Late November 2017
The Brown Honeyeaters are back on the Mistletoe and it looks like the recent rains have encouraged them to breed again.
Brown Honeyeater feeding on Mistletoe
They are chasing them off, but I have now found the same Mistletoe on other Bottlebrushes about 100 metres away and the Mistletoebirds make quick work of flying between these bushes.
My curiosity got the better of me and I started looking into which Mistletoe species I was observing. I soon found out that Dr John Moss was the local guru on Mistletoes, because of his interest in the Butterflies and Invertebrates Club which he helped to establish.
The connection is that Mistletoes are the host of the caterpillars of the Jezebel Butterflies. John and another Butterfly enthusiast Ross Kendall have written a first-class book entitled “The Mistletoes of Sub-tropical Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria“.
Scarlet Jezebel taking nectar
From their book I have easily been able to find out that my Mistletoe is the Yellow-flowered or Long-flowered Mistletoe Dendrophthoe vittelina and it is the host plant for the caterpillars of the Scarlet, Red-banded and Black Jezebels and a large number of small blue Azure butterflies.
One of the interesting facts I gleaned from their book is that different species of Mistletoes are often parasitic on other Mistletoes. This sound reasonable as if the Mistletoebird has fed on one species and goes to feed on a different Mistletoe, it is quite likely it will deposit its sticky undigested seed from the first species and it might grow.
But how did the first species get to a new host tree?
Well, the answer might be that I found the Mistletoebirds I was photographing were attracted to the Bottlebushes to take nectar from the flowers and they could have seeds to deposit.
Now I reflect on it I think this all may have happened many years ago as these trees are about 35 years old and the Mistletoes look quite old. Probably they were deposited as sticky seed by Mistletoe birds several generations ago right under my eyes and I never noticed.
I am looking forward to photographing the brilliantly coloured Jezebel butterflies laying eggs on my Mistletoes so the never ending story still has some more chapters!