aye aye captain

#1600 - Lamprogaster corax

1600 species, or thereabouts - with the Great Tumblr Purge of 2019, it's actually getting hard for me to check whether I've covered a species before. Anyway -

#1600 - Lamprogaster corax
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An absolute stunner of a Signal Fly, found by Scott Templeton in Far North Queensland. IDed by Tony D. at iNaturalist, which is just as well since there are no pictures of the species anywhere online, and bugger all mentions of it either. 

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#1595-1599 - More Stuff

#1595 - Lactura sapotearum
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Formerly Physicampa sapotearum, and found in Queensland and NSW. Photo by Josh Macbeth, Tambourine Mt., Queensland.

The Caterpillars of this species have two large white patches on each side of the body, inflated when the caterpillar is disturbed, which they follow up by exuding a very sticky substance. The caterpillars start off blue-grey, with two tubercles on the back of each segment. These bumps are yellow on most segments except in early instars when the middle two are red. Later instars are blue-grey with longitudinal yellow stripes. There are two red or yellow horns on the prothorax and at the end of the abdomen.

The caterpillars feed by day on plants in Sapotaceae, including Black Apple ( Planchonella australis ), and Yellow Boxwood ( Planchonella pohlmaniana ), and pupate in crevices of the bark of the tree in stiff white cocoons.

The adult moths have a wingspan of 4cm, with red forewings and dark veins, and yellow markings at all three corners. The hindwings and abdomen are plain scarlet. The males are paler than the females. 

This moth was originally described by Alexander Scott in a manuscript based on drawings by his daughters: Harriet and Helena, to be published in three volumes. Sadly he never managed to get Volume 3 printed, so the credit of first description goes to William Swainson, who reviewed the manuscript pre-publication in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ in 1851, with some brief descriptions of this and other species.



#1596 - Thanatodictya sp.

Adult and nymph, this time, since they both got sent to me the same week.

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Peter Jettner in Darwin.  Probably Thanatodictya (Thanatodictya) praeferrata.

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A nymph spotted by Mark Bell-Humphrey.

At first glance they’re Fulgorid lanternflies, but they’re actually Dictyopharids, a related family with about 760 species in 150 genera. 

I did learn something interesting while reading up on these guys though - the purpose of the pterostigma, a thickened section on the forward edge of the forewing of many flying insects. It helps with gliding flight, by dampening out any vibrations that build up in the wing above a critical speed. 

I don’t known if the genus has a preferred diet, but the New Zealand species T. tillyardi is usually associated with bracken fern. 



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#1590-1594

#1590 - Stenus sp.
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Found by Len van der Waag, down here in the SW, in his wheelbarrow full of firewood.

These distinctive Rove Beetles are found worldwide, and is quite possibly the largest genus of animals in the world, with over 3000 described species. They are predators of smaller invertebrates including springtails, which they catch with an extendable labium tipped with bristles, pads and adhesive glands. They extend this with astonishing speed, fast enough to catch springtails before they can jump away, and draw the prey back to the mandibles.

Many species are semi-aquatic, so I’m not sure what this one was doing in a wheelbarrow, but they have useful adaptations for living around water too. They can swim quite rapidly, for one thing, but if they need to move in a hurry they secrete a hydrophobic chemical from their anal glands, which changes the surface tension around them and shoots them across the water at 70cm a second. A human moving at an equivalent speed would be travelling at 900km/hr. 



#1591 - Ropalidia romandi - Yellow-brown Paper Wasp
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Photo by James Garner, in Brisbane. 

This is one of Australia’s Polistine social wasps, but unlike our other ones this one adds an external layer of paper around the horizontal combs. Since it’s a swarm-founding species, the colonies grow rapidly and can end up over a meter long, usually on the underside of large tree branches or the eaves of houses. 

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(photo by Summerdrought)

Yellow-brown Paper wasps generally breed in summer, and empty cells are stocked with nectar for winter.

Their sting is very painful, but short-lived, and like most paper wasps will soon learn to recognise any humans they see in the yard, and ignore you. If you change your hair colour, or are a stranger, they may give you a warning sting to keep away. 



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#1586-#1589

#1586 - Ovalipes australiensis -  Common Sand Crab
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A reasonably common Portunid crab in the coastal waters of southern Australia, fished both commercially and recreationally. Mostly distinguished by the two dark spots. 



#1587 - Megaloxantha bicolor
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Sent to me by Nina Guthrie-James, after a friend of theirs found it in Indonesia.

An enormous Jewel Beetle, over 7cm long, that may be metallic green, blue, reddish or blackish, with yellow or whitish markings on the elytra, and markings on the thorax that are usually bright orange-yellow. 

