Sunday, 15 October 2006

Wasp waste

I made two decisions this morning. Neither of them terribly significant.

The first is that I'm going to get the house to a stage where I'm not embarrassed to let people through the front door.

The second is that I'm going to learn more about Australian bees, wasps and ants (order Hymenoptera).

(I know. This is hardly Hold the front page! stuff. But I can't be on full throttle all the time.)

One of these is more difficult to achieve than the other. I'm not sure which. It's true there are about 15,000 described species of Hymenoptera in Australia, many of which can only be identified under a microscope by experts who have teased out their reproductive tracts. (That's the insects' reproductive tracts, not those of the experts.) And that could be considered a bit tricky, taking years to amass the relevant scientific literature and hone the necessary skills. But ... well ... you haven't seen my house.

So here is the first step in my new-found interest in native bees, wasps, ants and sawflies. (Second step, if you count this fuzzy bee photo.) It's a wasp. Or a bee. No, it's probably a wasp. (No, not the bug in the middle. The thing up in the top left corner.) It was on my weeds. Now, if I had all the relevant scientific literature, the necessary skills, a microscope and an expert with teased out reproductive tract, I could tell you what it was.

But I haven't. So I might just clean up the bathroom instead.


Sherryl said...

In your about-to-be new-found bee wisdom, can you comment on this? Today we were up at Lancefield, to back to nearly home in Melbourne and a bee surfaced in the car (I didn't ask where it had been hiding but it had definitely stowed away). I opened the window and let it out, then thought, Hang on, now it has lost its swarm/hive/whatever. Have I just doomed it to oblivion?

Snail said...

If it was an honey bee, then you probably have. (Unless it was a dispersing queen. They head off on their own to start a new swarm.)

If a native ... well, a lot of those are solitary, so it'll be fine out there in the wide world.

Still, it took its chance. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is good news. There'll be two of us struggling with this sisyphean task.
And by the way, I reckon it's a bee, just to rock the boat. Can I see pollen on its legs?
Even if I can't, I'm punting Halictid.
yrs hymenopterally

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Cheryl - one less honey bee makes the world a fractionally better place.

Snail said...

When I lived in the UK, I was given a reference collection of bumblebees by a naturalist who specialised in bees. Bumblebees are so easy compared with these little beggars.

See! I can't even tell the difference between one complex group of hymenopterans and another. I'm going to have to make a reference collection.

David Nelson said...

It's a bee, and Homalictus by the looks of it.

Snail said...

Thanks, David. Anon (above) got it down to Halictidae, so now you've narrowed it down to genus. What about species, eh? Are you game?!