aye aye captain

Champions : Return to Edge City : Granny Kickass

Hero Shrew: I’ve stopped smashing as many walls when I fight, so I am taking that career advice I got to heart. Admittedly, I did try to smash Killzone with a park bench, but...
Flux: Well, you were drugged to the eyeballs at the time.
GM: That excuse will only work so many times.

The problem this week is a jurisdictional one, specifically a hearing on who gets first dibs on the members of the psychic supervillain team PSI, who we’ve had a run-in with before, although the member we actually caught got away. The twist is that Hypnos’ mother Wanda Vanderschaff was a supervillain and has gone missing from the retirement home she was living at. This has also surprised Hypnos who had no idea his mum was ever a villain.

GM: The superhuman community assumed she had retired because her powers were fading. The staff of the Assisted Living community certainly saw no sign of her superpowers, except perhaps in her alcohol consumption.

Naturally everybody is expecting some kind of attack on the hearing, even if it’s a rival group trying to take out PSI while they’re in one place.

Hero Shrew: Is there anything we need to know about her if she DOES show up at the hearing? Osteoporosis or anything?
GM: No, she was a very active woman for her age.
Flux: Minor Brick?
GM: Used to be.
Hero Shrew: Oh good, I can punch her with snapping her spine then.
Flux, Allana, etc: NO
GM: SHE’S A LITTLE OLD LADY. You could kill her with Casual Strength.

Allana: She’s probably dosed herself with something to restore her powers.
Flux: Alcohol-fuelled superpowers, oh goody.

The members of Quadrant have been asked to stay away for the day of the hearing, probably because there’s no point actually asking for trouble. We loiter a suburb away, instead, and happily our Crime Computer isn’t fooled by whatever goes down at the courthouse.

Hardlight: I finish my coffee and nip into the lavatory to change into my costume.
Hero Shrew OoC: ‘the coffee’s not that bad’
GM: And Gareth is a minor celebrity - it’s going to go out on social media that Gareth Lowell has a weak bladder, from all the times he’s seen drinking coffee and suddenly running off into toilets.

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aye aye captain

Champions : Return to Edge City : The Internet Is For Porn

Investigating the case of somebody who has discovered the newest danger of online porn - apparently it’s getting your mind sucked out.

Flux: Please don’t say that on social media. Anywhere. People will panic.
Hero Shrew: Especially with the recent unexplained uptick in network efficiency and download speeds. Download your porn faster and get your brain sucked out even faster.

Hardlight recruits our technomage, using Hardlight’s Telecom CEO civilian ID to make it official. The rest of his employees are used to odd behaviour from Gareth Lowell, including dragging cute new IT guys off into private rooms.

We wonder whether Mechanon is responsible, or more likely one of the systems he set up and then left to its own devices after abandoning whatever plan he was pursuing at the time. Whatever is going on, among other things, has greatly increased the resources available to the Edge City network. Where is the new hardware coming from? And more importantly, where is it being put?

Hardlight: Is this AI asking me for a job? He, or she?
GM: Don’t assume gender. Although suggesting a non-binary ID for an artificial intelligence is another thing.
Hardlight: Might be Trinary.
GM: NO NO NO. If you end up with Trinary Integers it’ll get shortened to TITS. And then instead of bits and bytes, and so on, you’ll get Tits, Boobs and Nipples. THIS IS INEVITABLE.

Apparently the extra servers have been concealed inside the monorail supports.

Hardlight: Someone has been messing with the monorail system? Again? You can come along if you want.
Hero Shrew: Sure, if you need something smashed.

At least the pillars are city property, so we don’t need a warrant.

Hardlight: Everybody remember - try not to break anything. Scooter.

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aye aye captain

Pathfinder : The Mummy's Mask : Boss Fight

The Covenant of Wati still consists of Nemat, Inquisitor of Wadjet, who is well on his way to becoming a living monolith, Onka the half-orc spell sage who is currently piloting a big stompy Ancient Osiriani robot around, Asrian the part-djinn human Cuisinart, and Asrian’s GF the gnoll cleric Zenobia, who is trying very hard to be a good person despite the trail of exploded cultists the party is leaving in their wake (most of them deserved it). At the moment we’re working our way through an evil temple far out in the desert, originally dedicated to one Faceless Sphinx, briefly occupied by the undead Pharaoh we’ve been hunting down, and promptly reoccupied by the cultists and demonic emissaries of Areshkigal the moment the Pharaoh ran off.

