WELCOME to our second issue of AIF News.
Along with our regular features, this issue we look at eating bugs
- Survivor style, introduce some of the AIF research projects in
"Research News" and continuing from the field station (last issue),
we visit the very top of the hill and list some of the many butterfly
species recorded this summer.
While still in the midst of our 'wet season', the garden has seen
considerable increase in insect activity especially with butterflies.
A pleasant sight after a drier than usual January has been the appearance
of Ulysses and Birdwing butterflies, with numbers observed daily
visiting the flower beds. February brought rain, lots of it and
at night the moth activity absolutely exploded with large numbers
SURVIVORS EAT BUGS!
Recently filmed in North Queensland, contestants of the American
TV series 'Survivor' were fortunate to feast upon a selection of
Australian bush tucker. Supplied by the AIF, a 'bug smorgasbord'
was prepared with such insect delicacies as Giant Crickets and Rainforest
Witchetty Grubs proving to be the most popular or perhaps it was
simply a case of what went down easier.
Unfortunately we cannot report first hand as to the reaction to
eating the insect as all shooting operated under strictly closed
sets. However, a member of the crew involved on-site was pleased
to report that all contestants survived!
DOG FIGHTING TRIANGLES
One area of the property that has always been irresistible for
many butterfly species is the very top of the hill, which is approximately
100 metres above sea level.
A project started many years ago, the hilltop area was recognised
as a potentially vital area for research, especially for the many
insect species that are hilltop active. With careful management
of existing host plants and the introduction of a selection of propagated
host plants, the area now accommodates for all types of insect species
not only butterflies.
Access to the hilltop is via the track up the ridge that also leads
to the field station. A separate arm in the road diverts around
from the field station and continues to the very top of the hill.
A regular sight when visiting this area is the activity by various
Graphium species. Here males can be seen 'dog fighting', the act
of darting around each other to eventually claim their resting position
on the foliage. The more placid females are observed cruising in
search of food and host plants.
This summer saw lots of butterfly activity on the hilltop with
some of the most regularly sighted species being:
Danaus hamata - Blue Tiger
Graphium macleayanus - Macleay's Swallowtail
Graphium sarpedon - Blue Triangle
Graphium eurypylus - Pale Green Triangle
Doleschallia bisaltide - Australian Leafwing
Polyura pyrrhus sempronius - Tailed Emperor
Hypolimnas alimena- Blue Banded Eggfly
Hypolimnas bolina - Common Eggfly
Delias mysis - Union Jack
Delias nigrina - Common Jezebel
Lycaenidae - various species
As a project still in its infancy, hill top maintenance is an ongoing
project with further upgrades planned for the future.
FROM BUTTERFLY TO STICK INSECT HOUSE
Planning and actually achieving outdoor work during this time of
the year is often hit and miss. With the month of January being
mainly fine and actually recording a lower than normal rainfall,
outdoor activities were high on the agenda.
One project achieved was the renovation of our original Butterfly
Flight House, transforming it to a 'Stick Insect House'. Being the
largest of our houses around 7m x 14m x 4.5m in size, makes it ideal
for stick insect housing.
Starting with the removal of all plant species not required such
as those previously used for butterflies and therefore not suitable
for this project. Many of these plants were transferred to other
houses or propagated for future use. To accommodate for the species
of stick insects being housed, relevant host plants (propagated
in 2000) were introduced with some almost ready for insect feeding.
As stick insects are a major group under study here at the farm,
we are pleased to now have a house solely for stick insect work.
IN THE LAB
As usual work in the lab over summer has mostly involved the feeding
of adult insects. Except for the last few tubs of Hairy Beetles
- Tricaulax species, all of the beetles have emerged.
For most including Stag Beetles, Rhinoceros Beetles and Cetonids,
ova production is underway and some larvae have already emerged.
With varieties of species being bred, the daily feeding of beetles
becomes as time consuming as butterfly larvae.
Butterfly and Moth breeding is constant with around 8 species currently
filling the shelves.
While Mantid oothecas continue to hatch, most from the first batches
to emerge for the season are nearly fully mature. Most mature females
have been mated with a minimal loss of males.
Scorpions have had their young with the rainforest species Liocheles,
being a little later than usual this year. Most females produced
healthy broods with a mortality of one being recorded.
With all stick insects in adult stage ova production is at a maximum.
Shelves are slowly filling with trays of ova from various species,
which fortunately at this stage are relatively low in maintenance.
For now after sorting and washing they are housed appropriately
to await emergence. The very first nymphs are currently emerging.
Brief notes taken from a recent publication.
Cigarrophasma, A New Genus of Stick Insect (Phasmatidae)
Paul D. Brock and Jack Hasenpusch.
