Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bugged in our own backyard

I like big bugs and I can-not lie! You other brothers can’t deny- okay, I’ll stop.

This is a short post mainly because it’s taken me longer to get the final Manic Episodes posts written, and also because a picture says thousand words, apparently, so these guys – these guys…

These guys are examples of the more unusual kinds of creatures that visit our back yard in suburban Wellington. They’re all native, quite big, and very beautiful.

I DO like big bugs, and one of my more notable voluntary jobs as a young Simian was assisting the natural history curator at the Otago Museum in Dunedin. As a keen entomologist, he had a brilliant collection of arthropods, and it was my job for two or three days to replace the camphor blocks in his seeming hundreds of drawers of specimens. Over those days and a pretty dull job otherwise I marvelled at beautiful jewelled butterflies and moths, curious beetles and bugs, some forlorn-looking spiders and more small flies than any sane angler could want to employ, each transfixed on their own individual pin for eternal scientific scrutiny. Carefully I’d scale his stepladder and slide out each drawer, open it slightly to place a new, pungent blue-white camphor block in to deter any living insect out for a free lunch, and each drawer would be a new discovery. They were a quiet bunch, mostly, save for one box which clattered like loose kindling as I lowered it off its high shelf; rolling around inside was a collection of what looked like stumpy branches and twigs, the longest maybe twenty centimetres long – the remains of what once may have been a more intact and proud giant stick insect.

 But these guys were fortunately all alive and well when Mrs Simian took their photos!
Giant Bush Dragonfly (Uropetala carovei)

Wellington Tree Weta (Hemideina cressidens)
Wellington Tree Weta (Hemideina cressidens) and pen-friend

A local Stick Insect (Ponderus greytownii)

And this just in for Guanolad: we had a katydid in the back garden just this evening :)


  1. Awww, that katydid was quite sweet.

    Have you been here to Aus? I was amazed at the size of the insects here when I first arrived, though wetas certainly give some a run for their money. Cicadas, dragonflies, moths, butterflies, mantises, even the wasps, are all enormous, and those are just the regular ones you see every day; who knows what's hiding in the corners.

  2. Yeah, our katydid last night was a lovable red-eyed slow-clumping curiosity. But he had no business being in our strawberries! So we got some snaps in with Jet Jr holding him before we released him into a nearby Camelia (the katydid, that is.)

    Of course, fending that weta away from our one ripening cherry tomato took a little more persuasion and a suitably-long paintbrush. I've had one down my back before after it dropped off the garage door as I was opening it, and while they're harmless lovable creatures, they can give you a fair nip. And, I suspect, he wanted that tomato! We're pretty sure he's technically a subtenant, as he lives under our doorstop.

    Regarding Aussie insects, I don't recall many big ones (the birds make a more immediate impression - particularly the crows and ibises!), but I do recall some bloody big-legged and colourful spiders and their webs while we were on the Gold Coast one year. And I think there's a relation of the weta in Oz called the Demon Grasshopper?

    Paging Brother Simian...

  3. What a lovely post - and exquisite photography. That's a very handsome Greytownis Ponderous, which reminds me that I helped a 'Bumblis Eratos' outside today. It was worrying persistently at a window pane, but eventually soared away despite not being at all aerodynamic.

  4. Bumblis eratos... I don't think you're taking this entomology thing at all seriously, my friend...

    Actually this morning I was remembering that it's not the largest bug we've ever found in our back yard. That would have to be the rather incredible specimen of the native earthworm Octochaetus multiporous - or rather, a section of it, as I'd put my spade through it while digging a vege bed. It may have been most of it - I hope it was, because my god, the blood... the section was maybe 20cm long and as thick as my finger, with lots of the characteristic milky fluid emerging from its pores. There are photos, but they're a grisly lot!!! We hurriedly put it back in the soil in our nice new freshly composted bed, so hopefully it made it :/