SPIDERS. The venom used by the spider has meant that the hawk moth caterpillar has changed colour to look rather repulsive. The caterpillar took a bit under two days to be eaten.
SPIDERS. The venom used by the spider has meant that the hawk moth caterpillar has changed colour to look rather repulsive. The caterpillar took a bit under two days to be eaten.

Warm, humid weather has creepy crawlies sticking around

UNSEASONABLY warm weather is set to keep the region's creepy crawlies active longer into the year.

University of the Sunshine Coast animal ecology lecturer Dr Scott Burnett said cold-blooded animals like spiders, snakes cane toads and insects are all more active during warmer months, and would tend to stay active longer if the summer warmth continued.

"It's a bit more complicated than a simple, straightforward relationship between warmer temperature and more activity," he said.

"But to generalise, all those animals that come out in summer and go to sleep in winter, are obviously going to have a longer summer, and be out and about more."

Local snake catcher Ray Wallbank said he is still being called to remove snakes across Gympie and the Sunshine Coast.

"Snakes are always around, but they've been out and about more than they usually would be this time of year," he said.

The stubborn summer heat has been slow to ease, and the region is still seeing abnormally high autumn temperatures.

Gympie's maximum temperatures through March averaged 31.2 degrees, while the first seven days of April have seen maximum temperatures averaging 29.7 degrees.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Climate Outlooks report for April to June 2016 has forecast April temperatures will remain above historic medians across Gympie and most of Australia.

The warm weather looks set to stay even as we approach mid-autumn, with daily maximum temperatures in the low 30s in Gympie through to next Monday.

Those abnormal temperatures are more likely to fall closer to historic averages in winter as El Nino breaks down.

While we continue to swelter, creepy crawlies are loving the heat and humidity.

"The warmer temperatures coupled with the higher humidity create the perfect conditions for all those animals, toads, spiders and snakes," Dr Burnett said.

"It's been humid and there's been rain, but no flooding rain that flushes everything away.

"That's been really great for insects and spiders in general."

That's bad news for arachnophobics, but Dr Burnett said more insects could boost local ecosystems.

"They're all fuel for the food chain, really, so I expect a lot of the animals that feed on those things will be doing quite well," he said.

But Dr Burnett was concerned that weather conditions could enable cane toads to spread.

"These warm, humid years mean toads can invade areas that normally are too cold or too dry for them," he said.

"When toads first get to a new area, that's when they have a really catastrophic impact on the ecosystem, because the predators haven't learned that toads are deadly to eat."

Gympie Times


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