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#1684-1692 - Southwest Spider Orchids

#1684 - Caladenia procera - Carbunup King Spider Orchid
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Happily, travel restrictions inside Western Australia were lifted soon enough that the WA Naturalists Club weekend trip to the Yallingup area could still go ahead. So we got to see a really nice selection of species, such as this Carbunup King, one of the tallest and largest Spider Orchids.

Caladenia procera is critically endangered, currently known from a linear range of less than 15 km to the south-west of Busselton, where it grows in Jarrah, Marri and Peppermint woodland on alluvial sandy-clay loam flats with Anigozanthos manglesii, but also from a disjunct occurrence some 70 km north near Kemerton. The geodata for the species on iNaturalist is deliberately obscured, to protect them from disturbance, but since they were doing remarkably well in the drain beside the road, and along the well worn footpaths in this particular tiny area of remnant woodland, they would seem to be tolerant of minor disturbance. Having most of the countryside clear-cut for paddocks, and the rest burnt at the wrong time of year, is not minor disturbance.



#1685 - Caladenia ferruginea - Rusty Spider Orchid
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A much less endangered orchid than the Carbunup King, but only because there are more areas of surviving bushland between Perth and Albany, and it grows in a wider range of habitat,  ranging from well-drained soil in woodlands to swamps which are flooded in winter



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#1682-1683 - Hepialid Moths

#1682 - Oxycanus determinata
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A quite rare mid-sized Hepialid, only found in coastal vegatation in parts of Western Australia. Apparently my photos are the only record of the species on iNaturalist or the Atlas of Living Australia.

Wannanup, south of Perth



#1683 - Fraus sp. - Primitive Ghost Moth
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A smaller Hepialid species, from a genus with a number of undescribed species. Most of them feed on grasses and sedges as larvae, as far as I can determine, and at least one species is a pasture pest

Wellard, Perth

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#1681 - Phytolacca sp. - Pokeweed

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Also known as pokeberry, pokebush, pokeroot, and inkberry

There’s between 25 and 35 described species in the genus, and a few are tree sized. They’re native to the Americas and East Asia, but at least 5 species are weeds in Australia. One species is an invasive weed in the Pacific Northwest. 

A related species has been found in fossils from the Upper Cretaceous. 

The leaves of one species are used in poke salat in the American South, which is a bit weird since every part of the plant is quite poisonous. 

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#1676-1679 - Various

#1676 - Chlenias sp.
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A Geometrid caterpillar genus with a wide diet, including many native and introduced species. This one was one of hundreds strolling aimlessly around the footpath, bare sand and walls at a job in Halls Head, Perth. More were busy reducing the kerbside shrubs to even more ragged than they already were, although I’m not sure what species the shrub were, or exactly which Chlenias this is.



#1677 - Fam. Scatopsidae - Minute Black Scavenger Flies
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Also known as Dung Midges. Spotted on a ‘Geraldton Carnation’ (Euphorbia terracina).

A small family of about 250 known species, which has been around since at least the Cretaceous. The larvae for most species are unknown, but the ones that are are saprophages, found in decaying plant and animal matter.



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#1971-1675 - More from Bindoon

#1971 - Borya scirpoidea - Pincushions
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Unlike the other Borya species I’ve found before, this one doesn’t form thickets of tiny tree-like branches and mimiature forests on exposed granite. Instead it has stems that lie on the ground, with narrow needle-like leaves pointing up. It was growing in laterite soil at the bottom of a granite boulder slope, however.

North of Bindoon north of Perth.



#1972 - Thomasia sp.
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A genus of small shrubs from the Mallow family, endemic to the SW of Australia, with the exception of the Paper Flower Thomasia petalocalyx which is also found in parts of South Australia and Victoria. 

I don’t know which of the 30+ species this is, but it was growing in disturbed laterite soil at the bottom of a granite slope north of Bindoon. Some of them do quite well in gardens, in dry and partly shady areas.



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#1669-1671 - Stick Katydids

#1668 - Phasmodes sp. - Stick Katydid
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Photo by Colin Prickett, on the first day of the WA Naturalists Club outing to Bindoon north of Perth. 

