Insects that thrive on our native plants

By Michelle de Mol

Insects and plants evolved together and are co-dependent. Michelle de Mol, one of our Blue Mountains members, is passionate about observing and documenting, in pictures, these relationships between our native flora and fauna. Here are some wonderful photos she shared with us to showcase these relationships. Thank you Michelle. 

Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi) with Caper White (Belenois java) in Blue Mountains, NSW
A Yellow-green Austral-Nomia (male) native bee pollinates a Flannel Flower (Actinotus Helianthi). in Blue Mountains
Littler's Masked Bee (Hylaeus littleri), female, on an Old Man Banksia (Banksia Serrata) flower. She is collecting nectar and pollen to feed to her babies. After collecting this she flew to a leaf of the same plant and proceeded to concentrate the nectar and pollen through a process called "Bubbling". Photographed Feb 2023 in the lower Blue Mountains, NSW
Banksia Bee (Hylaeus alcyoneus) on an Old Man Banksia (Banksia serrata) flower 1 January 2023 - lower Blue Mountains NSW Info from an admin in a native bee group: "VERY territorial little man...he has spurs under his abdomen. He uses these to fight off the opposition. He’s patrolling and fanning to spread his pheromones about in the hope of attracting a female or two"
Blue Mountains, NSW Genus of beetle: Diphucephala (no common name) - an Australian native beetle on Bulbine bulbosa. This little beetle spent the day resting in this flower in my garden before flying off.
Tick Bush (on iNaturalist it is also called "Butterfly Bush). Kunzea ambigua 26th Nov 2022 - Lower Blue Mountains, NSW The jewel beetle Castiarina thomsoni is drinking the nectar of a tick bush flower. These trees promote an amazing amount of biodiversity, with so many different types of pollinators such multiple species of bees, beetles, flies, butterflies, wasps etc attracted to it.
This is a particularly special photo for me. Our backyard was mostly lawn when we moved in, and little by little over the past few years I have been digging up lawn and planting endemic flowering plants to attract beneficial pollinators. This Blue Flax Lily (Dianella caerulea) flowered for the first time in the spring. I do citizen science on iNaturalist and attempting to match native flowers with their , so I was observing these flowers to see which species pollinated it (with bees I counted around 10 different types of native bee). This particular bee came along (genus Lasioglossum), and I hadn't seen any with orange hairs like this one had. So I checked with an online bee group, and a native bee expert (Senior Entomologist Dr Ken Walker at Museums Victoria) very excitedly said that it was a bee that didn't appear to be on scientific record. This truly blows my mind, finding a likely new (to science) species of bee in my backyard. And it all came about because I wanted to attract native pollinators!
A tetragonula sp. pollinating a Blue Flax Lily flower (Dianella caerulea)
Blue Mountains, NSW Beetle: Diphucrania acuducta (no common name) Plant: Heathy Parrot Pea (Dillwynia retorta)
Common Halfband (Melangyna viridiceps) pollinating an Australian Indigo (Indigofera australis) flower. Hover flies are wonderful little native pollinators. They are known as bee mimics and can sometimes be mistaken for bees, but the fly eyes at the front of the head give this guy away.
Central Coast NSW On my way to Warrah Lookout (the most spectacular lookout on the Central Coast) I stopped frequently to photograph the many different species of wildflowers. This is a Common Grass Blue (Zizina otis ssp. labradus) on Small-leafed White Beard (Leucopogon microphyllus). (Note: I go by what is identified on iNaturalist. I am in no way an expert myself. So though I am only including research grade identifications, if a member picks up an incorrect ID I am happy for their correction).
Blue Mountains, NSW No common name. I was in the bush in June when I heard a loud buzzing sound, and saw this fly pollinating these beautiful flowers (It looks like it is doing the splits). The fly is called Trichophthalma (Trichophthalma) rosea, pollinating Styphelia setigera (Previously known as Leucopogon setiger). I entered this onto iNaturalist, which automatically uploads observations to GBIF (The Global Biodiversity Information Facility), and bizarrely it appears to be the only entry with photos on there, so I imagine it is a rare fly. https://www.gbif.org/species/1479563 Bees get most of the credit for the wildflowers we see in the bush, but did you know that flies are important pollinators too?
Blue Mountains, NSW Tetragonula pollinating a Fringed Heath Myrtle flower (Micromyrtus ciliata). In their prime, these plants are abuzz with activity by numerous bee and fly species, amongst other visitors.
Location: Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW It was cold and mostly overcast when I took this picture. This little native bee (Lasioglossum, female) was just resting in the flower, and after some little bouts of sunshine she moved to pollinate some flowers, then went back to resting for a while. I put my index finger (10mm wide) beside the flower to take a photo for scale, and to my surprise the bee climbed onto my finger and stayed there for a little while before flying away.