There’s over a dozen subspecies found from India to Australia and the Phillipines. Oddly enough I can’t find any info on the host plant for the wood-boring larvae.



#1588 - Hypolimnas bolina - Common Eggfly
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AKA Varied Eggfly. Photo by Joanne Healy.

Seems to be quiter the time of year for these guys - I’ve been asked to ID the black-with-orange-spikes caterpillars three times this week. 

This is a female - the males are black with a blue-fringed egg-shaped patch on wings that give the butterfly its name. Common Eggfly males are quite territorial,  chasing off any butterfly that dares enter the area its decided to gaurd. 

Common Eggfly butterflies are found from Madagascar to New Zealand (where there are known as Blue Moon Butterflies) but in Australia they’re most common in the tropical north and east coast. 

The caterpillars are black in colour with orange-yellow branch-spines - these branching appendages are common to many Nymphalid butterflies.  They feed at night on a variety of foodplants including Love Flower (Pseuderanthemum variabile), Paddys Lucerne (Sida rhombifolia) and Ganges Bluebell (Asystasia gangetica)



#1589 - Cassida compuncta - Green Tortoise Beetle
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‎Found by Rachel Hughes‎ in Kerry Qld. 

A leaf beetle that feeds on Ipomoea cairica (Mile-a-minute, a common weed in disturbed areas along the Eastern coast) and other plants in the Morning Glory family. That’s made it quite a pest of sweet potato, especially once it managed to get to Fiji. It’s similarly become an unwelcome arrival in New Zealand.

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#1579-1585 - Various Insects

#1579 - Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) sp. - Carpenter Bee
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Photo of a Great Carpenter Bee Female (one of Australia’s largest bees) by Leah Steinitz in Brisbane QLD

“Was pretty big at around 2.5cm. It’s behaviour was unusual, was cleaning itself and crawling around on the ground seemingly unable to fly. I checked back about 15 mins later and it was gone. No other insects were around it at the time that I could see.”

One of the reasons I can tell this is a female is because in many Xylocopa species the male is covered in greenish-yellow fur, and have tiny little heads compared to the females. One reason for this difference is the need for the female to excavate tunnels in dead timber, bamboo, or soil, and they need powerful jaws to do it. 

Some Carpenter Bees live in small family groups, or close to neighbours of the same species, but most are solitary, excavating multiple cells branching off from a main tunnel. Many Old World species have a special pouch on the adbomen, inhabited by specialised mites that may keep the nest free of fungi or parasitic mites. 



#1580 - Pterygophorus cinctus - Bottlebrush Sawfly
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Photo by Michael Johnson, at the Monash Hospital in Clayton, Victoria.

This is quite a common species of large sawfly in Australia, probably encouraged by all the bottlebrushes and Callistemons planted in urban gardens. The larvae can certainly defoliate a small tree. The records on ALA are all in the Eastern states, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re over here too. 



#1581 - Fam. Cucujidae - Flat Bark Beetle
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Photo by Willoughby Ornott, in Kilmore, Victoria, under the bark of a dead tree.

There are only 59 known species of Flat Bark Beetle, and that’s after recent taxonomic attention split off former members into their own families. Australia has representives of two genera, and since this larva doesn’t have an elaborate anchor on the tail, I think it’s Pediacus rather than Platisus

Not much is known about their biology - both adults and larvae are found under bark on dead trees, and the larvae may be predators. One species found in the Arctic uses a variety of antifreeze proteins to survive winter. 



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#1578 - Codula occidentalis

#1578 - Codula occidentalis
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Found and photographed by Kerry Stuart, here in Western Australia, and quite an interesting find.

I’d initially thought it was a hoverfly, since there are some with similar antennae, but Kerry pointed out that it has the mystax of an Asilid, so I went to have a look at the Chrysopogonini, since Chrysopogon has a similar posture even when it isn’t laying eggs.  I was on the right track too, since the related Codula genus was a very good match, and the only species recorded on the Atlas of Living Australia from WA was C. occidentalis. It was first officially described in 1985.

That’s where it got really interesting - Chris Cohen, a US expert on Asilids, confirmed that it was C. occidentalis, and pointed out that it’s poorly documented. In fact, the only specimen recorded at the Atlas of Living Australia is the holotype, collected in Perth in 1949 - which doesn’t really count as living and the faded colours didn’t help either).

Kerry got some excellent video of this one as well, laying her eggs on the termite tunnels on the trunk of a tree. Does that mean that the larvae live inside the termite nest, preying on the inhabitants? No idea, since nothing more is known about the species. 

