Earlier this year I blogged about the insect infestation of the young tuart in my garden.
Unfortunately the insects that have already made homes among the tuart’s leaves are causing quite a bit of damage…The problem is the sap-sucking psyllids, also known as eucalyptus lerps, because the nymph constructs a “lerp” to hide under.
In the course of my investigations as to what insect was causing the damage I decided it was lerps, even though the lerps I’ve seen on other gum trees looked nothing like what this lorikeet was eating in my garden. I figured there must be lerps somewhere up high that I couldn’t see. This is an example of why you shouldn’t believe everything you read on a blog (or the web) because I was wrong.
After reading the amazing children’s book Tuart Dwellers by Jan Ramage and Ellen Hickman (DEC, 2008) I realised the insect culprit causing the mass defoliation over summer might be the tuart leaf miner. The picture in Tuart Dwellers (p.27) looks more like what covered so many leaves and led to their death. There are still many leaves suffering, but more healthy leaves happily photosynthesizing.
Although Jan Ramage and Ellen Hickman didn’t mention lerps in Tuart Dwellers, they did get their facts right because this non-fiction picture book was fact-checked by scientists at the WA Dept of Environment & Conservation and local universities who are experts in tuarts and their associated wildlife. In April the book was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall Book of the Year Award 2009. I’m looking forward to the announcement of the winners in August during Children’s Book Week to see if one of my favourite books of the year wins.
There are various other insects attacking the leaves, but not to the extent caused by the leaf miner. Some of the other insect dwellers in my tuart are:
- male scale insects which cause galls on the leaves
- other insects which cause galls on the branches
- leaf eating beetles or weevils which eat leaves in a “shark fin” shape
- caterpillars which eat leaves in a serrated shape
The birds which have dwelled (fleetingly) in my tuart include:
- rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus)
- singing honeyeaters (Lichenostomus virescens)
- red wattle birds (Anthochaera carnunculata)
There are willy wagtails, magpies, mudlarks, grey butcherbirds, twenty eight parrots and galahs which visit my garden, but the tuart is still too small for them. I hope motorbike frogs (or any frog) will visit my pond under the tuart one day.
When I was at Star Swamp last week for the meeting of the Northern suburbs branch of the Wildflower Society of Western Australia I saw a Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) sitting in a tuart. I usually only hear these night birds (which aren’t owls). As I pulled into the parking lot my car headlights lit up the tawny frogmouth perched in a tuart nearby. I thought it would be scared away by the sudden light, but it sat there as I parked and watched a moment. Inside I asked Phyllis for help with the ID. She came out to see and the bird was still sitting there, waiting for its dinner. One day there might be tawny frogmouths, boobook owls or barking owls in my tuart, but it’s too small yet.
This is the tuart soon after planting in February 2007
3½ year old tuart August 2007
Last winter it was about 2½m tall
Tuart is now 5½ years old and shooting up toward the sky, higher than the gutter of my house, about 3½m.
Ramage, Jan & Hickman, Ellen (2008) Tuart Dwellers Perth, WA: DEC