Sunday, March 1, 2015

Australia 2014
Stamp Collecting Month - Things That Sting

Australian Stamps Australia Post things that sting european wasp lionfish stingray stonefish tiger snake bull at

ISSUE DATE: 23 September 2014
FDI WITHDRAWAL DATE: 22 October 2014
STAMP DESIGN: Sharon Rodziewicz
PRODUCT DESIGN: Sharon Rodziewicz
PAPER: Tullis Russell (gummed)/B100 (self-adhesive)
STAMP SIZE: 37.5 mm x 26 mm
PERFORATIONS: 13.86 x 14.6
SHEET LAYOUT: Module of 50
NATIONAL POSTMARK: Hastings, Vic 3915

Australia has numerous insects and animals that sting or bite as a form of defence. Some are extremely dangerous and can be fatal for humans, while others, despite their painful stings, rarely inflict serious damage. We should respect our varied wildlife, learn to identify those creatures that are potentially dangerous, and take sensible precautions to avoid being stung or bitten.

This stamp issue features insects, reptiles and fish that can pack a painful punch if disturbed or threatened. About the size of a honey bee, the European Wasp (Vespula germanica) is an introduced species to Australia where it is considered a pest. It probably arrived by hitching rides on boats and planes. 

Bull ants (genus Myrmecia) are alert ants that can grow up to 40mm and have characteristic large eyes, long slender mandibles and a potent venom-loaded sting. There are about 90 species of bull ant in Australia. The Tiger Snake (genus Notechis) is found in two broad areas: south-eastern Australia (including the islands of Bass Strait and Tasmania), and south-western Australia. The Lionfish (Common Lionfish Pterois volitans) is found throughout the world’s tropical and temperate oceans. In Australia the Common Lionfish is known from south-western Western Australia, around the tropical north of the country and south to the southern coast of New South Wales. The Stonefish (Reef Stonefish Synanceia verrucosa) is distributed throughout tropical, marine waters of the Indo-Pacific and in Australia it is recorded from the Great Barrier Reef to northern New South Wales. The Stingray (Bluespotted Fantail Ray Taeniura lymna) is found worldwide in marine, brackish and fresh-water habitats. There are about 80 species in this large family (Dasyatidae).

The Bluespotted Fantail Ray can be identified by it colouration of electric blue spots on yellow, on its body and pelvic fins and two blue stripes on its tail. Like most species it has a long, thin tail equipped with two very sharp spines. It is comparatively small compared to other rays, growing to a length of 70 centimetres and 35 centimetres in width. Other species such as the Smooth Stingray can reach a massive two metres in width. They migrate in large schools into shallow water to feed on molluscs on the rising tide. On the falling tide the rays move back into deeper water to shelter under ledges and in caves. 
The Tiger Snake can be identified by distinctive black and yellow cross bands, giving the snake its name, but can vary in colouration and even pattern. It has large semi-glossy scales, and varies in size between one to two metres in length. They live in watery environments close to creeks, dams, and drains, and often shelter under fallen timber or in abandoned animal burrows. Unlike many other species, Tiger Snakes climb well on both vegetation and man-made constructions, and have been found as high as ten metres above the ground. The Tiger Snake enjoys a diet that includes fish, frogs and tadpoles, lizards, birds and mammals. They are largely diurnal (hunt for prey during daylight hours), and often search underwater for food, staying under for at least nine minutes without a breath.

