AUSTRALIAN INSECT FARM QUARTERLY NEWS
Vol 1. No. 3 May 2001
Bringing you all the news from the Australian Insect Farm
*** To Bullaringa And Back
*** Around the Schools
*** Science Week Festivities
*** New Education Kits
*** In The Lab
*** Research News
*** The Bug Files - 'House Cockroaches - The
*** Land For Wildlife Story - 'Giants of the
*** Web Site Update - Images
For This Issue
Jack's been out and about looking at all sorts of bugs and
in this issue he takes us on his travels with the Savannah
We also welcome 'Trinity Catholic College' who have contributed
to the new segment 'Around the Schools'.
National Science Week festivities, the launch
of a new range of insect education kits as well as all the regular
Cockroaches are the topic in both The Bug Files
and Land for Wildlife story.
TO BULLARINGA AND BACK
In late April I attended the 2001 Gulf Savannah Guide School,
where I was invited to talk to the guides about the diverse world
With this years theme 'Back to Basics' we travelled to a national
park in the gulf region known as Bullaringa. Starting our journey
to this remote national park we leave Mount Surprise at 5 am in
the morning for a 3½ hours drive where we reached the Bullaringa
National Park. As the park has no formal access; the drive in was
the usual bush track standard. On arrival, everyone soon took to
Along with QPWS representatives and guides from far and wide,
Mr Ron Richards one of the traditional landowners guided us through
the sandstone gorges in the area he called 'Ewamian Country'. Also
in the group was Mr Jack Borgert whose family operated a cattle
station in the area prior to National Park listing.
On that first day as we descended down into a narrow gorge leaving
the heat of the open forest above, it was obvious the area ahead
was certainly unique. Soon the environment changed to a cool microclimate,
which was overhung by Syzigiums and Eucalypt trees. Crow butterflies
hung by the hundreds from the sandstone overhangs, remnants of what
had once been ancient inland sea.
Fossilised Stromatolites formed strange rock formations above
and further down in the gorge a boulder that featured prominent
starfish fossils showed the only other sign of the former history
of the area. Here Aboriginal activity was evident with their marks
adorning the rock shelters.
As we continued, many bushes were shrouded in metallic green
bugs by the thousands and Blue Banded Eggfly butterflies appeared.
Deep into the gorge and taking advantage of a spring, many dragonflies
were active. One species, ½ red and ½ blue, I had never encountered
before. Also of interest was a large healthy Bird Eating spider
living in the boulders.
That evening we camped in the park and with permission from
National Parks an insect light was run. Considering it was so late
in the summer season for most insect activity the warm night produced
a surprising number of beetles and moths which most of our group
had never seen. Discussions revolved around these insects and their
The following day, we returned to Mount Surprise and although
our visit was brief and at the end of the insect season, we had
received a glimpse into the insect world in Bullaringa National
Park, Having travelled and studied the insects of the Gulf region
for many years now, this trip with the Savannah Guides was truly
Not only did I meet some great people but also had the opportunity
to visit areas that I had never been to before. I can highly recommend
a trip with the Savannah Guides.
Go to Images
Check out our School
Around The Schools
Students at Trinity Catholic College take a close
look at thier Giant Burrowing Cockroaches
Attention: All Budding Entomologists!
If you're involved in a school project or study group working
on insect related topics then we want to know about your activities!
Reports on insect observations or surveys; class activities; even
an environmental issue being addressed at your school or completing
a group project, as long as insects play a part in the overall project
we would like to hear from you.
Only one catch, you're group must be teacher/leader administered.
This means we need a letter from your teacher or group co-ordinator
confirming the activities of your project. The most interesting
contributions will be posted on our regular website update. All
contributions will be acknowledged and if accepted, contributors
will receive notification as to when their work will be posted.
Send your contributions via email firstname.lastname@example.org;
by mail to AIF,
PO Box 26,
Innisfail, Qld 4860;
or fax on 07 40 633 860.
We welcome our first contributor Fiona Boghos from Trinity
Catholic College in Auburn, NSW.
Fiona reports on the Giant Burrowing Cockroaches
in their classroom.
"Macropanesthia rhinoceros Bred in Captivity
at Trinity Catholic College"
by Fiona Boghos, Yr 11 Biology.
The Science Department of Trinity Catholic College obtained
four of these native Australian cockroaches in 2000. These cockroaches
were obtained from the Australian Insect Farm and have been at Trinity
for a year. By Christmas time 2000, there were six offspring.
Mrs. Nicholson, Trinity's lab technician, feeds them leaf litter
from Gosford as it tends to be less polluted. She also sprays them
with water daily for them to drink. These cockroaches are different
from regular household cockroaches as they are disease-free. Mrs.
Nicholson has observed that one of the adult female cockroaches
is a lot more dominant that the others, staying on top of the leaf
litter and very rarely burrowing, possibly so as to guard the offspring.
Fiona also supplied images with her story, which can be viewed
on the update page for this newsletter. Many thanks go to Fiona
for her contribution.