We’re exhausted and somewhat mauled, having survived three boss fights in a row. The GM’s response, of course, is to throw us into two more and then four at once, so it’s entirely likely the Covenant will be short a few members soon.

The next room has a stone table and numerous bloodstained knives.

Zenobia OoC: Probably not a teppanyaki bar.

And yet another variety of undead that arises from improperly buried remains. Zenobia is cursed again, so it’s lucky Nemat has a suitable scroll handy. Especially before whatever is trying to punch through the wall gets through. One of the things is a skeletal demon, and the other is carrying a shield embossed with an image of a huge faceless sphinx.

Zenobia: Didn’t we just deal with that?
Nemat: No. We dealt with the being that was carrying the SYMBOL of that.
Zenobia: Oh dear.
GM: Zenobia, are you openly displaying the symbol of a good-aligned god?
Zenobia: Of course.
Asrian: Of course she is.

It’s the only thing that’s stopped her being shot on sight sometimes.

GM: Well I know what Heket is doing first then.
Zenobia: *fainter oh dear*
Heket: *casts Destruction on Zenobia*
Zenobia: *burns remaining Hero Points to avoid being reduced to a black silhouette on the wall*
Ghost Paladin: *intervenes with her shield* Not THIS gnoll.

Zenobia is still mostly dead. Asrian goes berserk. Her fury, Nemat’s increasing resemblance to Robocop, and Onka’s mecha suit all protect them during the subsequent melee, despite spells like Chain Lightning.

Zenobia OoC: Somebody kill that wannabe-Sheev-Palpatine.
Onka OoC: I think that corpse is talking.

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aye aye captain

#1538-1541 - Some Moths

#1538 - Ocystola sp.
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An Oecophorid Micromoth in Mallet plantation, at edge of Wandoo woodland, out at Dryandra. These and a number of other small moths were flying around close to the ground until shortly after the sun rose over the hill.

Ocystola feeds on gum tree leaves, gluing to leaves together with silk, and folding one leaf like a tent. They pupate inside this shelter too.

As to exactly which Ocystola this is, that’s another question. It looks closest to one species that isn’t even native to Western Australia, but the markings are intermediate enough that it could be one of four, one of them as yet undescribed.



#1539 - Aeolocosma cycloxantha
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A tiny but gorgeous moth that flew in my car window, after a Bioblitz in the Bungedore State Forest just east of Perth.  I don’t have any information about its biology, but if it’s anything like the majority of Australian Oecophoridae, it probably has something to do with gum leaves.

Found in WA and Victoria



#1540 - Thalamarchella sp.
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Another spectacular local Concealer Moth - possibly. There seems to be an ongoing argument whether this and related moths are in the Gelichiidae, Depressariidae (Flat-bodied Moths) or the Oecophoridae (Concealer Moths). As of 2019, it would seem it’s a Depressariid, which are less common in Australia then they are in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Western Australia seems to have a number of species, found only here, but I’m not sure which one this is, and of course there’s no information on diet.

Banjup, Perth



#1541 - Euchaetis holoclera
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AKA Heliocausta holoclera

An Oecophorid found in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia. The caterpillars are believed to feed on the foliage of various trees in the family MYRTACEAE, and live alone in a shelter constructed by joining leaves with silk, retaining their frass within the shelter (which doesn’t seem very hygienic, but the plant oils may drive off parasites and predators). The caterpillars pupate within their shelters.

Found on my porch, here in Perth.

aye aye captain

#1535-1537 - Some Hemiptera

#1535 - Phaenacantha australiae - Linear Bug
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Wayne Smith posted this photo to the Australian Pest Managers Network, with the following -

“They are about 10 mm long. House backs on to a cane field and cane is fully grown about to be harvested. They are living in the shrubs around the house and cover the walls when disturbed.”

I managed to ID them, but would have failed if it wasn’t for the mention of Sugar Cane.

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The genus Phaenacantha includes a number of pests of sugar cane, which explains why some of the species have binomials like saccharicida, and the Australian species was recognised as a potential pest of Sugar Cane as far back as 1921. They weren’t wrong, either - the population of Linear Bugs can explode to devastating proportions, not least because they’re vectors of plant disease, on top of all the damage they do to the plant as they feed on the sap. 

There are a few predators of them, luckily - ants will eat the eggs after they’ve been scattered around the base of the plant, and maul the nymphs and adults, and assassin bugs will gorge themselves, but in a large field of sugarcane one of the few things that will reduce the number of the pests is to burn the whole thing to the ground, after the best parts of the cane have been harvested. 

