By MIKE GILLAM
Photos © Mike Gillam
Backlit by the sun, underwings flaring a bright yellow, they felt strangely like the budgerigar equivalent of the insect world. In early December 2017 I noticed the first swarm of yellow winged grasshoppers just west of town. Enthralled by their collective energy I spent the next few days following swarms and trying to record behaviour.
Disturbed by loud noises and hunted by a loose gathering of black wasps, the yellow wings moved regularly in their search for food. I spent a day out at Temple Bar photographing the flying swarm and dozens of predatory wasps digging holes and burying the paralysed grasshoppers to provide live food for their developing brood.
The behaviour of parasites is rarely, if ever endearing. Several pairs of wasps fought for possession of a single yellow wing, the scene brutally reminiscent of lion behaviour on the African plain.
Lush green grass, lovingly watered, was a clear attraction and this saw the yellow wings coming to town, doing the rounds of our premier urban lawns, parklands and ovals. Kikuyu was their favourite and while a swarm numbering in the tens of thousands visibly mowed down one parkland patch in under an hour, fortunately they left before the authorities could marshal any punitive response.
Predictably the bright lights of town proved a fatal attraction and dead grasshoppers formed a carpet amongst shopping trolleys at the back of Coles. Yet another photographic opportunity. With a keen eye for such a chance, the crows and magpie larks gathered and were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of food on offer.
One morning I found the vestiges of a swarm at Kittles car yard and managed to photograph them with Hungry Jacks in the background. I smiled at the memory that I’d once written to HJ’s decades earlier. The newly completed fast food outlet had erected a huge sign out the front and I wrote to them explaining the spiritual importance of Anzac Hill and asking that the company consider reducing the size of the sign. Head office in South Australia wrote back unapologetically, basically saying “…see you in court…”
So I went to the Town Council and asked for their intervention, given the Hungry Jacks sign exceeded the maximum size as defined by the signage by-laws. The sign was duly removed and a smaller, compliant one, erected.
Since that time I’ve watched the Town Council install a great many signs in the same area celebrating our military history and I would argue, diminishing the sanctity of this special place.