Go To Images
SCIENCE WEEK FESTIVITIES
Once again the AIF attended the National Science Week activities
held at the Trinity Bay High School in Cairns. As usual it proved
to be an exhausting evening with an estimated attendance of around
5,000 people in 2 ½ hours. Being tactically positioned between exhibits
by Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service plus the Tropical
Health Unit (Mosquito eradication), sure had our live critters a
Go to Images
NEW EDUCATION KITS
If you're interested in teaching your students about insects,
then these kits are just what you need. A new range of insect education
kits specially designed for classroom use is now available. All
insect kits are easy to use and a great way to present insects to
We now have live insect kits, which contain completely harmless
insects, or for a permanent school resource we also have preserved
study kits available. All come complete with loads of information
including teacher work sheets with b&w masters; care sheets as well
as fact/work sheets, which have colour images.
Go to the new web site page 'School Resources' for a complete
listing of the variety of kits available and their contents.
Go to Images
IN THE LAB
As we head into winter, adult beetles occupy only a handful
of shelves in the workshop. For the majority of beetle species,
most larvae have emerged and are speedily developing. Stick insects
continue to emerge daily. With the host plants in the recently revamped
stick insect house coming along, these nymphs will be taking full
advantage of the healthy host plants. The various snail species
have bred extremely well this season. Instigated a number
of years ago and involving the research of local species, we are
pleased with the progress of the snail breeding programmes. Finally,
Cricket and Millipede breeding went well this season with good numbers
of young now feeding.
New Genus - Chrysomelid
Described by Italian entomologist Mauro Daccordi.
This beetle was first found on the AIF property in 1994 at which
time we began to study its biology. After so many years, we affectionately
came to refer to it as the Garradunga beetle.
Large for a chrysomelid, body convex, sub-rectangular; length
12.75mm; width 9.00mm.
Base colour metallic green with various trogon yellow reflections.
Viviparous species. Dissection of allotype revealed 6 larvae
in the oviduct.
This feminine generic name is composed of the Greek name elytra
(pteros) and part of the locality name, Garradunga, near Innisfail
in Queensland, the home of this genus, with only one known species.
Species - from the latin "admirable" for the shining colours and
shape of the body.
Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino vol 17, 15-4-2000
New Species - Chrysomelid
Callidemum (Platymela) hasenpuschi.
In the same publication, Dr Daccordi also described a beetle
found in 1990 on the AIF property.
Body elongate, with strongly shiny, subparallel, regularly punctated,
and broadly margined elytra; length 7.8mm; width 4.0mm.
Base colour chrome orange; on pronotum, two wide mahogany red blots
curving outwards often fuse together in the middle.
This species is dedicated to one of its collectors, Mr. J Hasenpusch
of Garradunga, Innisfail, Queensland.
Long Lost Eurhynchidae Larvae - Found
The Eurhynchini are a small group of brentid weevils endemic
to Australia and New Guinea. For over 100 years the larvae of the
weevil tribe Eurhynchidae had remained elusive. By 1994 attempts
to resolve the classificatory position of the group had prompted
Dr. Elwood Zimmerman (from CSIRO) to identify "…the discovery of
the immature stages of the Eurhynchidae [as] one of the most desired
objectives in the study of the Australian weevil fauna.
In August 1997, Jack Hasenpusch found a larva of the Eurhynchid
weevil - Aporhina australis here at the AIF. In reply to
an earlier request by Dr. Elwood Zimmerman for such a specimen,
the sample was promptly forwarded.
For formal study and description, the sample was forwarded to
Ms. Brenda May in New Zealand. Although she had managed to assess
the sample as being a brentid larva, her death in 1998 precluded
her from formally describing it.
The specimen was then returned to Dr. Zimmerman, who invited
Dr. Rolf Oberprieler from Africa to describe it. Dr Oberprieler
completed the description with the paper presented at the John Lawrence
Celebration Symposium in Canberra in 1999 and published in the Invertebrate
New Species - Buprestid
While on a 1997 field trip in the gulf country, Jack observed
a buprestid (jewel beetle) he personally had not previously seen.
Specimens collected were forwarded to the relevant researchers and
institutions. Under examination it was confirmed as an undescribed
species and now in 2001 this beetle has formally been described.
Dr Gianfranco Curletti from Italy has worked on a revision of the
genus Agrilus from Australia.
In his publications he has listed this beetles as a new species
- Agrilus emu.
This is quite a small buprestid with a maximum length recorded of
8.8mm. The beetle is entirely bright dark bronze, almost black in
colour. At this stage larval biology is unknown.
THE BUG FILES -
- The Introduced Species
Key Words: Ootheca - a hard structure,
which forms a protective covering for eggs.
Way before man appeared, Cockroaches ran upon the earth. In
fact fossil records show that cockroaches were around long before
any dinosaur. Since these early times they have been an essential
part of the ecosystems worldwide. Cockroaches are basically our
habitat cleaners as they scavenge for food and in the same process
assist in the recycling of material that often no other insect would
Simply, cockroaches help maintain a healthy balanced ecosystem.
But what about cockroaches that don't live in the bush and instead
have come to live inside the house! In the warmer zones of Australia
cockroaches are unfortunately found inside the house. There is however
a great difference between those living indoors as to those living
in the garden or bush.