The family,  Colobathristidae, used to be part of the Lygaeidae, but got split off into their own group in 1997.



#1536 - Maskellia globosa
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Galls formed by Armoured Scale Insects, on a Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus rudis).

Gall formation is not usual for the Armoured Scale Insects - most of the 2650 described species from the 400-odd genera produce a waxy protective scale while they feed on the host plant. Diaspidid scales are usually more complex, waterproof, and substantial than those of most other families, incorporating the molted skin of the first two instars, and sometimes frass and fragments of the host plant.

Some Diaspididae are serious agricultural pests -  one, Quadraspidiotus perniciosus or San Jose scale, was the first known example of insecticide resistance, in 1914.



#1537 - Apiomorpha helmsii -Fluted Eucalyptus Gall
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From the Dryandra Woodlands.

Identified as Apiomorpha helmsii on Bowerbird by Lyn Cook, an expert of Apiomorpha galls. The female galls are much larger, and spindle-shaped, but are also strongly fluted.  

aye aye captain

#1530-1534 - More from Dryandra

#1530 - Fam. Hypertrophidae
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Hypertrophids are a small family of 50 named, small, Australian, moths, that feed on Eucalypts, and build a shark cage out of their own poop, as you can see here. No sign of the caterpillar, though. 

When they’re ready to pupate, they attach themselves to a surface and turn into a naked pupa, resembling a broken twig, and lacking any kind of cocoon. Unfortunately, they often attach them to leaves instead of twigs, which is a bit conspicuous. The adult moths are generally small and brown or yellow, but some Eupselia species have metallic stripes and black spots, and Thudaca species are silvery-white with yellow stripes.

Dryandra Woodlands



#1531 - Meriphus sp.
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A different species of Meriphus weevil than I’m used to, but there’s a dozen or so in the genus. Adult Meriphus are pollen feeders.

Dryandra Woodlands, in the WA Wheatbelt



#1533 - Fam. Entomobryidae - Slender Springtail
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A familiar of Collembola, longer and thinner than the more familiar families. There’s over 700 known species, but I don’t have much information on them.

Shaking out of a Eucalypt in the Dryandra Woodlands



#1534 - Labium sp. - Ground-nesting Bee Parasitoid
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A genus of Ichneumonid wasp that target the nests of ground-nesting solitary bees, especially Leioproctus sp., nipping down the burrow while the mother is out collecting pollen and nectar. She is generally quite unhappy if she comes back to find one of these wasps halfway down the hole. In fact, if the bee emerges from the burrow and notices any of these wasps hanging around, she’ll stand guard in the entrance until they give up and leave. 

Dryandra Woodlands, WA.

aye aye captain

#1520-1529 - Stuff from the Dryandra Woodlands

#1520 - Fam. Ichneumonidae Tribe Phygadeuontini
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Under 10mm, shaken out of psyllid-infested eucalypt out at the Dryandra Woodlands. 

The Phygadeuontini is part of the Cryptinae subfamily of the Ichneumonid wasps, but Wikipedia claims that there’s 18 genera and 12 described species in Phygadeuontini. I’m sure you can see the problem there. There’s at least 270 in the genus Gelis alone. 

I don’t have any information on the tribe in general, but all the ones I’ve been able to track down are parasites of other wasps and sawflies. In fact, both Lysibia nana and Gelis agilis are pupal hyperparasitoids of the Braconid wasp Cotesia glomerata. Cotesia is a parasite of the Cabbage White butterflies, and all three wasps use the same chemical clues to find a host - the alarm chemicals produced by the plant the caterpillar is eating. The hyperparasites show up looking for the wasp the cabbage was hoping for.



#1521 - Thynnine Wasp
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Or perhaps Thynnid - these wasps used to be part of the Tiphiid family, but more recent work has elevated them to a full family, at least in some sources. I’m sticking with the Atlas of Living Australia for now, although given that recently did a merger with iNaturalist, then people will need to think about which classification is current (marine molluscs are going to be a nightmare).

Thynnids are almost all parasitoids of beetle larvae, and have wingless females that the male carries around while in flight. I have no idea which genus this one is, but whichever it is is surely famous for their enormous golden muttonchop beards.  

