Butterflies in your garden

Mount Gravatt Environment Group

By: Michael Fox

Caper White – Belenois java

I am very lucky to live beside Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve so butterflies and birds are common in my garden. However, at the moment gardens all over Brisbane are welcoming butterflies in large numbers. “Why are there so many butterflies in Brisbane?”  Jessica HinchliffeABC Radio Brisbane

Splendid Ochre Trapezites symmomus





The Caper Whites Belenois javakept moving not wanting to be photographed but I did get a couple of photos. But I did find a Splendid Ochre Trapezites symmomus which posed perfectly for a photo. Note the characteristic antenna clubs which help identify species.




Cycad Blue Theclinesthes onycha laying eggs


The Cycad Blue Theclinesthes onycha are back for their annual visit. People often worry about the damage to the leaves on their Cycads. However, even being attacked by caterpillars of these…

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Hovering Hawk Moths in your garden

By: Michael Fox

In 1862 Charles Darwin wrote to a friend at Kew [Gardens] “I have just received such a Box full from Mr Bateman with the astounding Angraecum sesquipedalia [sic] with a nectary a foot long. Good Heavens what insect can suck it”, and in a second letter just a few days later suggested “in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and eleven inches [25.4–27.9cm]”. The Guardian

It was 130 years later that Darwin’s prediction was confirmed with the observation, in Madagascar, of Hawk Moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta using its 20cm tongue  or proboscis [prəˈbɒsɪs] to feed on orchid Angraecum sesquipedalia.

Video: Georgia Nierfeld

We have 65 species of hawk moths in Australia: like Georgia’s amazing Bee Hawk Moth Cephonodes kingii. While our hawk moths do not have huge 20cm tougues most are in the sub-family Macroglossinae: makros, large + glossa, tongue.  Their very long tongues (proboscis) allow them to hover in front of flowers while they access the plant nectar.

Hawk moths hovering in front of flowers are often mistaken for Hummingbirds which are only found in the Americas. The Bee Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the world and at 6cm it is similar in size to our Australian hawk moths.


Vine Hawk Moth - Hippotion celerio - 28 Apr 2020

Vine Hawk Moth

Keep a look out for these fascinating moths visiting your flowers. I found this beautiful Vine Hawk Moth Hippotion celerio just this week in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.


Consider downloading the iNaturalist app. You can take a photo with your phone and contribute your valuable sighting to Atlas of Living Australia.

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Cute Domino Coukoo Bee found

Domino Coukoo Bee - Thyreus lugubris 2 - 1 April 2020

Domino Coukoo Bee Thyreus lugubris

By: Michael Fox

Bored being stuck at home?

Explore your backyard looking for  some of the 2,000 plus species of solitary native bees, or just admire the many butterflies that have appeared since the rain.

Domino Coukoo Bee - Thyreus lugubris - 1 April 2020



I found this cute and well named Domino Coukoo Bee Thyreus lugubris at my home. This find brings the count of solitary native bees found in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.


Solitary Bee Homes - ver 5.0

Solitary native bees do not form colonies or produce honey. The females create a nest in hollows (Borders), make a nest in the ground (Burrowers) or chew a hollow in soft wood like Lantana stems (Borers).

The female bee then pack the nest with a pollen/nectar food mix then lay their eggs. In spring the next generation of bees emerge to pollinate our gardens.

Take a break to explore your garden and report your findings with the iNaturalist App on your smart phone.




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Women dig in for the environment

20200308_160350By: Laurie Deacon

Sunday was International Women’s Day 8th March and I ran the usual Pollinator Link® bush corridor regeneration at Mount Gravatt State High School with the neighbours.

We had three wonderful young local women attend the weeding and planting. Two are mums, each with a toddler and a baby in tow.





One dad also came to set an example for his young son.







Another interesting female participant was a young lass of fourteen years, Bec Morgan who is also a School Vice Captain of Cavendish Road High Junior School and currently completing her Duke of Edinburgh Program.








Marvellous local man David has been coming for eight years now 🌱🌳🐨🌳. We had apologies from a few other folks.






So on International Women’s Day these ladies didn’t just talk … they showed us, as they gifted their precious time to our local community and the School and Nature Care. Their children do not even go to this school!




Feb MGSHS Koala

Last word from the School Koala … thanks to all, for your care of my home.




