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Mole Cricket

I always get mixed reactions when I post pictures of creepy-crawlies. ¬†Some of you are quite squeamish! ūüôā ¬† I must admit, I am not particularly brave with critters that have six legs, especially if they’re the jumping, flying, leaping-about kind, but I do think they have as much right to be here as anyone else does, and they are all quite fascinating in their own way. ¬†Creepy, but fascinating.

Take, for example, Mr Mole Cricket. ¬†A fairly ugly son-of-a-gun, let’s face it. ¬†But look at those little moley-mole front legs! ¬†They use them for burrowing, of course, and do so in gardens across Western Australia (but they are found all over the world). ¬†They have a loud, shrill song which many people confuse with the chirping of frogs. ¬†The males even make special burrows to amplify their song, to attract the¬†ladeez.

One of the more unattractive traits that mole crickets posses is that they can (and quite happily do) squirt a stinky brown fluid at potential predators. ¬†If you’ve ever dealt with anal glands of any species (and I have, having been a vet nurse for ten years in my younger days) you want to avoid this happening. ¬†Don’t pick up a mole cricket unless you have to. ¬†And I really don’t know why you would ever HAVE to.

They’re not very jumpy so they don’t tend to leap out or suddenly land on you while you’re minding your own business. ¬†They are, by all accounts, pretty pathetic at jumping. ¬†Which makes other crickets and grasshoppers look scornfully at them and snub them at parties. ¬†These guys are not winning any popularity contests or prizes for athleticism.

They are a reasonably large insect – this one I photographed was about 5-6cm long – and can cause damage to people’s lawns, with their constant burrowing. ¬†They eat roots and leaf matter, and some are also predatory, consuming grubs and worms and other squishy delicacies. ¬†I apologise I don’t know which type this one was…I’m gonna go ahead and say he was a vegetarian. ¬†He was also sitting on a bike path so he may well have become quite squishy himself shortly. ¬†I wasn’t going to move him…y’know, the anal gland thing.

I see lots of different critters on my walks.  Mr Moley is probably not the prettiest of them all, but he deserves a spot in my blog as much as a beautiful swan or dainty duck.

Hope I didn’t freak you out too much ūüôā

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Mis-Beehaving

My Mum has a gorgeous garden. ¬†She keeps it¬†looking lovely, but also endeavours to make it as water-saving and bee/bird-friendly as possible. ¬†She has lots of natives combined with more traditional, cottage garden plants. ¬†It’s not easy having a nice garden in WA. ¬†The Summers are so hot and even in the “wetter” months things can dry out. A couple of years ago, Mum got a landscaper in to help her design an eco-friendly (but still beautiful) garden that she could maintain herself and continue to work on. ¬†She’s only a pensioner, my Mum, so it was all done on a strict budget, saving money where possible (the landscaper was brilliant).

What she ended up with is a low-maintenance garden that is pretty all year round and makes the most of every season. ¬†It is also very welcoming to native birds and bees and the odd frog or two. ¬†Mum’s been very keen on attracting the native Blue Banded Bee,¬†a cute little species of bee that lives a solitary life, with the females building¬†their nests in singular burrows, in mud or soft mortar (or you can build them a little house, like THESE). ¬†They don’t create large stores of honey, so they are not suitable for honey production. ¬†BBBs don’t mind having close neighbours, in fact they will often build their nests right next door to another bee, although they still do not behave in a “colony” kind of way.

They are excellent pollinators, using the “buzz” method, which means they grasp the flower and basically give it a good shake, by shivering their flight muscles, or banging their head on the flower (yes, really). ¬†This releases the pollen, which is hidden in tiny capsules. ¬†Many flowers require this type of pollination, so blue banded bees are very necessary to the continuation of several plant species.

While they do have a mild sting, BBBs are not very aggressive. ¬†They¬†move very quickly and can hover, unlike most other bees. ¬†They are a total pain to photograph (ha ha) because they don’t stay still for long, and move at a much faster pace than regular bees, zipping around in a blur that causes the photographer (ie me) to swear a lot and dance around the garden, yelling “Keep still, dammit!”

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If you look VERY closely, you can just see the bee, hovering about, in the centre of the photo.

They are attracted primarily to white or blue flowers (possibly because it is better for camouflage) and are particularly good at pollinating tomatoes, eggplants and kiwifruit apparently.  So much so, there are plans to use them as greenhouse bees for large-scale tomato production.

BBBs are small critters, about 11mm in length, and have bands of iridescent pale blue-almost white on their abdomens.  When they fly, they look like a little flash of blue.
At night, the males cling to ¬†plant stems, like tiny little chickens roosting for the night ūüôā

Bees, in general, are so important to the well-being of the planet.  We should look after them and give them happy habitats and clean environments.   I personally love the little critters (probably because I have never been stung!) and enjoy watching them and their behaviour.  I find if you just let them get on with their business, they will stay out of yours.  Blue Banded Bees are really nice to watch and because they are not aggressive, you can get up close and personal with them, plus there is no risk of being attacked by a swarm!

You can find out more info about the Blue Banded Bee HERE

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Finally Рa perfect shot!  It took me probably an hour to get this little guy to stay still long enough for me to take his photo.  Look at those amazing antennae and perfect stripes!