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education even if you don't want it

#1513-1519 - Orchids of the Wheatbelt

#1513 - Pterostylis sargentii - Frog Greenhood
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One of the many orchids we saw while we were out at the Dryandra Woodlands and another area of surviving woodland in the WA Wheatbelt.

Greenhoods are common in the wheatbelt of WA, and this species often grows on and around rocky breakaways and under Wandoo trees in deep leaf litter. In this case they were growing in litter underneath Mallet (Eucalyptus astringens) which was a bit surprising since shed Mallet bark suppresses nearly all plant growth. Each plant has up to six flowers and grows to almost 20cm tall. They flower from July to early September. 



#1514 - Pterostylis sanguinea - Red-banded Greenhood
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Another Greenhood, endemic to southern Australia, and common and widespread in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and, rarely, in Tasmania. The plants either have a rosette of leaves when not flowering or stem leaves on a spike in the years they flower. Like here, they have up to about twelve flowers which are dark reddish-brown, sometimes green or green and brown. 

The translucent windows in the hood are part of the trap they use for pollinating fungus gnats in the genus Mycomya. The gnats are attracted by chemicals secreted by the labellum and enter the flower looking for a non-existent female, whereupon the labellum moves forward, trapping the insect between the column wings, the labellum and other flower parts. The gnat blunders around trying to escape, picking up pollinia or transferring pollinia they acquired at another flower.

Yilliminning Rock, near Narrogin, Western Australia



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aye aye captain

#1511 & 1512 - An insect-sucking fungus and a fungus-sucking insect

#1511 - Beauveria sp.
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Photo by Wayne Boatwright, of a longicon beetle killed by a fungus.

The genus was named after Jean Beauvarie, a french mycologist. B. bassiana, the best-known species, is named after Agostino Bassi, who was studying muscardine disease in silkworms in the 19th century, proved it was caused by a fungus, and incidentally the first demonstration of the germ theory of disease.

Beauvaria is asexually reproducing - there is a sexually-reproducing stage, but those are called Cordyceps where known. Fungal taxonomy can be weird like that, largely because it can be so difficult to connect the asexual form to the sexual form. Until molecular biology became widespread, most fungi had different names for the two forms. As of 2013, the rule is now ‘one fungus, one name’, so there are a lot of revisions in the pipeline. 

An infected insect or arachnid becomes increasingly sluggish and ill as the fungus thickens and crystallises its haemolymph, and secretes toxins. Once the host is killed, the fungus erupts from the thinner parts of the cuticle, dehydrating and sometimes mummifying the corpse, and forming a white layer of fungal conidia hardened with oxalate crystals. 



#1512 - Aneipo diva
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Photo by Ned Fisher, at Bingil Bay, in coastal North Queensland.

 “Hey guys! I originally thought this was a moth but I’m not so sure after having a closer look. Any help with an ID would be greatly appreciated! Its roughly 2-3cm long and was attracted to lights at night.”


I would have thought it was a moth too, until I noticed the upward-staring eyes and the stubby, club-shaped antennae.

 If this species is anything like other better-known Achilid Planthoppers, the young are fungus feeders found under dead bark, and the adults feed on plants and most likely a gymnosperm rather than a flowering plant. Of course, so little is known about most Australian insects that that could be completely wrong. 

There are four species known species of Aneipo - ceres (southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales), diana  (north Queensland) and minerva (New South Wales), and diva from the wet coastal tropics of Queensland.

aye aye captain

#1501-1510 - Another Assortment

#1501 - Philomastix sp. - Two-tailed Sawfly
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Photo by Jason Dix, on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

Probably Philomastix xanthophilus, the Red Ash or Bramble Sawfly, but all the larvae in the genus have two tails.

Philomastix sawflies are short and stout, and lay their eggs on the underside of the hostplant’s leaves. But they do it by cutting a hole in the top of the leaf, and gluing the egg in place afterwards. They then spend the rest of their life standing guard over the eggs and younger larvae, rattling their otherwise useless wings to scare off predators and parasitoids.



#1502 - Agarista agricola - Joseph’s Coat Moth
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Found by Kerry Gardeniers in the town of 1770 in Queensland.

Joseph’s Coat moths are remarkably colourful Noctuids native to Papua and north and eastern Australia, where they eat various plants in the grape family. They start off with mostly black and white bands, as in the photo by Phil Mcintyre below, and switch to entirely orange and black as they get older. 

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When they’re ready to build a cocoon they spend hours chewing up small pieces of bark as camouflage, as they build the cocoon along a branch.

Then they emerge as this. 

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