The Cuckoo Wasps – some of nature’s artworks

More Lockyer Valley wildlife

Large Cuckoo Wasp – Stilbum cyanurum (Vinegar Hill)

Some of the most spectacular wildlife in the Lockyer Valley isn’t necessarily the big stuff like kanagroos, koalas or kookaburras.  The small stuff can be absolutely entrancing.

The Large Cuckoo Wasp above is one example.  It was found dead on the floor in our house (hence the bits of detritus caught up in its exoskeleton).  Before you start thinking that we are a bit casual with our housekeeping, the critter itself is less than 20mm long, so the “fluff” is actually fairly minute particles.  Having said that this species is so small, it is known as the Large Cuckoo Wasp, which suggests that in general Cuckoo Wasps are pretty small insects.

Just how small they are can be seen in the image below.

20160103_Cuckoo Wasp_GFC_P1000969_small

The individual in the photo at the top of this page is on the right here. The one on the left is a different species (one of the two shown below). This Australian 20 cent coin has a diameter of 28mm.

The females of these wasps parasitise the nests of mud wasps, laying their egg in the mud nest next to that of the host species.  If they are discovered in the nest they roll into a ball like an armadillo, to protect themselves from the sting of their much larger host with the armour plates of their outer skeleton.  It seems to be a common feature of Cuckoo Wasps that the surface of the exoskeleton is pitted; perhaps to increase its strength, or to foil the probing sting of an angry mud wasp?  The defensive posture is often also used if they are threatened in some other way – such as a human trying to capture them.

The “appendage” at the rear is the ovipositor, used for laying eggs.  I’m curious about the structure of this ovipositor – you’d think that an insect that just lays its egg in the open nest of another wasp wouldn’t need something as robust as this to do the job.  Some other species of parasitic wasp have large teeth on the ovipositor in order to ‘drill’ through wood to reach their host(1).  For example, in the sawflies the ovipositor is saw-like and is used to insert the eggs into plant leaves, stems or wood(2).  Is this a relic from a previous evolutionary stage?

Large Cuckoo Wasps feed on the nectar of flowers in the woodlands, heaths and urban areas which are their habitat.

For a beautiful image of this species, have a look at this shot from Stanley and Kaisa Breeden.

After we found the second, smaller Cuckoo Wasp (dead on a window ledge in the house), and than another small one, I contacted Ken Walker at Museum Victoria and offered to send him the specimens to be identified.  Ken was happy to do this and to send me photos of the specimens.

Not only did Ken take fantastic photos, he also spent a lot of time cleaning up all the dust and debris off the specimens and then “relaxing” them so that they could be properly displayed.  Compare the photo on the left immediately below to the one at the top of this post – they are the same specimen.

Here are some of his photos.  These are photos of the most “diagnostic” parts of the bodies.  The scale bars for the whole body photos are 5mm for the top photo and 2mm for each of the others.

Stilbum cyanurum

Stilbum cyanurum (Photo Ken Walker)

Praestochrysis lusca

Praestochrysis lusca (Photo Ken Walker)

 

Chrysis lincea

Chrysis lincea (Photo Ken Walker)

You can find more about this species at the following links:

http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_parawasps/CuckooWasp.htm

https://baynature.org/articles/the-cuckoo-wasp-a-gorgeous-parasite/

http://anic.ento.csiro.au/insectfamilies/biota_details.aspx?OrderID=27447&BiotaID=29790&PageID=families

(1) http://bugs.bio.usyd.edu.au/learning/resources/Entomology/externalMorphology/imagePages/ovipositor.html

(2) http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Insects/Wasps+and+bees

http://www.bowerbird.org.au/observations/60098

Thanks to Ken Walker from Museum Victoria for his willing assistance with identifying these species, and for the many other times when he has provided helpful advice on invertebrate wildlife.  Ken is the driving force behind Bowerbird, a huge job which he undertakes in addition to his many other duties, and he manages to produce the monthly issue of the Bowerbird Bugle newsletter.

Whose SEQ Regional Plan?

Quite a few people from the community groups Lockyer Community Action Inc. and Lockyer Uplands Catchments Inc. went to the consultation meeting on the draft SEQ Regional Plan last month.

The first surprise was that there was not to be any presentation about the background, objectives, structure or process leading up to the production of the draft.  Instead, the public were to be provided with “consultations” with individual planners.  A novel idea, but it would have been much more useful had we been provided with an overview of the draft from the planner responsible for preparing the document.