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Order in the Chaos – Part I: Flying Cats and Triangle Slugs

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on Mildly Extreme:
After my adrenaline-pumping rock climbing fiasco, it’s time for a complete change of pace. Sit back, relax, and let me take you on a little journey into the wild. Unlike the unfortunate experience of Christopher…

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Get with the Buzz at Elorac Place

By: Michael Fox

The Pollinator Link® team was proud to be invited to be part of the Health and Wellbeing Expo organised by the Elorac Place Community Centre in Ellen Grove.

It was a pleasure to experience the community spirit created by the Centre team including Tania Kelsey, the energetic Community Capacity Coordinator.

Our newest Pollinator Link® volunteer Andy Howe shared his passion for pollinators with the audience introducing them to our amazing solitary native bees.

Andy talking pollinators - 17 Oct 2019

Andy Howe Ecologist

Andy has recently returned from Denmark where his research was focused on pollinators using wildflowers on nature strips in urban spaces. Andy also worked with local government to design of storm water infrastructure to retain more water for the attractive wildflower nature strips.

One of Andy’s tips is to plant blue, yellow and white flowering plants. For plants that will thrive in your garden download GroNative app. Plant Local to Feed Locals will also bring more butterflies, as well as bees, to your garden. Blue Pincushion Brunonia australis is an attractive local that would typically have grown in the Ellen Grove area.


Guardian home - 17 Oct 2019

The Expo was also a soft launch for the Pollinator Link® Guardian scheme which aims to bring our solitary native bees back to urban habitats. The Guardian scheme is based on a similar scheme in the UK: Mason Bees UK, with formal roll-out depending on research of specifications required for local species.










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What’s in your garden today?

By: Michael Fox

Thanks to Georgia Nierfeld for great video of a Bee Hawk Moth Cephonodes kingii in her family’s Pollinator Link® front garden at Chandler.

Great Carpenter Bee -Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) aruana 2 - Chandler - Nov 2019 - Georgia

Great Carpenter Bee (female)

Georgia also found a female Great Carpenter Bee Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) aruana. Australia’s largest solitary bee the female chews a nest in soft timber such as dead limbs of a mango tree. The females (see photograph below) have glossy black abdomens and bright yellow waistcoats.

Australia has over 2,000 species solitary native bees that need specialist homes you can make.

Caper White - Belenois java - male - 11 Nov 2019

I photographed this male Caper White Belenois java butterfly this morning along the Eastern Outlook Track Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

Caper Whites periodically visit Brisbane in huge numbers. However, there are always some of these attractive butterflies visiting the Reserve in spring. Our National Tree Day plantings include Brush Caper Berry Capparis arborea caterpillar food plant for the Caper White so hopefully we will see butterfly population increasing.



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Proud Builders: New Homes for Solitary Bees


By: Michael Fox


Providing Water, Food and Shelter are the key to bringing Birds, Butterflies and Bees back to our urban habitats.

The Construction Team gathered at Downfall Creek Environment Centre to build new homes for our homeless city bees.


Solitary Bee Homes - ver 5.0Clearing all the bush and covering the ground with houses, roads and even lawns means that solitary native bees have a shortage of housing in our cities. Australia has over 2,000 species of solitary bees. Some, like female Leaf-cutter and Resin Bees are boarders that look for hollows where they can make a nest to fill with pollen and nectar before laying their eggs. Teddy Bear and Blue Banded Bees are burrowers that nested in ground now covered by roads. Borers, like Green Carpenter and Great Carpenter Bees, chew into soft timber to make a nest.


Drill Hammer Paint - 20 Oct 2019

The Bee Home kits were made from reused hardwood ply donated by Benchmark Scaffolding at Yatala. Construction skills required included pre-drilling nail holes in the hardwood, nailing the kits together and painting with eco-friendly Lanotec made with lanolin. Proud builders - 20 Oct 2019

A proud team of constructors with their new Bee Homes ready for installation.





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Christmas Gift Ideas

By: Michael Fox

Looking for Christmas gift ideas for others or for yourself?

Two excellent books I have read this year are Habitat by AB Bishop and Feeding the Birds at Your Table by Darryl Jones.