An interesting new species of cigar-like appearance from Garradunga,
north Queensland, is described in a new genus Cigarrophasma.
The single representative, C. tessellata n. sp., is designated
type species for the genus.
This new genus and species of Australian phasmid from the family
Phasmatidae, was first collected in 1992 by Paul Hasenpusch and
later also by Jack Hasenpusch (Garradunga, Innisfail, north Queensland)
in the same rainforest habitat.
Feature - Cigarrophasma
Reasonably long (females up to 151mm) and broad, with numerous
tubercles. Hind wings dark brown and transparent chequered. Ocelli
Modest size very broadened in female and reasonably lobed.
Short in both sexes (1.5mm).
A large fairly broad winged species.
Attractive brown, medium sized insect with spiny tubercles on mesonotum
and chequered wings; 108mm long.
Ashen grey-green or even purple-brown with deep green streaks,
fore wings greenish brown (light or dark), broad and ovate. Hind
wings tessellated, dark brown and transparent. Body lengths recorded
from 134 to 151 mm.
The nymphs are reddish brown throughout all stages, but colours
vary depending on host food plant.
Glossy, dark brown or black almost spherical capsule. Capsule length
3.3mm, width 2.5mm, height 3mm.
Remarks on the species
Remaining motionless in the daytime and resembling their surroundings
appears to be the main defence strategy. The known distribution
is limited to Garradunga, near Innisfail, north Queensland.
This genus is based on cigarro - cigar (due to the female's cigar-like
appearance) and phasma, meaning apparition, on account of its affinity
with the genus Phasma. The scientific name tessellata relates to
the mosaic patterned hind wings of this species.
This is an interesting new species from Garradunga, belonging to
the family Phasmatidae, in an understudied fauna. Brock (in press)
describes two further species from the same locality. There still
remain a number of interesting undescribed Australian species, including
large insects. It is hoped that enthusiasts will try to record the
life history and habits, which will considerably add to our knowledge
JOIN THE AIF LEAF INSECT SURVEY
We need your help with a most unusual Australian insect - the Leaf
As the name suggests Leaf Insects look like leaves. They do so
with such perfection they can be mistaken by other leaf-eating insects
and occasionally be chewed upon. With such great camouflage, Leaf
Insects are not often seen.
In Australia Leaf Insects are poorly known. They have been rarely
observed with records showing only a hand full of specimens taken.
To date we know of three species all of which are recorded from
the rainforests of northern Queensland.
What A Leaf Insect Looks Like
Although difficult to see, Leaf Insects are easy to identify. They
are bizarre insects with a leaf-like appearance complete with leaf-like
veins and mid-rib markings. Leaf Insects can range in various shades
of green; some even have brown patches that resemble dead spots
on a leaf. Both sexes have exceptionally flattened bodies with the
male being the more slender. Males also have fully developed wings
enabling them to fly quite well.
Click onto the image at the bottom to see what a Leaf Insect really
Who Can Participate This survey is suited to persons living
in the north Queensland region. To date, records show specimens
from Innisfail, Cairns, Mt. Lewis and the Atherton Tablelands.
How To Participate
If you come across a Leaf Insect and you'd like to help, make sure
you keep complete notes on your sighting. We need to know such details
as the location you saw the insect, when, habitat, if possible the
plant species which the insect was observed on and names of any
other plant species growing close by. For verification of your insect
sighting, a photo or digital image may be sent.
Information collected can be recorded on the Survey Form at the
end of the newsletter. It is important to get as many people involved
as possible so please feel free to give photocopies or the web address
of the form to any other person wishing to participate.
All replies are important. The aim of this survey is to expand
the known distribution data of this species for research purposes.
All personal details of survey participants will remain confidential.
Join The Survey
The Leaf Insect has been a long time interest for us.
Since 1987, we have only uncovered three male specimens. We would
like to hear from any persons with information present or past which
could help assist in continuing research of this unusual species.
We will bring you up to date with the results of this survey in
a future newsletter.
Look for the Survey Form at the end of the Newsletter.
THE BUG FILES - HOW INSECTS GROW
Exoskeleton - a rigid external covering for the body
Endoskeleton - a supporting framework that lies entirely
within the body of an animal
Instar - the stage between moults
Moult - the act of shedding an old skin
Imago - last instar stage
Most animals have an internal bony skeleton called an endoskeleton,
which forms a supporting framework for the body. For Insects it's
a little different, they actually have their skeleton on the outside
of their bodies. Looking nothing like a bunch of bones this hard
covering over the entire body is called an 'exoskeleton'.
This exoskeleton is what holds the insect together. Without this
outer covering there is nothing to hold the insects body together.
But exoskeletons do not grow. So in order to grow, insects must
shed this entire outer covering, which they do at various times
during their development.
