are some really cool wasps in Wagga: mud daubers and potters. Mud daubers are the most common, and they build little tube-shaped ‘nests’ or ‘cells’ out of mud on the brick of our house. They then sting a spider to paralyze it, put it in the nest and lay an egg on it, then seal off the cell. The baby feeds off the spider, then eventually emerges from the cell. Potters wasps are similar but the things they build are bigger and more like a dome. We haven’t seen many of these.
And then there are the many varieties of bees that hang out in the herb bed, harvesting pollen. They aren’t honey bees, as in a commercial colony nearby harvesting. And they aren’t all the same…some are really odd – that “hey you wanna see a cool bug” call-out one day was because the basil plants were infested with bees with purple spots on their backs. WTF?
Anyway, there’s always a lot of bees playing around in whatever flowers, and they don’t seem at all dangerous.
We have some cool flowering ground cover in our garden, and there’s usually hundreds of bees swarming on it…Dan walks across it to get the newspaper (we think the delivery guy tosses it there as a challenge), or Dan sticks his hand into whatever bunch of herbs to harvest some. Notice we say Dan does…Lisa isn’t that dumb. But though these aren’t honey bees as such, we are really curious to know what happens with the pollen they gather – what would honey taste like made from a combination of mint, basil, and fennel flowers?
So that’s a bit of a quickie rundown on the bugs around Wagga. A few of them anyway…we didn’t mention that potato bugs, the thrips, the week of little tiny flies that made us break down and by a bug zapper (that we were worried was going to blow from overuse on its first night), the cool ones with an X on their back (at some point the “hey, you wanna see the…” call will get answered with “that’s not as freaky/cool as the one with an X on its back”) or the various orange and black things flying around (not sure why, but those seem to be common colours…maybe there’s a footy team that most Wagga bugs follow), or the spiders. Because spiders aren’t insects…but we could tell you stories about how they’ve reacted to the heat…a fence covered in big black spiders, redbacks in the house (!!!!!!!), huntsman in the house (!). But those are tales for another day.