The second surprise came when we were led into the meeting room and introduced to a planner by one of the “ushers” who had been issuing numbers to the public in the foyer – she told us that we had a limit of 10 minutes with the planner.

Despite the planner my partner and I were paired up with doing her best, many of our questions were outside of her field of involvement in the preparation of the draft plan, so we didn’t really get satisfactory answers to our questions and certainly did not have a usefully informative discussion on the topics of concern to us.

The others in our group came away from their meetings with very similar feelings.

It was with some delight that I came across the article below in today’s issue of The Conversation – it pretty much sums up my misgivings about the consultation process, the preparation of the plan, and the general thrust of its content.

Overall, the issues below are illustrative of my general impression from a number of exchanges with different arms of the State government in the last year that we are not being well served by this government, and that their priorities are much more aligned with those of developers and industry.

Here’s the article:

ShapingSEQ regional plan gives ‘stakeholders’ a bigger say than citizens

Brian Feeney, The University of Queensland

Special interest groups have had much more influence than the wider community on the new regional plan for Southeast Queensland. A draft of the plan, ShapingSEQ, was recently released for comment. Prior input from the wider community was limited to submitting “thought bubbles” about the region without having the benefit of any report card on how the previous plan had performed.

This process did not accurately gauge community concerns and submitters were not a representative sample. Perhaps it gave people the feeling they’d “had a say”. The process just as likely reinforced cynicism about government consultation.

Regional planning in Southeast Queensland began in the early 1990s when councils in the region signed up to the Regional Framework for Growth Management. This was a non-binding set of guidelines promoted by the state government to manage land-use change.

Subsequently, this framework evolved into a statutory regional plan in 2005. It is noteworthy that consultation in the lead-up to the 2005 plan included the public release of discussion papers with options for the region’s future.

The initial focus was very much on getting southeast Queensland councils to accept the need for regional planning. At that time, the role of the wider community was relatively minor.

A 1990 meeting of representatives from government, business, trade unions, professional groups and community organisations was an important impetus for starting the regional planning process. This “stakeholder” model of community engagement has been the dominant form of consultation ever since.

Stakeholders or citizens?

Stakeholders have particular vested interests – such as protecting the environment, promoting a business sector, or advancing a government agency’s agenda.

Preparation of the 2016 draft plan involved several of these stakeholder “reference groups”. Participants in these groups were there to advocate for the organisation they represent, often making it more difficult to find “outside-the-box” solutions.

Consultation by negotiating with stakeholders is consistent with the dominant view that explicitly pursuing the public interest is less important than growing the economy. Consequently, an “issue management” approach has been taken, with stakeholders “competing” for influence over which development regulations are put in place. Within this worldview, trade-offs between stakeholders usually take place in a “growth first” framework.

An alternative is to promote informed deliberation by citizens who don’t represent particular interests. The Perth Dialogue with the City process shows how this “citizen” approach can work.

This was a process of engagement with a large group of demographically representative Perth citizens. They were provided with relevant in-depth information before their deliberations about the city’s future.

Wide consultation overdue

It has been at least ten years since there was either an open performance review of southeast Queensland regional planning, or consultation with the wider community on options for the region’s future. Engagement with the wider community is particularly important now for a couple of reasons.

First, the 2016 draft plan claims to have a 50-year vision horizon, compared to the previous plan’s 20 years. Because of this change, the wider community should have been engaged in developing this new vision rather than being presented with a fait accompli in the draft plan.

The ShapingSEQ draft plan seems to have more of a ‘growth first’ approach than the 2009 regional plan.
Queensland Government

Second, the draft plan represents a significant change of focus from the previous 2009 plan. That plan aimed to reduce the region’s ecological footprint and mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, the 2016 draft seems to be adopting a more “growth first” approach.

It is noteworthy that virtually all references to climate change in this new draft are about adapting to change rather than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These significant changes should have been widely debated before the draft plan was prepared.

Independent report card needed

For a debate on future directions to be genuine, the community needs an independent, comprehensive report card on how things are tracking.

The draft plan has ten indicators, some of which show modest improvement. However, other indicators, such as housing affordability and loss of biodiversity, have gone backwards. And koala numbers continue to decline.

The report card should also acknowledge that Australia (including southeast Queensland) has one of the worst records for resource use and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic output of any developed country.