After each moult the next layer forms the new exoskeleton, which
will soon expand before hardening and making room for more growth.
An insect can only grow in size after the shedding of its exoskeleton.
In most cases we don't see insects during this stage, as this is
a time when they are highly vulnerable to predation so they try
to stay hidden.
But some insects moult while hanging in the wide-open spaces. One
such group is the Stick Insects, which can be seen in the garden
feeding on the foliage of native and exotic plants. Stick insects
moult while hanging from a branch.
This involves the splitting of the skin just behind the insects'
head. From this small split the insect will delicately pull itself
out, leaving behind the old smaller skin. At first the new skin
is very soft but in a matter of hours it will be firm, protecting
the insect once more.
Moulting is an important function in the insects' life cycle and
for some insects it is a chance to replace a lost limb. Stick Insects
for instance, having lost a leg while young (1st - 3rd instar) can
actually grow a new leg. While this new leg will always remain smaller
in size, it is very beneficial to have this ability.
Sometimes, things can go wrong while doing a moult and instead
of replacing a lost leg with a leg, an antenna may appear. We have
recorded such oddities in our Spiny Leaf Stick Insects but very
The stage between a moult is referred to as an 'instar'. The number
of instars varies between species, generally between four and eight.
After developing through the many instars it is not until the very
last instar, called the 'imago' that an insect is an adult, capable
of reproduction and flight.
In all but a handful of primitive insect orders, growth ceases
at the adult stage. From a very tough rigid beetle to a soft butterfly
caterpillar, it is the hard exoskeleton that protects the body tissues,
provides points of attachment for muscles and determines the insects'
WET TROPICS NEWSPAPER STORY
By Sue Hasenpusch
Reprinted with the permission of Wet Tropics
In any garden the most commonly seen insect is a butterfly boldly
displaying its brilliant colours. But not all insects are so obvious.
We often don't see the other inhabitants in our gardens, and it's
not only because they are small.
Camouflage, an adaptation to the environment, enables them to successfully
hide. This is not only useful to avoid being eaten but can also
help the hunters of the insect world.
Stick insects are experts in camouflage.
They are sometimes called 'walking sticks' because of their usually
thin stick appearance and long, slender legs for walking. Some stick
insects have wings while others have short wings and are unable
Stick insects are among the largest insects in the Wet Tropics.
Some have been recorded at more than 30cm long, and a more recent
discovery in our local northern region was measured at 50cm.
Using their ability to camouflage is the main survival key for
stick insects. Once moving, a walking stick is easily spotted, not
only by humans but by predators such as the Crested Hawk. To avoid
being eaten, stick insects mostly live in amongst the foliage of
shrubs and trees, although some species live on the ground.
Their shapes and colours perfectly blend with their chosen environment.
Stick insects eat leaves, feeding mostly at night. A large variety
of trees and shrubs provide food for the many different types of
stick insects. Like other insects which eat leaves, this is natures'
pruning at work and stick insects don't pose a problem to the trees
or shrubs in the backyard. Although they can look daunting, common
backyard stick insects are completely harmless and are actually
An insect often confused with the stick insect is the Praying Mantid,
but in fact it is a 'carnivorous' insect, eating live prey. Mantids
can be easily recognised as they have specially adapted front legs,
which have rows of spines for catching and holding prey.
Mantids are found in many different habitats, but the most commonly
encountered Praying Mantid is a leafy green or brown colour. When
sitting amongst foliage, these colour variations allow a mantid
to hide while waiting motionless for prey to come close. Camouflage
for the praying mantid is the key to their success as a predator.
Mantids mainly eat insects. They will catch and eat prey appropriate
to their own size, which can range from as small as 10mm to the
largest at 150mm. Smaller mantids eat such prey as small grasshoppers,
fruit flies and aphids. Large mantids eat larger prey, grasshoppers,
flies, caterpillars and even butterflies. Mantids are active both
day and night.
Encountering a mantid in the garden is completely safe. When approached,
a mantid will attempt to 'grab' with the front hooked legs, which
results in no more than a minor spike to the finger. Although Praying
Mantids are in the often-unfavoured 'predator' group we should not
automatically look at them as the 'bad guys'.
Praying Mantids are very beneficial in the garden. By eating insects
they help to maintain a natural balance in the insect world living
in your garden. Our gardens are host to a myriad of insects, yet
we are often unaware of their existence. They are there all the
time, we just don't see them, that's Camouflage!
Many thanks for those who returned feedback on the
first newsletter as well as those who have listed to automatically
receive our newsletter each quarter.
Cheers Sue Hasenpusch Editor
Copyright 2001 Australian Insect Farm.
All Rights Reserved.
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Australian Insect Farm
PO Box 26
Innisfail Qld. 4860
Ph/ Fax: 07 40 633 860