There are three known species of these very stick-insect-like katydids, all from coastal regions of SW Western Australia, but I don’t know which one this is. Phasmodes is the only genus in its subfamily. I gather they used to be in the Zaprochilinae, along with similarly phasmid-like genera like Kawanaphila and the Balsam Beast Anthophiloptera dryas, but I don’t know when they got promoted. 

I did find references to a paper titled  “The mating biology of Phasmodes ranatriformis (Orthoptera : Tettigoniidae : Phasmodinae) : a uniquely mute genus of bushcricket from West Australia” by Win Bailey, T. Lebel, so presumably they have that distinction as well.


#1669 - Kawanaphila sp. - Pollen Katydid
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Either the Great Tumblr Purge ate the posts, or I’ve somehow never covered these unusual Katydids before, despite have spotted my first one years ago, now. The first one is from the Alison Baird Reserve, and the second from a tiny patch of bushland that briefly survived having the entire surrounding area bulldozed and carted away from a new building development. 

These pollen-feeding katydids were first described in 1993 by David C. Rentz, and the eleven known species are only found in the SW, southern parts of South Australian, and western Victoria. 



#1970 - Anthophiloptera dryas - The Balsam Beast
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Photo by Eleanor Sivertsen , at Empire Bay, NSW. 

The largest of the Zaprochiline Pollen-feeding Katydids, and a pretty spectacular katydid in all other regards as well. First described in 1983, after one was spotted on Balsam flowers. This was in a Sydney garden, by Densey Clyne. I remember the video segment she did about them, quite vividly, but then she was an amazing naturalist.

Despite being found all along the east coast, including in urban areas, it hadn’t been described before because it spends most of its life high in Angophora trees, feeding at night, only moving to garden plants and fruit when Angophora blossom becomes scarce. The long narrow snout is ideal for reach deep into a flower. Adults in this and other Zaprochiline genera hold the wings at a 30-degree angle away from the body, and rest during the day with their bodies pressed close to the trunk or branch of the host plant. 

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#1664-1667 - Some Stuff From Bindoon

#1664 - Caladenia hiemalis - Dwarf Spider Orchid
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One of the many Wispy Spider Orchids found in SW Australia - this particular species flowers in winter (hence hiemalis), most often after fire and is most common in Wandoo woodland, in damp soils. I spotted these ones on the lower parts of a rocky granite hill north of Bindoon, north of Perth, although the trees were mostly she-oak rather than Wandoo.



#1665 - Camponotus marcens
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A species of Carpenter Ant where the minor workers look bizarrely similar to the workers from a completely different genus, the Strobe Ants (Opisthopsis). Found only in the Darling Range (as here, near Bindoon), or the SW Wheatbelt (not far away). Most often noticed running up and down eucalypt trunks (in this case a Wandoo) when they didn’t spot you first and run around to the far side of the trunk



#1666 - Meranoplus fenestratus
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If a hardware failure hadn’t eaten my harddrive, AND my external back-up drive, I’d see if I had any suitable Beast-related species to post, but no such luck. So here’s a neighbour of the beast, or at least a neighbour of the last ant I posted.

I spotted this tiny worker on the same Wandoo trunk as the Camponotus marcens minor worker, but as you probably noticed they’re wildly different in appearence, so there was no chance of it being a minum caste of the same species. 

There’s at least 80 valid species of Meranoplus, half of them in Australia, and they’re all omnivores or granivores. They nest underground, are active day and night, and if disturbed roll themselves in dirt and pretend to be dead (although I did find an interesting account of them protecting themselves from other ants). They have very large Dufour’s Glands for their size, and presumably rely on scent trails to navigate regardless of the time of day. 

I don’t have much info on this particular species, and the scattered distribution records either have it all over the country or just in Western Australia, but the photos on AntWiki were taken on a treetrunk in Wandoo National Park, east of Perth, so it’s keeping in character that far at least.



#1667 - Underwoodisaurus milii - Thick-tailed Barking Gecko
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Up at Bindoon again.

Living in a hollow log under a birdbath, and boy was she pissed that people keep lifting it up to get a photo. The barking defense call is typical of the genus, and the source of their common name. Not quite as psychotic as the Asian/Pacific Tokay Gecko, which is also known as the ‘Fuck You Lizard’ from the call and spirited attempts to to bite off your face. 

