Garden Critters and Hidey-Holes

The 'hidey-hole', looking in.
The ‘hidey-hole’, looking in.

Forest Semilooper

Forest Semilooper (Declana floccosa)
Forest Semilooper (Declana floccosa)

I spotted this charming little moth (above) when I was trimming the ‘hidey-hole’ this afternoon.  I wasn’t able to identify it, so posted it on NZ’s NatureWatch website, where it was ID’d.  It wasn’t until I looked at the photo that I realised how pretty it is.  It looks to me like it is garbed in a crocheted cloak, woven in shades of silver grey.

The Forest Semilooper is a moth of the Geometridae family, and native to New Zealand.

Hidey-Hole

Left to Right: View heading towards the hidey-hole; looking inside; view from other side.
Left to Right: Looking inside the hidey-hole; view from above; view from the other side.

Regarding the ‘hidey-hole’ – this is being created from the fresh stump of a redwood.  When we moved here, the tree itself was in poor shape, having been smothered in nasty ivy for several years – it had a great deal of die-back and the limbs were distorted and many, while still alive, lacked any needles.  It was also blocking the Eastern sun from our solar panels. 🙂

We arranged to have it cut down a couple of months back, but when it started to sprout new growth from the base, I decided to fashion it into a hidey-hole for any little visitors (of the human kind) that we may have.

On the topic of ‘redwoods and regeneration’, I read on the internet that due to the fact that seed germination is very low, most redwoods grow more successfully from sprouts that form around the base of a tree, utilising the nutrients and root system of a mature tree.  When the parent tree dies, a new generation of trees rise, creating a circle of trees that are often called fairy rings.

This amused me as this is exactly what I thought of when I saw the new growth around the sawn-off stump.

Scar Back Gem (Ctenoplusia limbirena)

Scar Back Gem moth
Scar Back Gem moth

This exotic noctuid moth originally hails from Europe and was first sighted in New Zealand in 2011 (Auckland).  It was not considered enough of a pest to warrant special attention and has been removed from the Unwanted Organism Register.  We have found a couple indoors in the past couple of days.  They are pretty cute with the frilly tufts on the top of the thorax.

Green Vegetable Bug

Green Vegetable Bug on Calendula spp. seed-head
Green Vegetable Bug on Calendula seed-head

Green vegetable bugs (Nezara viridula) are back in the garden again.  This one is sitting on the seed head of a marigold (Calendula Officinalis ‘Indian Prince’).  Our first three hens (who have sadly left us for the free range in the sky) loved to eat these bugs and I used to collect them from around the garden for them.  But current three red shavers don’t seem to recognise them as a food item, and I think the Orpingtons are still too young to be given these to try.

Asian Paper Wasp

Asian Paper Wasps on jade plant
Asian Paper Wasps on a Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
This is the third Asian Paper Wasp nest we have found this season.  According to the Department of Conservation, they are tolerant of human activity unless their nest is physically disturbed, and feed mostly on caterpillars.  There is also anecdotal evidence that they decimate monarch caterpillars and may therefore do likewise to native butterflies and moths.
As far as ‘unwelcome visitors’ are concerned, the Asian Paper Wasp is the most recent, having been first found in New Zealand (Auckland, again) in 1979.  Attempts to eradicate it failed as it was too well-established and it has since been found throughout the North Island and at the top of the South Island. 
The nests of paper wasps (both Asian and Australian Paper varieties) can be found hanging from small shrubs and trees, fences and walls, and under the eaves of buildings.
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar
Caterpillar of the Monarch Butterfly, on a Swan Plant
Caterpillar of the Monarch Butterfly, on a Swan Plant
The comments about monarch butterfly caterpillars interested me, as we have many on our swan plants at the moment.  The plants have self-sown incredibly successfully and are growing all over the property – in my flower beds, in the dry gravel of the drive-way, in the vegetable garden, cottage gardens, etc. 
The first year we had only 6 baby plants and they were almost completely eaten up by caterpillars, but I don’t think we’ll have that problem again.

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