AUSTRALIAN INSECT FARM QUARTERLY NEWS
No 1 November 2000
Bringing you all the news from the Australian Insect Farm.
Images for this issue
Grubs: A reprint of an article by Sue and
printed in Wet Tropics Newspaper.
to our first AIF newsletter.
Published quarterly, the newsletter will bring you up to date on
all the activities and news from the farm. Features include news
items, on-farm projects and presenting the most interesting developments
in the workshop we have "In the Lab".
And specially for those keeping insects as
pets we have "The Bug Files".
To coincide with the newsletter will be a regular update on
our web site, a must to visit with photos and other interesting
entomological articles to view.
IT AINíT NO TAJ MAHAL!!
After lengthy delays due to excessive rain, the new field station
is finally operational including 4-wheel drive access.
Up to now, access for research on the property was mostly via
the many old logging trails, which we attempted to maintain by hand.
The other alternative was to simply head off through the forest.
With access being restricted as such and limited to walking use
only, an alternative was sought!
After selecting relevant old logging trails, access was opened
to approximately another 500 metres further into the property. This
left behind the 50 year-old regrowth section of the acreage and
entered the more interesting old growth forest sector. Situated
at an altitude of approximately 50 metres (our hill top is 100 metres)
we have an open working area, which looks out over an area of the
property not previously researched by ourselves. Here we have built
a small shelter, at this stage still awaiting completion. For now,
the shelter is quite reminiscent to the Mt. Lewis Wind Tunnel!
At present we are operating a number of research projects in
the new areas available from this working site, with some of these
projects being conducted for outside institutions.
These days taking off to do some fieldwork no longer necessarily
means spending lengthy periods of time trekking through the scrub
just to get to the chosen site, then work and return. Now with the
4wd access available, we can be at the main core of our research
site in a matter of minutes, which is definitely a bonus in time
and working conditions.
With the site already in operation, we hope to have the shelter
completed for this summer. With no power available, it is truly
for work and not for comfort.
As we say "It ainít no Taj Mahal" but itís a start!
Butterfly breeding is back in full swing here at the farm. After
a break from butterfly breeding for a period of around 12 months
the shelves are once again full of larvae containers.
I had almost forgotten was how time-consuming butterfly larvae
can be. It only took a few days and all was remembered - those never
ending hungry mouths!
To say none the least, the daily routine in the lab has quickly
altered to cater for the priority butterflies and their offspring
One major benefit from the break was the regeneration in food
plants. Large numbers of butterflies are presently being bred as
most food plant beds are well stocked.
An interesting item from a recent batch of around 200 Common
Eggfly pupa was a Bilateral Gynandromorph butterfly.
Something we rarely see a gynandromorph refers to an animal
that possesses both male and female characteristics. Such specimens
are genetically unable to breed.
This phenomenon is found particularly in insects but it does
also appear in birds and mammals.
web page "update" for the Gynandromorph photo.
LAND FOR WILDLIFE
In August, the Australian Insect Farm acreage was registered
for Land for Wildlife, a volunteer conservation program.
Originating in Victoria in 1981, Land for Wildlife was
instigated in recognition that many landholders were trying to provide
habitat for wildlife on their own property and should be supported
and encouraged. In 1997 an article written by Leigh Ahern for Land
for Wildlife Newsletter (refer web site), suggested the AIF
would be most suitable for LFW listing. Unfortunately at that time,
the program was not operational in Queensland.
This year the program was expanded to regional areaís including
While the Regional Queensland program is only in itsí infancy
it proudly lists over 40 properties.
Go to "update"
page for photo.
November saw the first AIF documentary go to air with a viewing
audience of 1.2 million.
Filmed earlier this year over a 10 day period the end result
was a 45 minute show. A German production with the series title
"Adventure Wilderness" not only featured all the farms
insects but also highlighted the conservational and environmental
aspects to our farms operations.
With the show available for world wide distribution, we might
see it here on Australian TV, one day.
IN THE LAB
Thereís a sense of restlessness in the lab! Synchronizing with
the spring weather, we have a whole variety of insect activity in
Starting with the beetles. Most species have pupated now and
we await their emergence soon. There has been the very first of
the season to emerge, those being the Rhinoceros Beetles, some Rainbow
Stag Beetles and a few Flower Scarabs.
October we had a mass emergence of Praying Mantids, with the
majority now large enough to eat grasshoppers and other small prey.
The Giant Burrowing Cockroaches have also had their young. Most
females in the breeding program produced a clutch of around 25 babies.
Some of those females are weighing in at an amazing 32 gms.
And we have babies in the Centipede department. Itís a wonderful
display of maternal care by the females, clutching their young and
being what is best described as "over protective".
Brooding females appear rather inactive at this stage but the
slightest vibration and the mother wraps up the young and heads
for safety into her burrow. Like all good mothers, she devotes weeks
of maternal care to her young.
The first young have just left their mothers care and have had
their first feed of mealworms. All are eating well.
On to the Lepidoptera shelves. Numbers of larvae of all sizes
are being fed daily. Mostly butterfly larvae but we also have the
last of the giant grubs of the Hercules Moth still feeding.
With these last few just about to make their cocoons, others
have already emerged and the adults have mated with females now
Even the snails are getting into the act, with their eggs now
"update" page for lab photos.
THE BUG FILES
Key words: larva (grub); larvae (grubs); pupa (Latin word meaning
pupae (a number of pupa); pupal cell (a chamber holding
pupate (to become a pupa)
For our first topic we look at Beetles and in particular their
For those who have been feeding your larvae through the winter
season adults are just around the corner. If you havenít noticed
already, there should be a noticeable increase in their activity.
Perhaps they have been seen more often than usual, roving around
on the top of their soil mix. If so, your larvae are actually searching
for a suitable site to change to a pupa.
There are changes that occur in the insectsí body as it eats
and grows. When the larva is fully grown, the urge to eat disappears.
In its place is a new urge the urge to become a pupa.
Every beetle larva makes some kind of shelter where it can quietly
turn into a pupa and finally emerge as an adult. We call these shelters,
pupal chambers or cells. Each larva makes itsí own kind of pupal
cell which is fashioned accordingly to itsí habitat.
Inside, the larva finally come to rest. Here it moults its skin
for the last time. Its skin splits down its body and the insect
manages to work itself out of its old skin. What was once a larva
is now a pupa.
As a pupa it appears rather dormant, moving very little. The
pupa breathes but it does not eat at all, yet it is going through
another change. The shape of the adult insect is moulded inside
the pupal skin. When fully developed an adult beetle will emerge,
leaving behind the pupal skin.
At this stage the freshly changed beetle is soft. Over a period
of often days, the beetle slowly hardens and develops all its correct
adult colouration. This is when the beetle is ready to leave its
pupal cell and take its first flight.
Pupae are a most remarkable stage of an insectsí life cycle.
They range in size and shape, from the often beautifully coloured
butterfly pupa to the beetle pupa, which has a rather strange appearance
and is often associated with something out of the "Alien"
photoís on our web site "update" page.
WEB SITE UPDATE
Donít forget to visit our new "Update" page on our
web site. This page includes photos of the more interesting items
from the newsletter.
This update includes:
- Gynandromorph butterfly
- Land for Wildlife
- In the Lab Female Hercules Moth and Cocoons, Female Praying
Mantid and Oothecaís, Centipede and babies
- Bugs and Grubs pupae photos
- Plus more on grubs in the "Bugs and Grubs" article.
We hope you enjoy our first newsletter.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and safe holidays.
Copyright © 2000 Australian Insect Farm.
All Rights Reserved.
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