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Hmm - more anonymous King in Yellow miscellany in the post - playbills and newspaper clippings from a 1895 performance, and a curious amulet.

There is no way this is ending well.
Zin: Kobold trapsmith, escaped slave, master of disguise, future Underlord
Gillert: A sheep among wolves. Varisian, human, eldritch scoundrel, but not by choice.
Ys Danar: Elven cutthroat, former pirate, freelance assassin, etc.
Harshal High-seeker: Shoanti investigator and extremely crooked barrister.

Tannis Oberech: Human rake and fledgling noble, who hasn't actually been at any of the sessions for a while, which is a shame because his money-making schemes are starting to pay off.

Important NPCs:

Emelliandra Oberech, Iria, and Ticaria: Scholars of various levels of shadiness. We've done favours for most of them, as part of a long ladder to positions of wealth and influence. We're currently trying to get Ticaria's proposal to open the giant spider-monster-infested ruined cyclopean bridge up to adventuring parties in front of Magnimar's Council of Ushers.
Lady of the Council of Ushers - Lady Verrine Caiteil: The Elf In Charge
Seneschal of Dates - Jacildria Quildarmo: Highly influential civil servant
Parvo Crispin: Owner and publisher of Magnimar's first broadsheet newspaper
Lalya Margare: Parvo's spitfire reporter/assistant. It was her idea to sell the paper cheaply, to a much wider audience. Her revolutionary zeal and investigative reporting will probably mean trouble for us later.

The biggest bottleneck when trying to talk to the Council of Magnimar is the Seneschal of Dates, and it doesn't matter how even-handedly the Lady of the Council runs things, if the Seneschal doesn't like you, you aren't talking to anybody.

Harshal: So we need to frame her for something.
Ys: And then blackmail her. Killing her isn't the best option, since we have no control over who replaces her.
Gillert: We should try and find out if she's already guilty of something. More efficient than framing her ourselves. Any ideas?
Harshal: Sorry, I'm just reflecting on the fact that it's YS who's saying murder isn't the best option here.
Ys: Hey, I know murder.

Gillert: So far, no luck with dirt-digging.
Harshal: Hey, if was easy everybody would have done it.

Harshal: Does the seneschal have any kids?
GM: No - the joke is 'no man can keep to her schedule'.
Harshal: So no kids, and no lover. Or if there is a lover she's discrete. And if she had a female lover the joke would be 'no-one else can multitask'

Zin: So, how do you fell about a little light kidnapping?
Harshal: Is it anything like light housekeeping?

What we DO find out is that anybody that leans too heavily on the Seneschal finds secrets about THEM getting out into the world. Apparently she has her own information network that we haven't even heard of. On the other hand we also hear a rumour that her manse has a secret second level to the basement.

Zin: Easy, she's a noble - it's a sex dungeon.

She's also well-preserved for somebody in her fifties. The paranoid might say suspiciously well-preserved.

Zin: I guess she'll be getting a tail. A very small tail.
Harshal: As the pervy gnome-fancier said.

Her manse is a little on the small side for the Alabaster District. It barely qualifies, in fact.

Gillert: That would explain the basement, too - if you can't build out, dig down.
Harshal: And you could sell the marble you excavated, too.

She never eats alone, either - she's always seen in company, whether at Magnimar's eateries or entertainments. That could just be because she enjoys her work. But she's also known to be inconsistent on bribes - sometimes, no amount of coin will move her - at other times a mere token will suffice.

Harshal: Which must be endlessly frustrating for the people trying to bribe her.

Ys suggests we get in, disguised as delivery persons, and use the fact that she has a very small staff to our advantage. Nobody would be insane enough to break in in broad daylight, too. Zin suggests we deliver him in a box.

Harshal: 'Here's your delivery from Pervy Kobold-fanciers'?

