Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

March 3rd 2011
Unexpected outcome from Yasi

Caterpillars demolish a cocky apple Magnetic Islanders have witnessed a lot of changes since Cyclone Yasi but one less obvious phenomenon has been observed by Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre member Vandhana and it may lead to a very beautiful result.

Vandhana writes:

I was wanting to tell you about an unexpected phenomenon occurring in Picnic Bay and, I hear, in other parts of the Island. One week after Cyclone Yasi, there was a profusion of butterflies in Picnic Bay and in Arcadia, where I live. All varieties, from Cairns Birdwing to Ulysses and Grass Yellows, (even a pair of Blue Tigers!). How they survived the Cyclone amazes me. Two weeks after that, they are a lot less in number, but, just as our devestated eucalypts, other natives and garden plants were coming into new green growth, a massive number of caterpillars has appeared, voraciously devouring all green leaves within their reach. Birds are having an unexpected field day, grabbing as much of the wriggling protein as they can.

A figbird eats a caterpillar

On the History Centre land in Picnic Bay, around the School and Butler Hut buildings, we have to duck and weave constantly, to avoid hundreds of small wriggling caterpillars which suddenly drop on silken threads from the trees and comically move, as only caterpillars can, along the ground to find the next source of green munchies. Every plant, Bloodwood, Frangipani, Cocky apple, Cudgeree, Tamarind, Burdekin Plum are being stripped bare!

All I can think is that this is a natural event, which the trees will survive and we will benefit from in the form of a profusion of beautiful butterflies around the Island in a month or two. Has anyone else noticed?

Letter and photos: Vandhana

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Unexpected outcome from Yasi
March 2nd 2011
Yes! I was beginning to think I was going loopy over the last few days. Every time I went outside, I saw one skinny black caterpillar. Was this a message from beyond? (HA!) Suddenly, I see hundreds. I've been feeding the birds seed and lorikeet mix, and understand that within a few weeks I should scale back, and leave them to their own devices.
After coming to terms with the wasteland that is now my back garden, it is healing to hear the birds singing, and the flutterbies fluttering.
March 3rd 2011
Yes, i am having to clean the outside table every day because of the large amount of caterpillar droppings from the gum trees, the possums poo is increasing in that area, and into the pool, so maybe they are feasting on the caterpillars too.
Bruce J Dargie
March 3rd 2011
Nice 'aftermath' story - loved the book ... a real 'coffee table' treat!
Cheers - BjD (Perth)
March 3rd 2011
Funny after reading this story, this afternoon I was downstairs with my boys in our entertaining area, we went back upstairs to prepare an afternoon snack and there was this 'Oh MUM' you have got a catapillar on your BUM and upon checking in the mirror, yes a skinny black catapillar was happily crawling over me.
March 3rd 2011
Also coming to terms with devestated garden (Picnic Bay)! Thankfully the deadly hairy caterpillars seem to be decreasing, now have lots of very skinny brown/orange hairless ones dropping from everywhere, no clue as to what they are but, unlike the hairy ones, they are people friendly. Tried to look them up online, but no luck so far in identifying them.
March 4th 2011
These caterpillers are EVERYWHERE , the island school has become covered in them, some kids like them others love them , then there is the kids who hate them. . it is causing a lot of disterbance for our island kids trying to get by without hurting them. . .. and us teachers trying to get the kids to ignore them. . .how much longer will they be around. . . hoping with no kids at school over the weekend maybe the birds can get in. . .. .

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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