Monday, October 23, 2006

Orange caterpillar parasite

Now this is an intriguing common name - mostly because it is an Australia wide one. But also because it doesn't just parasitize orange caterpillars.
It seems every state can lay claim to this lovely little animal. We see it swarming at outside lights in quite early spring, and I'm betting lots of well meaning souls have had a little prick from it when they pick it up to put it outside after it's managed to slip through the door to get to the even brighter lights of the great indoors.
(or is that just me? It doesn't sting - but jabs you with the ovipositor). Although this one is a boy - no ovipositor.
Anyway, it's Netelia producta. The Orange Caterpillar Parasite. Family Ichneumonidae.

Even cotton farmers, the Darth Vaders of entomology, are encouraged to leave this little cutie alone to get on with the job of enhancing integrated pest management by striking a balance with the Lepidoptera. Specifically Helicoverpa sp. (Cotton Bollworm and Native Budworm).

And the confession - the Netelia is just mad for this weedy Euphorbia hyberna. I keep a plant or two around and try to religiously weed out the rest. It is a magnet for native wasps and bees in spring, especially Netelia as it is such an early season wasp, when the weather can be very cold and unpredictable, and not much else is flowering. No pollen but they use it for an energy fix. And no introduced honeybees swarm at it at all. Very odd. But they are nothing if not perverse, the native Hymenoptera, so often favouring the flamboyant weed over the honest, jobbing native.
Not that I'm encouraging you to plant the weedy Euphorbia. When I find the local native that does the job, I'll let you know.

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