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Compared to some of the things I've been getting in the mail lately, being anonymously sent pages from The King In Yellow is actually a pleasant surprise. But I will admit to increasing confusion as I worked down through the many layers of envelopes and cover letters.

#1255-1259 - Moths From Cue (And A Lizard)

#1255 - Scopula lydia - Lydia’s Wave

One of the very few insects that turned up to the light trap I set up on the first night at Cue - evidently my light source was inadequate, or there were simply that few insects about.

Lydia’s Wave is a geometrid moth in the Sterrhinae subfamily. I don’t have any information on the diet, or for that matter what the caterpillars look like, but it’s found across most of Australia.

Cue, WA

#1256 - Prorocopis sp.

I thought it was Prorocopis melanochorda, but the Australian moth expert I sent the pic to had her doubts. Pity I didn’t see the hindwings, or the underside, which would have helped immensely. Wiki says there’s five species in the genus, but Australian Lepidoptera only has pictures of two.

The largest of the Cue moths, which makes sense, since the Calpinae subfamily of the Noctuid moths are frequently on the large side.


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#1247-1254 - More Stuff From Cue

#1247 - Litoria rubella - Desert Tree Frog

AKA Naked Tree Frog and Little Red Tree Frog - a Hylid frog, often found near human habitation, across most of the warmer and drier parts of the continent. The map on the Atlas of Living Australia has nice long lines of sightings along the main inland roads, for obvious reasons. It’s also found in Papua and Timor.

This one was living under the well at the Dairy Wells campsite, and two others lived in the sides of the rusting horse trough.

Cue, Western Australia

#1248 - Psephotellus varius - Mulga Parrot

AKA Many-coloured Parrot. Native to the arid and lightly timbered areas of inland Australia. Female on the left, and the more colourful male at right.

Quite flighty birds, that were too nervous to come to the water trough at Dairy Wells, while we were there. This was a problem for them, as you can imagine, since the trough and a small puddle behind the windmill were the only standing water for miles. Still, the flock had a solution, that morning - dew that had collected on the tin roof of a half ruined shed ‘nearby’. By nearby I mean a few hundred meters away, but the desert was so quiet I headed off to see what the scrabbling noise was, and found them here. 

Cue, WA

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I was up at Cue a few weeks ago, with the WA Naturalists Club - it’s a Goldfields township some 700 north of Perth. Given that I had to spend most a day driving up, and the same back, I was only up there for the Saturday, but it was very worth it - for one thing, there were these guys around the campsite.

The Crested Katydid aka Superb Katydid is one of Australia’s most spectacular orthopterans, but has no close relatives. It’s widespread across the inland but seems to be relatively uncommon. With good rains they turn up on a variety of plants, and they’re thought to feed on flower buds, petals, and pollen. Which is a little odd, since nothing was in flower up there. That may explain why they were all so sluggish - on the other hand, maybe it was the cooling weather as well - we found large dead grasshoppers and katydids of a variety of species, just lying around.

Not a numbered species - since I’ve actually covered them before - this was the first time I’ve seen them in person :)

#1240 - Buforania crassa - Common Toadhopper

A large part of the countryside around Cue is covered in small pebbles, as here - and all the gold mining in the area probably hasn’t helped. That said, it does make for excellent camouflage for this Toadhopper, which we literally tripped over on a driveway.

Wikipedia says it’s found in the Northern Territory. Bowerbird has two sightings in the territory, one in South Australia, and one in Western Australia - THIS one. That might make you wonder why it’s described as common, but that just means hardly anybody has added sightings to the online databases.

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#1236-1239 - a Roadside Ecosystem

#1236 - Syrphid Maggot - Aphid-lion

Back in 2015, I pulled up at a job, looked down at the weeds beside the driveway, and discovered an entire ecosystem of parasites, predators, other parasites, and pathogens. And I only noticed the pathogen this evening. Which only goes to prove just how behind I am in posting the species I’ve actually managed to ID. 