The genera in the tribe Chrysopogonini all live in Australia with the exception of one species in Papua New Guinea. Both Chrysopogon and Codula mimic Eumenid and Pompilid wasps, as you can probably guess from the stripes and behaviour.

aye aye captain

#1574-1577 - More Miscellany

#1574 - Quambalaria coyrecup - Marri Canker
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Marri Canker is a serious disease of Corymbia calophylla, and infects up to 80% of urban Marri trees. That includes the one in my front yard :(

The fungus was first noticed in the 1930s, but became increasingly common in the 70s. It’s quite likely that the fungus is already present in the trees, but when they’re stressed by climate change, soil disturbance, or all the trees around them being cut down to make room for more houses, all it takes is a injury to the bark to cause the slow death of the tree. Trees next to roads are especially vulnerable, but the health of trees across the entire SW is under threat. 

As the fungus spreads, these oozing wounds get larger and larger, until they girdle the trunk or branch and kill everything further from the ground. The tree in my yard has already lost a number of large heavy branches. 



#1575 - Nothancyla verreauxi
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Photo by Jason Lawrence, at Falls Creek, Victoria.

A Green Lacewing species with even more beautiful wings than most in the family. I don’t have any other information on the species, apart from the fact that most records come from the SE of the country, and a single one from the SW.



#1576 - Argulus sp. - Fish Louse
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A photo sent to me by Luisa Delgado in Bucharest. A bit of a long way for an Australian entomology group, but I still managed to ID it. 

The Argulidae are parasitic crustaceans of uncertain affiliation. They seem to be pretty ‘primitive’ but the complete lack of a fossil record doesn’t help. 

Fish lice can be a few millimetres in size to over 30mm long, although the females tend to be larger than the males. Almost all are ectoparasites on fish, with a few on invertebrates or on amphibians. The body is generally oval and flattened, covered by the carapace. Their eyes are prominent as in the photo, and the attach themselves to the host with mouthparts and antennae modified to form a hooked, spiny, sucker-bearing proboscis. They can also swim when not attached to a host, which probably explains the need for eyes. They leave their hosts for up to three weeks to mate and lay eggs, then seek a new host and  feed on mucus, sloughed-off scales, or blood. The larvae are also parasitic.

They can become a serious pest in aquaculture and aquaria, but are rarely found in significant numbers in the wild.



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#1565-1573 - Dwellers In The Depths

#1565 - Cnidoglanis macrocephalus - Cobbler
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A catfish in the Plotosidae, and the only species in the genus Cnidoglanis. It is commonly known as the estuary cobbler, deteira, estuary catfish, South Australian catfish, or Swan River catfish

Found in near-shore and reef habitats from Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia and south around to Main Beach, Queensland. Like other catfish in the family, they have a catfish-like head and a long eel-like body. Several species in the family have venomous spines on the dorsal and pectoral fins - in the case of the Lined Catfish Plotosus lineatus - another species found here in Perth - the stings are potentially fatal. First Aid for stings of either species involves submersing the wound in hot water, although the actual role of heat in denaturating the toxins is still debated.

Adults can grow up to a little under a meter in length. Male Cobblers will excavate a burrow under rocks or seagrass root mats, and stand guard over the very large orange eggs and juveniles after they hatch. The feed at night, on molluscs, crustaceans, polychaete worms, algae, and organic debris. Juveniles eat more crustaceans, often from among drifting seaweed.

Cobblers are also caught for food, but the population near most cities has suffered from overfishing, habitat destruction, and from the removal of dead seagrasses and seaweed from urban beaches. In 2007 a ten-year fishing was enacted in the Swan River here in Perth, to try and let the estuarine population recover.



#1566 - Trygonorrhina fasciata - Southern Fiddler Ray
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AKA banjo shark, fiddler ray, green skate, magpie fiddler ray, and parrit.

The two fiddler rays are Australian endemics in the Rhinobatidae family (guitarfishes and shovelnose rays), with anatomical features from both sharks and true skates. The head and the pectoral fins are fused into a flat, rounded body, similar to the related shovelnose rays. Unlike the better-known stinrays, they lack a venomous spine in the tail, but do have a row of thorn-like denticles along their back.  

They are opportunistic bottom feeders eating a wide variety of fish and invertebrates.

Female southern fiddler rays grow to almost twice the size of the males, 150cm vs. 90cm, and can delay the development of embryos until the young can be born when food is plentiful and ocean temperatures are high and conducive to rapid growth. They birth 4 to 6 young per breeding cycle, after a gestation of 4 to 5 months.

During the day they stay buried in the soft substrate in very shallow coastal waters in estuaries and seagrass beds in southern Australia from Lancelin, WA to Victoria, but they’ve also been caught in water 50 metres deep.