Moving beyond ‘predict and provide’

The draft plan largely takes a basic “provide land for the predicted demand” approach, which assumes that regional planning is a type of technical process best left to the experts.

However, regional planning always involves trade-offs between different economic, social and environmental values. These should be openly discussed through genuine community engagement.

By not providing opportunities for such engagement, the draft plan has failed to give the community a real say in the region’s future.


ShapingSEQ is open for community feedback by formal submission until midnight, Friday, March 3 2017.

The Conversation

Brian Feeney, Urban Planning Researcher, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Snap Send Solve – “attention LVRC I’ve seen a problem”

I wonder how many people in the Lockyer Valley Regional Council area (where we live in the western part of South East Queensland) are aware that the Council accepts notification of issues on the Snap Send Solve app.

snapsendsolve

I’d never heard of this app until an audience member at a recent presentation by Cr Jim McDonald on the Council’s environmental policies and programs asked whether the Council used it.  They do.

Have a look on the Council website:  http://www.lockyervalley.qld.gov.au/our-council/about-council/Pages/Council-Apps.aspx and at the SnapSendSolve website.

The app works on iPhones and Android phones and is available free from the Apple App Store and for Google Play.

Send us a comment on your experience with it and how the Council responds.  And please share this post with other residents in the Valley.  Since the last elections we have a much more responsive Council and it’s important to maximise the opportunities for better government that this presents by increasing our communications with them.

If you don’t live in the Lockyer Valley, this app is widely used in Australia.  Their website claims over 600 “authorities” here and in New Zealand use it and that they have more than 60,000 users.

Massive gains in global renewable energy generation capacity last year

The other day Chris from http://gullygrove.blogspot.com.au made an interesting comment on my post on coal power as the “saviour” of those in Third World poverty.  You can see my response here, but she got me thinking that I should look into how renewable energy generation has been going recently.

This morning ABC News saved me the trouble.  They have a post on the global expansion of renewable energy generation which provides a good overview of what is happening.  As they show, if you strip out the figures for hydropower which distort the calculation of annual percentage growth because of the very large existing base of “old” hydropower plants, the expansion of other, newer, forms of renewable energy is very impressive.

Despite tumbling fossil fuel prices, global renewable energy experienced its greatest surge in capacity last year, growing 9 per cent or around 147 gigawatts (GW) of power.

Stripping out hydro – the world’s largest source of renewable energy – other technologies such as solar, geothermal and wind grew by 18 per cent according a report published by REN21, a network of global government, non-government and research organisations involved in the sector.

“The world now adds more renewable power capacity annually than it adds from all fossil fuels combined,” the report noted.

“By the end of 2015, renewable capacity in place was enough to supply an estimated 23.7 per cent of global electricity, with hydropower providing about 16.6 per cent.”

While the growth was supported by several factors – including better financing, more sympathetic policies, as well as energy security and environmental concerns – the key driver was that renewables were now cost competitive in many markets.

“This growth occurred despite tumbling global prices for all fossil fuels, ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and other challenges facing renewables, including the integration of rising shares of renewable generation, policy and political instability, regulatory barriers and fiscal constraints,” the report said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated fossil fuel companies last year received subsidies totalling around $US5.3 trillion ($7.3 trillion) worldwide, although the International Energy Agency put the figure at a more modest $US493 billion ($680 billion) largely due to a lower estimate of the potential costs of carbon pollution.

Solar PV capacity grew by 27 per cent to a total 227 GW capacity, while wind power was up by 17 per cent to 433 GW.

You can see the full ABC News article here.

It would be interesting to see the current figures for solar PV installation in the Lockyer Valley Region.  In a November 2012 post I calculated that 21.2% of the private houses in the Lockyer had solar power installations – up with the best in Australia at the time.

 

Motocross traffic on Adare Road – we stand to lose more than you think

I’ve posted before about the unsuitability of Adare Road for large amounts of traffic.

There’s more to that issue and I’ll come back to it in another post.

There are unsuspected losses associated with traffic on Adare Road that we face if the proposed motocross development is allowed to go ahead.

One of these relates to the Gatton Light Horse Troop.  You might be familiar with their role in the Anzac Day celebrations in Gatton and other localities in the Lockyer Valley.

The Gatton Light Horse Troop in the Anzac Day parade in 2012.  A friend in Germany sent this to me, which shows how far the knowledge of our Light Horse Troop has spread.

