Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Segestidea queenslandica

Segestidea 2 a video by orthop1 on Flickr.
The Queensland Palm Katydid has been shown on the blog several times before. Females are much more common than males and the species is facultatively parthenogenetic. That means that unmated females can lay eggs and they all become females.

Males are uncommon and are not seen in some years. When they are around their calling song is loud and travels for many metres through the rainforest undergrowth. this is the first know recording of this species.

This is the male that produced the sound above.

A head-on view. This species cannot deliver a painful bite. The jaws are modified for eating palm leaves and this prevents the katydid from getting a good grip on fingers. The spiny hind legs are kicked vigorously when it is attacked.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Meet a Metallic Snail Parasite

This beautiful fly is a parasite of native snails. It is in the Blowfly family, Calliphoridae and in the genus Amenia, probably A. leonina. These flies make ideal photographic subjects because they are not easily frightened by the photographer. A range of Snail Blowflies can be seen on the website.
The bristles on the head form distinct patterns that help in identifying species in the genus. The small black patch on top of the head comprises a few ocelli, a topic covered in several previous blogs.

Not Usually Seen

While mowing the front lawn recently I noticed this Honeybee, Apis mellifera. It is a drone, a male. Male honeybees are larger and more robust than the females. Their primary function is to mate with a queen. After this they are doomed because they lose most of their genitalia in the process (When you get stung, it's by a female honeybee. it is the modified ovipositor that gives you the jab and it is left in the wound rendering the bee to a very short life thereafter.)

This drone may have been attracted to the flowering pandanus. But you can see he's had a rougfh time. He' missing a leg. Once his job is finished in the hive, he gets short shrift-he's tossed out. Also in autumn I recall seeing many drones on the sidewalks in Canberra, their fcnction completed and left to die or be eaten by birds and lizards.
Drone have larger eyes than those of their female counterparts.

A female honeybee feeding. Note the more slender appearance and proportionally smaller eyes.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

A Night Walk in the Highlands

A walk in the high rainforest (over 1000m) outside of Atherton, Queensland resulted in some nice photo opportunities and some opportunities for the local leeches as well. They were thick in the rain and misty conditions and must make it hell for the local mammals. There were some nice insects out as well. And a few surprises were to make the evening a success.

 this Raspy Cricket, Gryllacrididae is probably an undescribed species.
 It provides a good example of a median ocellus, a structure noted before on this blog. it is thought this "eye" contains a single lens that detects light. This may be involved in helping the cricket find its way back to its enclosure after a night of foraging.
 The White-kneed King Cricket, Penalva flavocalceatus (Karny); Anostostomatidae; Anostostomatinae  has a pair of lateral ocelli that may be used in a similar way to the median ocellus noted above.
  The White-kneed King Cricket, Penalva flavocalceatus (Karny), aptly named was described from Malanda, not far from where this photo was taken. It was described by a European "orthopterist" in 1929 from a series of specimens collected by some Swedish entomologists who were on a field trip in the area several years before.
 The cover of darkness affords mating opportunities for craneflies (Tipulidae). This photo shows the halteres, the modified hind wings of flies that make flies flies! and fly! The halteres serve as gyroscopes keeping the insect on the right course during flight.
 And there was an abundance of cockroaches, mainly of two species. This is Beybienkoa tolganensis Roth (Ectobiidae; Blattellinae). The marking on the pronotum (thorax) is distinctive.
 Carbrunneria barrinensis (Roth) (Ectobiidae; Blattellinae). was originally described in Beybienkoa, but was found to be in another genus later when glands on the surface of the abdomen were discovered.
 Johnrehnia geniculuteola Roth (Ectobiidae; Blattellinae) is in a different genus altogether. This genus has no glandular openings  on the surface of the male's abdomen.
A nice find. Ozphyllum kuranda Rentz, Su, Ueshima (Tettigoniidae; Phaneropterinae) was not known from the Atherton Tableland subsequent to our rainy night walk. 
 Phricta tortuwallina Rentz, Su, Ueshima (Tettigoniidae; Pseudophyllinae) is a study in "armature". It is protected with spines all over its body. The katydid in itself is quite harmless. Active at night, it  feeds on young leaves of a number of rainforest plants and uses the cover of darkness to lay its eggs in the ground. During the day it rests with legs outstretched on tree trunks and large branches. This is an unusual species in that males have lost the stridulatory apparatus that affords other in the genus to produce sound to attract females.
  Phricta tortuwallina was described from The Crator, a locality not far from where this photo was taken.
  Phricta tortuwallina on a lichen-coveered tree trunk, this katydid would likely go undetected by vertebrate predators.
  Phricta tortuwallina spines all over.
 Phricta tortuwallina kicks vigorously with the hind legs when captured. The spines are sharp and would probably aid in its escape from the jaws of a bird or lizard.