EUROPEAN WASP(Vespula germanica)
The European Wasp can be identified by its bright yellow and black striped abdomen, black antennae and a pair of black spots on each yellow stripe. They are relatively small, between one and one and a half centimetres in size, and fly with their legs close to their body. They live in large communal nests made from chewed wood fibre, normally only visible as a small entrance hole in wall cavities, ceilings, logs or trees. Worker wasps from the nest are responsible for searching for food, and are attracted to meats, sweet food and sweet liquids (which is why you sometimes find them at your outdoor BBQ or picnic!).
The wasp is native to Europe, North Africa and Asia and is regarded as a pest in Australia. It was first found in Tasmania in 1959 and is now also common throughout many southern regions of the mainland. The European Wasp is aggressive and can sting repeatedly, especially if their nests are disturbed. The sting is painful and can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

BULL ANT (genus Myrmecia)
The Bull Ant can be identified by its large eyes, long slender mandibles (the strongest and lowest bone in the face), and a potent venom-loaded sting. They are often brightly coloured in shades of red and orange on the head or abdomen. The ant is quite large in size, with some reaching up to four centimetres in length. They live underground in extensive tunnel networks, but their nest will typically be identified by a dirt mound (avoid disturbing these mounds as a swarm of ants will be sent into a frenzy, resulting in someone being stung). To feed the colony the ants collect nectar and other plant juices, as well as animal prey, which they carry back to the nest. Australia is home to around 90 species of Bull Ants, and they are found throughout the country in diverse habitats. 

The Bull Ant is typically aggressive and has excellent eye sight, able to track or even follow intruders from a distance of one metre. Some of the smaller species are known as jumper ants, and aggressively jump towards their intruders.

TIGER SNAKE(genus Noteschis)
They are found in south-eastern and south-western Australia. It is generally shy, preferring escape over conflict, but if threatened can become aggressive. Its highly toxic venom makes it extremely dangerous to humans, and anyone who suspects they may have been bitten must see a doctor immediately.

LIONFISH(Common Lionfish - Pterois volitans)
The Common Lionfish can be identified by red and black bands on a pale background on both its body and beautiful, long pectoral and dorsal fins. It usually has a tentacle above both eyes and the adults have white spots along the lateral line (the back of the body). The Common Lionfish has 13 extremely venomous fin spines, and grows to around 38 centimetres in length. It inhabits coral and rocky reefs up to a depth of about 50 metres. Lionfish hunt in small groups, and use their fins to herd small prey fish before snapping them up. 

The common Lionfish has been found from south-western Western Australia, around the tropical north of the country and south to the southern coast of New South Wales. 
The fin spines can inflict extremely painful wounds. Divers are most likely to encounter Lionfish, and as these fish tend to be aggressive (pointing their dorsal spines towards an intruder), they should be avoided.

STONEFISH (Reef Stonefish - Synanceia verrucosa)
The Stonefish is an unattractive fish that can be identified by its rough, warty, mottled skin that camouflages the fish perfectly when it rests against algae-covered rocks. They are usually brown or grey in colour and may have patches of yellow, orange or red. It has 13 stout (strong) dorsal fin spines, and can grow to about 35 centimetres in length. It usually lives on coral bottoms and under rocks or ledges, but they are also known to be able to bury themselves in sand using their large pectoral fins. The Stonefish eats fish and crustaceans. It usually waits for prey to swim past, and then strikes with incredible speed.They are commonly found throughout the Indo-Pacific, and in Australia found on the Great Barrier Reef down to far northern New South Wales. 
The Reef Stonefish is the most venomous fish in the world. The camouflaged body makes it difficult to see in shallow water, making it prone to being stepped on. The dorsal fin spines can inject agonisingly painful and extremely toxic venom into the body. While a sting from a Stonefish has been known to be fatal, no deaths have been recorded in Australia since European settlement due to anti-venom being developed.

STINGRAY (Bluespotted Fantail Ray - Taeniura lymna)
Around 80 species of Stingray are found throughout the world, including 22 in Australia. The Bluespotted Fantail Ray is found around coral reefs in shallow tropical waters from the central coast of Western Australia, around the tropical north and south to the northern coast of New South Wales. 
Most stings occur when a Stingray is stepped on in shallow water, and the creature responds by arching its tail over the back and stabbing the spine into a foot or leg. The barbed venomous spines can inflict painful wounds, and in some cases can be fatal.

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