December 13th, 2019

aye aye captain

#14912-1499 - Arnotts Assorted Nut Weevils (et al)

#1491 - Sarasinula plebeia - Caribbean Leatherleaf Slug
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Spotted by Jack Moya in Logan, Queensland, where it’s increasingly common in suburban gardens, paddocks and other cultivated areas.

AKA American Brown Slug, and originally native to Brazil and the West Indies, but now found on many Pacific islands including Australia. In fact it was first described from New Caledonia. Also called the Bean Slug since it’s a major pest legume pods and flowers in Central and South America, as well as feeding on the foliage of beans, sweet potato, cabbage, Cucurbita sp., tomato, coffee, and the fruit of papaya. Nurseries growing mahogany and red cedar have also been affected.

This slug can transmit the nematode Angiostrongylus costaricensis, which is pathogenic to humans. 

Leatherleaf Slugs are more resistant to drought than most slugs, partly because of their thick leathery skin but also because they can burrow up to meter underground in the dry season.



#1492 - Sphaerobolus stellatus - Artillery Fungus
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AKA shotgun fungus or cannonball fungus.

Photo by Tanja Hughes, in Helena Valley, Western Australia, who sent these photos to an entomology group asking which insect had been laying eggs all over her watertank. I immediately IDed them as the spoe capsules of this interesting fungus, especially since the spheres were on the south-facing side of the tank, in the shade, and they’d recently mulched that part of the garden. 

Artillery Fungus grows as tiny spherical white or buff fruiting bodies, in mulch, vegetable litter, and dung. Once they mature the fruiting bodies split open at the top, and gradually increase the fluid pressure inside their cells, until it violently turns inside out launching the hard black spore capsule several meters, usually towards light. The spore capsules are obnoxiously sticky, and are a nuisance to home and car owners and landscape maintenance crews. 



#1493 - Tranes sp. - Zamia Weevils
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Photo by Anna Neko, in Bold Park, Perth.  Probably Tranes vigorsii, based on location.

Occasionally quite sizable weevils that are one of the specialist pollinators of Macrozamia and Lepidozamia cycads, ancient seed-bearing plants with palm-like leaves. Cycad seeds are quite poisonous, thanks to the effort of cyanobacteria in their roots, but that hasn’t stopped people from collecting them as food (after extensive preparation) because if you’re hungry enough you’ll learn how to eat anything (at least once). 

The other specialist pollinator for these Australian plants are thrips in the small three-species genus Cycadothrips. Some of these cycad species utilise only the weevils, or only the thrips, while others use both. The weevils feed on the cones of male plants, and visit the female cones, often in large numbers. There’s some evidence that the female plants use chemical cues to attract the weevils when they’re ready to be pollinated, then drive them off again to avoid damage to the ovules after they’ve been pollinated. 

There’s 11 known species of Tranes in the world, and 4 in Australia, which implies that some of them are up to the same kind of work in other parts of the world, for different genera of cycads. I just haven’t got any information on the species overseas. 




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aye aye captain

#1500 - Calomantispa venusta

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Something special for #1500 - a freakin’ Lycid-mimicking Mantispid Lacewing!

Spotted by Karen Palmer in Brisbane - which extends the known range at least as far as the Atlas of Living Australia records go, too. The other recorded sightings there are from the wetter parts of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. 

Unlike other subfamilies of Mantispid (which may be parasitoids of bee, wasp, and scarab larvae, or ectoparasites and brood parasites of spiders), Calomantispine larvae are active predators of small invertebrates, and so are the adults. After pupation, they emerge as these stunning insects, faking hard parallel-sided wings, and displaying the same warning colours adopted by Lycid beetles, and the hundreds of other insects that pretend to be Lycid beetles. 

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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#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.

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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#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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#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

#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

#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.