A Tiger Of A Beetle

I have reported on Tiger Beetles before on this blog. One sunny morning, I found this typically bark-running species sitting on a leaf in the sun. That presented an unusual photo opportunity.

 Tree-running Tiger beetle Dystipsidera flavipes Macleay, family Carabidae; Cicindelinae
 Tree-running Tiger beetle Dystipsidera flavipes Macleay, family Carabidae; Cicindelinae
Tree-running Tiger beetle Dystipsidera flavipes Macleay, family Carabidae; Cicindelinae

The mandibles are for capturing and holding small prey.

There are at least two species in this genus in Australia. D. flavipes normally perches head downwards on rainforest trees where it captures unsuspecting passing insects. These beetles are frequently attracted to lights suggesting they may be at least partially nocturnal.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Cockroaches By Any Other Name.........

I am writing a Guidebook to Australian Cockroaches for the Guidebook series published by CSIRO, Australia. For the past couple of years I have been taking many trips into the bush for the purpose of adding to the photographic content of the book. A recent trip to The Lynd in south central Queensland proved a bonanza for the cockroach enthusiast. But even this is a bit much.

Hundreds of primarily a single species congregated on the light sheet, apparently encouraged by the pheromones left by their "colleagues". What you see here is primarily two species. The blackish blattodeans are females of an undescribed species Parasigmoidella. The males are the ones with the tawny wings.

There are at least two other species in the photo. They are both in the genus Johnrehnia. They can be distinguished by the light yellow column on the pronotum (a part of the thorax) bounded by wavy black stripes. Not so pretty but the others that accompanied them were very attractive anyway you look at them.
Balta sp., probably yorkensis Hebard (Ectobiidae; Pseudophyllodromiinae)
Balta godeffroyi (Shelford) (Ectobiidae; Pseudophyllodromiinae)
Ectoneura pallidula Hebard (Ectobiidae; Ectobiinae)
Choristima bimaculata Roth (Ectobiidae; Ectobiinae)
Ectoneura minima (Tepper) (Ectobiidae; Ectobiinae)
Ellipsidion sp. (Ectobiidae; Pseudophyllodromiinae)
Ellipsidion humerale (Tepper) (Ectobiidae; Pseudophyllodromiinae)
Escala vestjensi Roth (Ectobiidae; Blsttellinae)

One seldom encounters native cockroaches by day. Many live in leaf litter where they are probably important decomposers, turning the litter into soil. The numbers of species, adults and nymphs in a square metre of leaf litter in the rainforest or eucalyptus woodland attests to how important these insects must be in the health of the bush. But for the most part, we really have no idea where these roaches are during the day. Some probably live under bark or in bark cracks, others in unfolding leaves.

The Ellipsidion species are a bit unusual in that they are diurnal in their activities. The often can be found on flowers of grasses and other flowering plants where they feed on the pollen and developing seeds. They surely must play some role in pollination. Many are brightly coloured and avoided buy birds and lizards.