The plants were Common SowthistleSonchus oleraceus, and it was heavily infested with Brown Sowthistle AphidsUroleucon sonchi , so I knelt down in the hope of finding anybody taking advantage of this - and I did. This hoverfly larvae is gorging her way through the infestation, something many of the more common hoverflies do as maggots.

#1237 - Uroleucon sonchi - Brown Sowthistle Aphid

A common aphid, at least on Sowthistles (Sonchus sp.) and allied plants, like lettuce. Occasionally, they’re a serious pest over east, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case in Western Australia. Of course, there’s also the risk of them transmitting plant viruses into the crops, but I don’t know if this particular species is a known vector.

This is a large genus with 226 species distributed worldwide associated almost entirely with the daisys (Asteraceae) and bellflowers (Campanulaceae) families.Uroleucon aphids are very fussy about their hosts - some are found on on a single species of plant. They do not host alternate

Aphids can reproduce asexually, which is great for starting new infestations and building up the numbers rapidly. These ones, on the other hand, usually reproduce  sexually, and overwinter as eggs. Here in Australia that probably means they breed all year round. Great snack for hungry hoverfly maggots or ladybirds, of course, and I’m sure their are tiny parasitic wasps that will go after them too.

Some species of Aphid are farmed by ants, for the honeydew they secrete - that’s not the case with Uroleucon aphids, usually.

#1238 - Diplazon laetatorius - Hoverfly Parasitoid

After photographing the hoverfly maggots and their prey the Brown Sowthistle Aphids, I notice somebody else at the dinner table - a small wasp busily exploring the Sowthistles. I was very satisfied with this, since it’s the Ichneumonid wasp Diplazon laetatorius. But it’s not parasitic on the aphids - it’s hunting for hoverfly larvae. 

#1239 - Miyagia pseudosphaeria - Sonchus Rust

And then, tonight, as I was getting these photos together to post on my blog, I noticed that many of the Sowthistle leaves had little yellow pimples on them, surrounded by dark pinkish rings - it soon figured out that it’s a another specialist, the Sonchus Rust Fungus (Miyagia pseudosphaeria).

The fungus was first noticed in Australia 20 years ago or so, but has no real effect at controlling the weed. Nor are the aphids, and their predator has its own problems, in the form of the wasp. True, it all reaches a balance eventually, but that balance is an invasive weed occupying habitat better reserved for Australian native plants, if you can find any that will survive beside driveways.

#1231-1235 - Yet More Flies

#1231 - Anomalomydas mackerrasi - Mackerra’s Midas Fly

Jean Hort, who’s a regular contributor to the Western Australian insects community, asked everybody to keep their eyes open for this particular species - a Midas Fly with skinny femurs.

A day or two later, one landed on my windscreen. Thus ensued some 20 minutes of me climbing up onto the roof of the van, and crawling around getting photos of it from various angles. The locality was typical for the species - open, mixed Banksia and eucalypt woodland on sandhills, but being down in Australind made it the southernmost record for the animal, so go me.

#1232 - Miltinus sp - Midas Fly

A colourful Mydas Fly that I stalked along a limestone track in Dawesville for about 30 minutes, trying to sneak up close enough for some good photos. Quite a striking insect.

Unfortunately, the entire area of woodland I found it in has since been bulldozed flat for another housing development. Sigh.

#1233 - Rivellia sp. - Signal Fly

A common genus of Signal Fly (Fam. Platystomatidae) around these parts. Platystomatids are distinctive family of flies, predominately tropical, with around 1200 species in 119 genera. 

Signal flies are very variable in appearance, ranging from small (2.5 mm), slender species to large (20 mm), robust individuals, often with having a metallic luster and with face and wings usually patterned with dark spots or bands. In the case of these ones, two silver lines between the eyes.

In some species of Platystomatid, the heads and legs (fore legs especially) may be oddly shaped, extended in various ways or with adornments, all of which serve to supplement threat displays and combat against rival signal flies. 