Habitat AB Bishop

Habitat: A practical guide to creating a wildlife-friendly Australia gardens – AB Bishop

AB Bishop, horticulturist and presenter on Gardening Australia, has produced a well written guide with easy to action information on how to bring Birds, Butterflies and Bees back to our urban habitats. Importantly this is not simply a DIY guide, AB also underpins the action steps with accessible detail of the science and terminology.

I particularly liked the Plant Directory section that started with a climate zone map followed by a beautifully presented plant guide that will inform and inspire your garden planting.GroNative card heading

If your gift is for a gardener in South East Queensland the Griffith University GroNative app. (iPhone/Google Play) will be an excellent complement to the book.

Feeding Birds at Your TableFeeding the Birds at Your Table: A Guide for Australia – Darryl Jones

Buying a gift for family or friend who loves to feed birds in their backyards?

Griffith University’s Darryl Jones book disperses many myths about feeding our Australian birds and provides practical information on feeding.

If you are feeding our 2017 Bird of the Year the Australian Magpie, drop the mince or salami junk food which are not a suitable substitute for the bird’s natural diet, even commercial pet food made for dogs and cats is a surprising better option.

iNaturalist header

Love to feed birds in your backyard? Contribute to our knowledge of birds in our urban habitats with iNaturalist app. All the data you collect will add to the knowledge base of Atlas of Living Australia.

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UK Solitary Bee Guardian Scheme

By: Michael Fox

Our cocoon-sharing program is the only one of its kind in the UK and makes caring for red mason bees even more accessible by taking out some of the dirtier, trickier elements of the process.

It’s the perfect way to get started if you’re new to the world of solitary bees!

Chris Whittles MasonBees UK



Meeting Chris and John Whittles at their Shrewsbury, MasonBees UK business has been a highlight of my travels. Chris is an agronomist by training and founder of the very successful CJ Wildlife: suppliers of species specific bird feeders and food. Chris’ focus on research means over 80 species are now being fed, up from an initial 18 species. Chris’ research has also demonstrated the importance of year round feeding for UK garden birds. Chris was also interviewed by Daryl Jones for his excellent book The Birds at My Table: Why We Feed Wild Birds and Why It Matters.



Bee Lodge & nesting tubes

John and Chris produce solitary bee homes in different formats like this Bee Lodge(TM) that includes a removable draw. Great for educational purposes as the individual Mason or Leaf-cutter nest cells to be observed through clear plastic panel. 


Viewing draw


Designs are evolving with experience, for example, longer nesting tubes increasing bee production. However, at this time, the most common design in use is a simple pipe firmly clamped to a support with a slight downward angle for drainage. The pipe is filled with bundles of nesting tubes. 

Pipe Bee Lodge - close - 30 Aug 2019








Chris’ agronomist background means that he has a strong focus on research and innovation as well as a focus on scale-ability of their solitary bee project. 


  • Narrow species focus: Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornus
    • Adopting a narrow species focus has allowed refinement of Bee Home design to maximise reproductive success.
  • Development of easy maintenance nesting tubes
    • Two part cardboard nesting tubes:
      • Inner tubes are easily removed when full. Tubes are then soaked in water to release the cocoons ready for storage over winter. 
      • Soaking nest tube - photo - masonbees

        Soaking nest tubes – Photo: MasonBees UK

        Outer tubes are then refitted with clean inner tubes ready for next season. 
    • Working this way dramatically reduces build up of parasites in nest tubes and pheromones retained in outer tubes attract bees back next season. 
  • Guardian Scheme 
    • Probably the most innovative initiative is establishment of the Guardian Scheme which allows bee lovers, gardeners and farmers right across the UK to be part of a native bee recovery programme.
    • Guardians make an initial investment in a Guardian Kit then send mud-capped tubes back in September. In return, Guardians are told what was found inside their tubes and they are sent new cocoons in spring – along with a replacement tube refill for each one sent in.
    • Over 1,000 Guardians are now active across the United Kingdom. 



Chris collecting nest tubes

Chris and John are proud of the success of the Guardian Scheme. So we visited Attingham’s Walled Garden, a local site where Bee Homes have been installed progressively over the past five years. 


When they started installing the Bee Homes the apple orchard section of the Garden had never produced a crop. The day we visited the apple trees were heavy with fruit. Productivity across the whole garden had improved dramatically with the help of the solitary native bee pollinators. 



Thanks to Chris and John for your generous time sharing your experience. 





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