Day 2 - Wasps and Bees

Why are they called 'velvet ants' if they're actually wasps?

Friday, 30th November 2018

This morning, I was privileged to accompany Juanita from ANIC (Australian National Insect Collection) at CSIRO. Juanita tells me that working with hympenoptera means that she has respectable collecting hours, as they are only active during the day, with the most activity between 10am and 4pm. We started by checking some pan traps she had set on Tuesday, just a short walk from our accommodation at Birrigai. Pan traps are small blue, yellow and white coloured cups three-quarters filled with a weak detergent solution, which stops the trapped insects from escaping.

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Looking for velvet ants.

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How about that view!

Juanita was very excited to find some male velvet ants (which are actually wasps!), a spider wasp and three species of native bee throughout the transect of traps. She picked these out and placed them in a vial of 100% ethanol, which preserves the DNA.

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Successful pan trap!

The insect  in the centre of the washer, closest to the bottom of the image is a native bee.

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Desired insects from the pan trap being preserved in ethanol.


On our walk back from the traps, we spotted male velvet ants flying close to the ground. They move very quickly and are difficult to catch with a net, yet Juanita, who I’m sure was a ninja in a past life, managed to trap a few in her net. I had a go as well, and let’s just say I’m glad there is no video footage of my attempts! It is definitely a skill which needs much practice to acquire!

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Juanita has some serious net skills.

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A net-caught male velvet ant.

Because of the success of the pan traps at Birrigai, we headed to Namadgi National Park to set some more! We were also joined by Mich. Approximately 50 pan traps were set, a few metres to the right of the hiking track. We also checked the Malaise trap that Juanita had set yesterday – it had already caught a LOT of insects! 

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Ants attracted to the blue pan trap just minutes after it was laid.

(We hadn't even had a chance to fill it up with liquid!)

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Insects in the Malaise trap.

What a wonderful way to start my field work experience! Next stop... frogging!