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Eyes on Nature

A big task for small heroes

25 Mar 2021

We have many unsung heroes at Sydney Olympic Park: heroes who are behind the scenes, seemingly hidden, working diligently, often in partnership with others, keeping us safe and our environment healthy. Here we put the spotlight on three of our local heroes, always there, always helping.

Bird-dropping Spider
Spiders are the most numerous small predator in the Park and are key to regulating the density of other invertebrate herbivores and predators. The Bird-dropping Spider Celaenia excavata is only 14mm in size but has incredible strategies for not only capturing prey but also preventing becoming prey herself. By staying still during the day and having brown and white colouring, she mimics the appearance of a very unappetising bird dropping in both colour and shape.

Even more amazing is how she hunts. At night, this spider releases a pheromone that mimics that of a female moth, just one specific species. The unfortunate male moths that are attracted by the spider's deceiving pheromone eventually pass close enough to the spider to be grabbed by its strong front legs.

Canny cuckoo bees
We all know that bees are heroes of pollination but here is an anti-hero you may not have heard of before. We have recorded many species of native bees in the Park and two of these are cuckoo bees: the Neon Cuckoo Bee and the Chequered Cuckoo Bee. Both these species are extremely beautiful and excellent pollinators but they have earned their common name with a similar strategy to cuckoo birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Instead of building their own nest, they stalk other bees such as Blue-banded Bees and Teddy Bear Bees and sneak in to lay their eggs in the brood cell.

Deadly dragonflies
Dragonflies are six-legged superheroes and at this time of year are extremely visible, zipping around ponds and across the forests of the Park. Dragonflies are extraordinary hunters in both their life stages; as a nymph hunting on the bottom of ponds and as an adult patrolling the air for critters as small as mosquitoes up to flies and even spiders. There is something magical about dragonflies; not only do they play a big part in controlling other bugs but it is worthwhile watching their incredible hunting techniques while being deeply thankful you are not a small bug yourself.

These heroes work hard at keeping our environment in good health and add to the daily stories that enchant us when we visit their wold. As managers and lovers of the Park, we would like to thank and acknowledge all of the heroes of the invertebrate world, big and small, who quietly get on and do a magnificent job.


The Bird-dropping Spider Celaenia excavata with 5 of her egg sacs. © Tina Hsu

The iridescent blue of a Cuckoo Bee is a result of fine hairs reflecting light. © Jen O’Meara

A Graphic Flutterer dragonfly perched in-between hunting forays. © Jen O’Meara