The species is found in rocky areas across most of the southern half of the Australian mainland. It’s more cold-tolerant than most geckos, which might be related to their unusual sociability during the day - multiple geckos will huddle together, apparently to stay warm for the onset of evening. 

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#1657-1663

#1657 - Boletellus obscurecoccineus - Rhubarb and Custard Bolete
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With the COVID19 restrictions finally relaxed here in western Australia, we had our first field trip with the WA Naturalist’s Club in months, out to the forest near Dwellingup SE of Perth. I invited members of the WA Insect Studies Society along too, and it appears they were going stir crazy too, since we ended up with over 30 people searching the undergrowth.

One of the many fungi we found was this bolete, a species found in Australia,  New Guinea, Borneo, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Java (from where it was originally described). The flesh is yellow, and bruises blue in most parts of the range, but not in WA, oddly. 

A number of Asian species have been synonymised with this one, but a similar species from Africa turned out to be distinct enough to get their own name. Elsewhere in the world the species in ectomycorrhizal with oaks and other decidous species, but in Australia it’s associated with eucalypts. 

Edibility is unknown, despite the common name. 



#1658 - Fistulina sp. - Beefsteak Polypore
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Named for the resemblance to a slab of fresh meat, and indeed it’s quite edible, if collected young, although the taste is somewhat acidic and it may require long cooking. Also known as the ox tongue, or tongue mushroom.

Althought that all assumes it’s Fistulina hepatica (although Hepatica itself refers to the resemblance to liver) - it could just as easily be Fistulina spiculifer. There seems to be an ongoing argument about whether you can tell you two apart without examining the spores under a microscope, which species of tree they grow on, and which species we actually get in Australia.

Assuming they’re close enough that we can discuss them as the same species, they’re quite widespread in Australia, North America, Africa and Europe. In the northern hemisphere F. hepatica is common on oaks and sweet chestnut, and the brown stain it imparts to oak makes for a valuable timber, as long as the Brown Rot it imparts by dissolving the cellulose with hydrogen peroxide isn’t too advanced. In Australia, it grows from wounds on Eucalypts, and the timber develops long dark streaks. 



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#1654-1656

#1654 - Dermestid larva
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Another of Chuen Man Chang’s fabulous discoveries - this one was under bark. 

Andras Szito, a coleopterist based here in Perth, commented -

“Under high magnification probably you can see that the setae (hairs) look like barbed spear. (There are quite a lot with simple hairs). Many of the native Hide beetles living in spider’s “nests” and I believe the setae serving to keep the homeowner’s fangs away. Since almost all Dermestids (as far as we know) feeding on dry material of animal origin they find enough food in a spider’s nest in the form of insect carcasses. Sorry for being so vague but we know little of the native Dermestid fauna.”



#1655 - Platybrachys barbata -  Teeth-marked Gum Hopper
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Another find by Chuen Man Chang‎ in Brisbane. This particular species is only known from that area. 

The Broad-frons Planthoppers (Family Eurybrachidae, Tribe Platybrachini) are quite diverse in Australia. Adults are generally mottled for camouflage, and live on the trunk or larger branches of Eucalypts and Acacia. They may sidle off sideways, or even backwards, if they think they’ve been spotted, or if really pressed will leap off with a loud TICK and fly away.

Eurybrachid nymphs, on the other hand, have a pair of long wax filament attached to the end of their abdomen, and resemble small insects back to front They even walk backwards to complete the illusion. If attacked, they will leap forward, which confuses predators that were expecting them to jump the other way. 

You may have noticed the white fluffystuff attached to her abdomen - that is the powdery wax they pack over and around their eggs, laid on the trunk of the host tree. It’s intended to protect the eggs, but it doesn’t work against the parasitic wasps that target them, or against any ladybeetles that find the eggmass and chow down. 



#1656 - Erilla turneri
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Chuen Man Chang‎ again. They get some amazing photos of the species around Brisbane. 

I don’t have any information on the species, though, beyond it being the only one in the genus, and that it was described by the English entomologist William Lucas Distantin in 1906.