Adults are frequently found on tree trunks and foliage and are attracted to flowers, decaying fruit, excrement, sweat, and decomposing snails. Larvae are found on fresh and in decaying vegetation, carrion, human corpses, and root nodules. Most larvae are either phytophagous (eating plant material) or saprophagous (eating decomposing organic matter). Some are predatory on other insects and others have been found in human lesions, while others are of minor agricultural significance. 

Perth, WA

#1234 - Brunettia sp. - Moth Fly

One two three FOUR five, six seven eight NINE ten, eleven TWELVE, doo-doodoo doDOdum, doo dum do doodoo doDUMdoDUM TWELVE

An exceptionally fluffy genus of already exceptionally fluffy tiny flies. These ones were flying around and landing on burnt logs in eucalyptus woodland, down in the SW of the state. 

They also seemed to be laying eggs in cracks in the burnt logs, which was a bit strange, since Moth Flies (aka Drain Fly) larvae feed on biofilms, and the forest was quite dry. Perhaps they were getting ready for the winter rains, or not ovipositing at all. They are very tiny flies, after all.

Still, it was nice to see Psychodid flies in the wild for once, instead of hanging around bathrooms or portable toilets.

Near Cundinup, SW Western Australia

#1235 - Inopus rubriceps - Sugarcane Soldier Fly

Unusually for Soldier Flies (Stratiomyidae) this species is actually an agricultural pest, with the larvae attacking the roots of sugarcane here in Australia, but also found in New Zealand, and accidentally introduced to California 60 years ago. It was first found in San Francisco, and from there has slowly spread to adjacent counties in the SF Bay area – where it seems to be restricted to today. They’re a moderate sod pest in California, and that is probably what it was eating here in Glen Iris, near Bunbury - it’s not like we grow sugarcane down here, but we’ve got plenty of lawn.

#1221 - 1230 - More Flies

#1221 - Onesia sp. Grey Blowfly

Large metallic grey blowflies of unremarkable appearance or habits. This one was nectar-feeding on a Boronia.

Serpentine, Perth

#1222 - Ablabesmyia sp - Striped Non-biting Midge

Given the usual result of trying to ID a Chironomid - to whit, throw your hands in the air and declare ‘Non-biting Midge’ in disgust - it’s nice to have one you can actually narrow down as far as genus.

Ablabesmyia midges are widespread, but about the only information on them is that the bloodworm larvae of two European species appear to be restricted to the shallower edges of lakes and other waterbodies.

Perth. I forget where.

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#1213-1220 - Flies

#1213 - Rutilia (Chrysorutilia) aff. splendida - An OUTSTANDING Tachinid

Sighting posted on behalf of Rusti Gardiner, who found it in the SW of Western Australian, about halfway between Perth and Esperance. They add: 

“This was up at Lake Grace… on a tree in the local cemetery… not sure what trees they were but I suggest eucalyptus of some descript - it was taken Saturday just gone so the weather was pleasant and not too hot… I believe this fella was just waking up as I took this couple of shots he was perfectly still so I went back to the car to change lens - came back and he was still there but started to move his little legs at the front together… I looked down at the lens and looked back at him and he’d taken off…. obviously camera shy…. I’m just surprised that I got any shot at all. lol”

Tony D. at Bowerbird was just as thrilled with it as I was 

What a beauty! I would of been equally thrilled to come across this fly, if not more so :-) These are often hard to place from photos but convinced by general look and features seen it belongs in subgenus Chrysorutilia. Not fully certain of species, but belongs to the R. splendida group of similar looking species. 

If it’s like other Rutilia species, a parasitoid of large scarab beetle grubs.

#1214 - Rutilia sp. - A Christmas Tachinid

Saw the enormous silhouette through the screen door, said “What the fuck is that?” and dashed off around the house to get some photos :) 

Rockingham, Perth

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