I’m starting to run out of the more well-known Australian animals, with a couple of notable exceptions – but I need to get some better pictures of platypus and wombats before I post about them. Although there are plenty around they’ve been jolly elusive whenever I have my camera with me. So this post is going to cover a few spineless individuals! Let’s start with my picture at the top:
There are, of course, loads of types of jellyfish around Australia’s coast. The one at the top is the delightfully named ‘blue blubber’ and was washed up on Fraser Island. The sting can be a bit painful but they pose no real risk to people.
I’ve got no idea what sort this one is, but I took the pic in Melbourne aquarium and it looks cool. Of course the jellyfish you want to know about are the dangerous ones – and to be honest I’d go carefully with all jellyfish, as I don’t know enough about them. There are two – the box jellyfish and the irukandji (which is a type of box jellyfish) that you really, really don’t want to run – or swim – into. Both only live in tropical waters, so we don’t have to worry about them down here in Victoria, and indeed I’ve never seen either of them so no photos I’m afraid. The box jellyfish can get up to 20cm along each side of the ‘box’ but then has 3m of tentacles, while the irukandji is thumbnail size and both are transparent. The sting can be deadly, and is intensely painful, leaving huge scars wherever the tentacles brush across the skin. So go a bit carefully up on that idyllic tropical beach – make sure you’re in the dry season and/or swim on a beach with nets.
There are a lot of flies in Australia. We’ve found it pretty variable when they’re out to get you, but when they do, they’re really truly incredibly annoying. Unlike British flies they’re extremely persistent, and simply will not give up trying to crawl all over your face, back, hands, anywhere and everywhere.
At Uluru we got fly nets that go over your hat and down to your neck. You look stupid but you won’t care. NB absolutely no-one ever wears those hats with corks around the brim – you can buy them in tourist shops but I have never seen anyone wearing one, even as a joke. We’ve had flies attack in WA while walking around a lake, and occasionally around here. The swarms below were at evening on Aqueduct Trail up behind our house – although thankfully they didn’t go for us:
They generally won’t do anything nasty to you though, just send you insane with their persistent hassling. However you need to be a little bit more careful of…
We get a reasonable number of mosquitoes around here, more in summer although you can get them all year round. But that’s nothing compared to some more swampy areas, like the lovely Peppermint Grove beach in WA:
I went inland to the nearby Tuart Forest to get some photos, and was absolutely eaten alive – and that was with the warning sign at ‘low’. There’s no malaria in Australia, but there are a couple of nasties you can get from mosquitoes in certain areas, eg Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses. Around us they just give you annoying itchy bites though.
I’ve never seen an actual termite – they hide away inside their mounds, but I’ve seen plenty of these up in Queensland. They’re impressively big – plenty taller than me – and decidedly solid, like concrete.
These were around Innot Hot Springs (population 321) in rural Queensland. We went there to fossick for topaz which is found around there, but couldn’t get to the main site due to a lack of 4×4. The ‘road’ was dirt and had clearly suffered a lot during the last few wet seasons right from the start, and it was way too hot for the rather long walk. So we went for a shorter walk and enjoyed the scenery:
Not to be confused with bullet ants (which live in Nicaragua, and have one of the most painful stings in the world), bull ants are fairly common across Australia. You’ll know one if you see one – it will simply be the biggest ant you’ve ever set eyes on, with huge jaws out the front. They get up to 4cm long, and can bite and sting you at the same time if you’re unlucky. I haven’t got any pictures I’m afraid, but I’ve been stung a few times having unwittingly stood on a nest in a friend’s garden. I could certainly feel it, but it was nothing like a wasp sting. Speaking of which…
Australia, as everyone knows, is full of the most deadly spiders, snakes, jellyfish, crocodiles, sharks and hordes of other evil creatures just itching to sting or bite you. However, if you ask anyone around here what animals they’re afraid of, there’s a pretty high chance that European wasps will be right up there. That’s just ‘wasps’ to me and any European readers. Somehow they’ve managed to acquire an outsized reputation, as shown by the sign below:
Just for comparison, I have never seen a warning sign for redbacks! While it’s easy to make fun of this, it’s actually pretty sensible – far more people have died from allergic reactions to wasp and bee stings here than have from spider bites etc.
Here’s a fun one to round out my somewhat random list – and easily the largest here, although not quite the largest invertebrate in the world (colossal squid if you need to know). It was a bit of a thrill to really see giant clams on the Great Barrier Reef – they are huge and startlingly iridescent inside. I think part of it must have been reading Willard Price books when I was young though – I think probably South Sea Adventure. Anyway in one of them a diver gets their foot trapped in a giant clam and drowns – a terrible way to go. It seems that this (like a few other things I remember from those adventures) may well have been a figment of Mr Price’s imagination, although there was no way I was putting any of my limbs in there!