#1567 - Tethya sp. - Orange Golfball Sponge
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This sponge is supposed to be bright orange, but the lighting was not co-operating. Golfball sponges grow up to about 5cm in size, and often reproduce asexually by budding off propagules, with the parent sponge producing a stalk of spicules at its surface, terminating in a bud that floats away to become a separate animal. 

Almost a third of the world’s known species of Tethya occur in Australia, with at least 15 species known from shallow reefs and jetties in southern Australia. This genus is the only one in the family Tedaniidae found in Australian waters. Other genera live in tropical waters and have been recorded from depths of 2000 m.



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#1561 - 1564 - Misc.

#1561 - Stenolemus sp. - Thread-legged Assassin Bug
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Another find by Cheryl Macauley, in Northcliffe WA. 

This Assassin Bug is a predator of web-dwelling spiders, stalking them and if necessary luring them to the edge of the web by plucking at the silk. Quite the risky lifestyle, I’m sure you’ll agree.



#1562 - Epicoma tristis - Dark Epicoma
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Photo by Faye Arcaro‎, found in Jandakot, Perth, on their property. 

A Notodontid moth, more common in the Eastern States, but I found a few records of it over here too. The caterpillars eat various Myrtaceae, including Kunzea, Leptospermum, and Eucalyptus, and are occasionally seen in procession, each caterpillar following the silk line laid out by the one in front.

Adult males may have wings that are dark grey, brown, or white with silver scales, but the yellow and cream spots, and the black and yellow spot, are consistent. On the other hand, they may have the diagonal stripe or not. Happily, this bush had one of each, and since the bush is probably a Regelia, may well have been a foodplant as well. 



#1563 - Cylindromyia sp.
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A small Tachinid fly, spotted by Cheryl Macauley in her usual stomping grounds at Northcliffe, down towards the WA south coast. 

Though nothing is known about the biology of this particular Australian species, Palaearctic species in the genus are endoparasites of various Hemiptera -mostly Stink Bugs, (Pentatomidae). They lay a single egg on the nymph of the host species and it will feed and grow in the abdomen. The adults are



#1564 - Isoodon obesulus ssp. fusciventer - Quenda
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I’m rather surprised that I haven’t covered these before.

Also known as the Southern Brown Bandicoot. As you can see for marsupials they’re pretty rat-like, and indeed it seems likely bandicoots were so named after an Indian rodent Bandicota indica that the explorer Bass knew about, in 1799.

Quendas are omnivores (again, like rats), and like all bandicoots, thrive on insects, fruit, seeds, and fungi. These marsupials also enjoy the shortest gestation of any mammal - 11 days - but for some reason still felt the need to independently invent the placenta (not feeling so special NOW, are you ‘higher mammals’?).

Brown bandicoots breed all year around as long as they have water available. A litter of two to five joeys spend six weeks in the backwards-facing pouch before mum kicks them out. A bit rude, because despite being born with claws - 'milk claws’? - the babies loose them again after reaching the pouch. Probably just as well though, I doubt she’d enjoy being kicked repeatedly in the nipples with their adult claws, once they grow them. They reach breeding age a month after being turfed out, and patrol their territories usually at night, and rest in grassy nests during the day.

Despite the threats posed by cars (as here) and cats (as happened to the last one I rescued) Quendas are quite common in Perth suburbs, and quickly become used to humans, and will forage in daylight hours especially if tomato sandwiches are in the offing. 

aye aye captain

#1556-1560 - Stiletto Flies

#1556 - Fam. Therevidae - Stiletto Fly
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Photo by Cheryl Macaulay, here in Perth.

Probably an Ectinorhynchus but the Australian fauna is currently being revised.



#1557 - Agapophytus annamariae
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Photo by Simon Lee, at Pinjarra SE of Perth. I’ve seen the same species myself but didn’t have a camera handy. I strongly suspect the yellow forelegs are meant to mimic the antennae of a Fabriogenia spider wasp, which has a rather painful sting if mishandled. This Therevid fly is otherwise defenceless.



#1558 - Agapophytus albobasalis
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Photo by Tony Eales at Nudgee Waterhole near Brisbane, Queensland.

Another Stiletto Fly, and like the last one probably trying to mimic a wasp or maybe a Robber Fly with vivid banding.  



#1559 - Agapophytus pallidicornis
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Photo by Laurie Dryburgh at Wynnum, Brisbane. Yet another wasp-mimicking Therevid. It seems to be a feature of the genus - others are also pretty vivid. It does appear that the markings have a secondary purpose, though - the males in at least one species, will ‘lek’ - gathering on a sunlit log to wave their legs at each other and impress passing females.



#1560 - Agapophytus aterrimus
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Photo by Tony Eales, in Freshwater NP north of Brisbane.

Yet another in the genus of wasp-mimicking Stiletto Flies, but this one is really going all-out.