The Gatton Light Horse Troop in the Anzac Day parade in 2012. A friend in Germany sent this to me, which shows how far the knowledge of our Light Horse Troop has spread.

What you wouldn’t know, unless you are out toward the end of Adare Road early on a Saturday or Sunday, is that the Horse Paddock beside Adare Road,on the right just before the Redbank Creek Crossing, is one of their training grounds.

It's a stirring sight to see them practising mounted military manoeuvres at full speed.

It’s a stirring sight to see them practising mounted military manoeuvres at full speed.

If there are up to 150 vehicles travelling down Adare Road on a Saturday or Sunday morning, the Horse Paddock will become unsuitable for Light Horse training exercises.

There’s another group in the community (this time a much wider community) who know of the Adare Road Horse Paddock.  They are the birdwatchers, and the trees and bushes around the edges of the Horse Paddock are one of several regular birding spots for many visitors.

Adare road has been visited with increasing regularity by local, Brisbane, interstate and overseas birders over the last 20 years.  The location features regularly in online lists of the interesting or rare species which have been seen there.

IMG_0056-1

Two of the visitors in this group were from Japan

It continues to be something of a ‘hot-spot’ where visitors can find a selection of scarcer species which can be difficult to locate elsewhere in the region.  The combination of open woodland, riparian vegetation where Redbank Creek crosses the road, open paddocks, and the dams along the road provides for a range of habitats and therefore bird species that isn’t easily found in a situation where it is easily viewable from the road. And there’s always the possibility of seeing a koala, especially at the Redbank Creek crossing.

There are many birdwatchers who visit Adare Road regularly, some every couple of months, some every week.  There are also bird clubs which make annual trips to the area.

A lot of the most interesting birding is done along the road verges, including along the sides of the Redbank Creek crossing.  Motocross traffic in the mornings and evenings (when most birders visit) is going to turn birdwatching along Adare Road into an extreme sport – not to mention being extremely unpleasant with all the dust and noise.  It can be pretty confidently predicted that the beginning of motocross traffic will be the beginning of the end of birdwatching on Adare Road.

MX tracks and their poor relationships with neighbours and local government

The quote below is from the introduction to a review of the relationships between motocross tracks and their neighbours and local government agencies.  The quote below is from the introduction to reviews of the histories of eight existing or proposed motocross tracks in America.

At the Oct 21 Conditional Use Hearing regarding the Thomas Conditional Use proposal for motocross/camping in rural Clackamas County, testimony was given in support of the proposal based on claims that motocross was “family friendly”. A man stated that Washougal MX had expensive homes in the vicinity of the MX tracks and that local residents and the commercial MX business had happy relationships.

Extensive research into the functioning and relationships multiple MX facilities, whether permitted or unpermitted, have with their neighbors and with their County planning departments proves conclusively that it is totally false to claim motocross events can happily co-exist with residential areas.

Every case I researched, including Washougal MX, proved that  residents within earshot of MX tracks are miserable and that they consider motocross a serious nuisance which steals their quality of life and degrades and pollutes land. Counties have extra work loads to enforce MX code infractions and have ongoing struggles related to traffic, crowd control, noise, and regulating environmental damage. Local police and emergency services are impacted as well.

Family-oriented

Any claims that the proposed Adare motocross track will be family oriented don’t take into account the impacts on families among the 900+ people living in the vicinity of the track.

Emergency Services

It’s worth noting the mention of impacts on police and emergency services as well.  That has also been the experience with the Black Duck Valley and the Wyaralong tracks in Southeast Queensland.

Noise as an Amenity Impact

There’s a nice quote from a county examiner (sort of like our LVRC Assessment Manager) in relation to noise [LVRC please note]:

pg. 24 item h. iii: “Even when the noise does not drown out conversation or disturb people sleeping or exceed 57 dbA, it increases the noise levels frequently enough and in amounts and for a duration that is enough to detract from the character of the area as rural residential. The examiner finds that such an impact is significantly detrimental to people nearest the site.”

Noise issues are NOT just about loudness as measured in decibels!  They are about loss of rural/natural amenity, and about stress and anxiety caused by ongoing, long-term exposure to noise which is not part of the local environment.

Loudness Requirements Can Stop Motocross

But, in terms of loudness of MX noise, the article quotes a complaint that: … imposed sound limitations that are so restrictive they effectively deny the permit application.”

As if the fact that MX operations can’t comply with mandated noise limits is somehow the fault of the legislators, or is a direct attack on MX as a business, instead of being a standard of what is reasonable noise in a particular environment.

Emu Creek track in the Tenterfield Council area is one example.  After a lot of time, court cases and expense the Tenterfield Council imposed noise and operating time limits on the motocross activities at Emu Creek, which they claim they could not meet from a business point of view.  They are still in business and seem to have moved to mountain bike and Bicycle MX activities to replace the motocross element of their custom.

It’s also worth noting that in the case of the Emu Creek motocross, Tenterfield Council monitored maximum noise levels [L(A)max], rather than averaged noise levels over a (usually long) period [L(A)eq], because they said it was more objective when long-term, long period noise was considered.  The Adare proponent’s Noise Study uses averaged noise levels, which always appear more favourable to the proponent’s case.

Costs to Council for Ongoing Compliance Action

The case studies refer to costs to all parties for the application (including appeals) procedures and for ongoing compliance.  In our own area, the Emu Creek case mentioned above is said to have cost the Tenterfield Council in excess of $66,000 for compliance monitoring and court costs before it stopped the noise nuisance.

Revealing a significant koala population in the Adare-Vinegar Hill area

Koalas are probably the most environmentally significant species that would be impacted by the establishment and operation of a motocross track on the Adare property.   Impacts will come from noise, vehicle strike and possibly vegetation clearing in Stage 2 of the development.

It’s funny how members of a community can individually recognise that they have an unusual number of koalas in their vicinity, but no one actually comes to the conclusion that there is an unusually large koala population in the local area.  This is another aspect of our environment/community that dealing with the motocross proposal has brought to the fore.

The database

For the last few weeks our group has been collecting incidental records of koala sightings in the area of bushland which is contiguous with the vegetation in the vicinity of the proposed Adare motocross track.

We now have 66 records of koala sightings for this area.  It may not look like 66 “pins” on the map, but that’s because at this scale many pins are hidden behind others.

These sightings are all within 5km of the motocross track, and almost all are within less than 4km.  The nearest is only 950 metres from the track.

All of these sightings are in vegetation types that occur on the motocross property and within 20-70 metres of the track.  These vegetation types are classified as Bushland Koala Habitat or as Essential Habitat for koalas.

Remember, these are incidental sightings. They are not the result of targeted surveys for koalas.  They are sightings that people happened to make while they were doing other things, and which they have some record of.  People don’t tend to look up in trees when they are working on their land.  Even if they do, koalas are pretty cryptically marked.  They have colours which tend to blend with the bark of trees and the dark shadows in thick foliage, and they even have lighter patches around their rear ends, so that their silhouette is broken up when seen against the sky from below.  Most people never see a koala when they are walking through the bush.

Our data collection is not yet complete.  The properties where there are no koala records are almost all ones where we haven’t yet tried to collect information or where we don’t have access.

The Road-kill Threat

Death by vehicle strike is among the three greatest threats to koala populations in Southeast Queensland.

Adare Road runs from the big dam just to the right of bottom centre in the map vertically (north) to the entrance to the motocross track. There are more than 30 records of koalas within 250 metres of Adare Road (four of these are of koalas crossing the road, and one is of a dead koala on the road).

Koalas are active at night, and that’s when they will be crossing the road.  Imagine the number of road-killed koalas there will be if there is motocross traffic on Adare Road four to six nights per week!

Comparison Between Our Data and the Government Database

The WildNet database has been built up by the State government over a number of years. It contains records of wildlife sightings and listings of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish, sharks and rays, butterflies and other priority invertebrates in Queensland.

The wildlife lists are based on collated species lists and wildlife records from Queensland Government departments and external organisations. The data sources include:

  • specimen collections;
  • research and monitoring programs;
  • inventory programs including extension activities;
  • literature records;
  • wildlife permit returns; and
  • community wildlife recording programs.

WildNet at present has 65 records of koalas within 10km of the motocross track.  In only a few weeks members of our group, with the cooperation of the local community, have gathered 66 records within 5km of the track.  That’s a fantastic effort, and it’s not finished yet.

It’s not that the koalas weren’t there before – just that this is a big State and there has never been sufficient resources to carry out the necessary surveys at the scale we need for dealing with local government planning applications.

Ultimately our records will go into the WildNet database and into the privately funded Koala Tracker database.