While cockroaches living in the bush are native species, all
cockroaches that live in the house are introduced species. It is
these introduced species that have readily accepted our living conditions.
While we can all to quickly point the finger at the cockroach as
an unwelcomed guest, we must give credit to ourselves for supplying
the perfect cockroach environment.
This may sound strange but as we go about our daily activities
around home such as cooking dinner, having a shower and even while
we sit and watch television we are constantly supplying a food source
for any cockroach living in the house. Without a doubt the most
favoured room in the house for the German cockroach is the kitchen.
For in the kitchen food is at a premium.
As dinner is being prepared on the kitchen bench, cockroaches
remain hidden in dark places such as inside cupboards, under the
stove, even in the gaps between the cooking books on the shelf,
many areas in the kitchen provide them with a safe refuge. Here
they wait patiently till nightfall before they will come out of
Once dark, these brazen creatures quickly scurry across the
floor and like competent acrobats, climb up the kitchen bench. Once
on top of the bench they scout around for any trace of food. Although
the bench has been wiped clean the smallest bit of cooking residue
remains, enough for a cockroach's dinner. While under the stove
a grain of rice lies, another cockroach's dinner.
And those roaches in the cookbooks are not studying recipes
yet again another food supply has been laid out for them. As with
most cookbooks they have been used during the preparation of food
and a small scent of food remains from the cooks' touch. Not content
with eating just the hint of food that exists, the cockroaches eat
through the tasty pages.
In other rooms of the house the American cockroach searches
for anything that makes a suitable meal. The presence of glue on
a bookbinder invites a roach's chewing. In the bathroom a tube of
toothpaste carelessly left open receives many visitors through the
night. While in the lounge room, roaches searching over the lounge
furniture feed on any discarded hair and skin particles. Through
out the whole house and where ever human activity exists, a food
supply for the cockroach exists. Household cockroaches feed upon
It is indeed hard to have any compassion for such a household
invader but ultimately the cockroach is only out to achieve its
primary function of scavenging. After all, in the house it is our
waste that attracts them. In an attempt to control household cockroaches,
the service of a Pest Control agent is often requested.
While poison sprays can be effective it only takes a single
ootheca to start the whole cycle again. Females of the American
cockroach deposit their oothecae in many places such as in books,
in curtains, in clothes, in fact anywhere around the house. Once
emerged from their eggs, the young cockroaches take around a year
to reach adult size of 44 mm in length.
The American cockroach will not only live in the house but also
visit the immediate areas surrounding the house such as woodpiles,
sewers and garbage bins. It is the more wide spread of the pest
species, the German cockroach that breeds very fast.
Females carry their ootheca with them, which can be seen protruding
from their rear. After a brief developmental period of 28 days the
young emerge. These young will develop to adults in an astounding
six weeks, ready to mate and start the cycle all over again. The
German cockroach is usually found in the kitchen and rarely leaves
the safety of the house.
The subject of diseases associated with introduced species of
cockroaches has been researched for many years. In some cases, the
medical condition asthma has been linked with the cockroach. Try
as we might to keep our homes clean and pest free but the household
cockroach needs very little to survive. As we continue to provide
the perfect environment for these pests they will always flourish.
After all just like their bush relatives the act of scavenging
helps to keep their environment clean. As for us, they have simply
become an appendage of our existence.
Go to Images
LAND FOR WILDLIFE STORY
GIANTS OF THE INSECT WORLD
with the permission of Land for Wildlife Queensland.
There are around 450 species of cockroaches native to Australia.
Most live in the bush under logs, in leaf litter and under the bark
on trees. Generally called 'Bush Cockroaches' they are scavengers
with a diet consisting mainly of decaying plant material.
While some of the smallest measure as little as 3mm, north
Australia is home to the largest cockroach in the world. The Giant
Burrowing Cockroach (Macropanesthia rhinoceros) is a robust armour-plated
insect growing up to 80mm in length and weighing in at an amazing
30gms. Living in sandy soil they make permanent underground burrows
with specially excavated living chambers.
Of assistance in this construction work is their heavily
spiked covered legs, which flick the soil out behind them as they
dig. These underground dwellers can dig more than a metre in depth.
Unlike other cockroaches, which produce eggs in capsules, Giant
Burrowing cockroaches are born live.
From around four years of age females can produce over 20
young in a single clutch, once a year. At this stage females are
quite protective over their young, which will remain with them for
some months. Mother and young will share the same food supply. Feeding
on a diet of dried leaf litter, Giant Burrowing cockroaches venture
out at night to harvest their food supply.
Having no wings they move across the forest floor, gathering
material and dragging it underground to their nests where they eat
at their leisure. Having a life span of around seven years or more,
it is not uncommon to have a whole family living together in a single
burrow. These slow-moving insect giants are unique to Australia.
Nowhere else in the world do cockroaches excavate permanent burrows.
They emit no foul odours nor do they bite, sting or fly.
Like other bush cockroaches, Giant Burrowing cockroaches
are essential to the environment. They fulfil an important ecological
role, recycling nutrients in the forest. Bush cockroaches should
not be confused with the household inhabitants. All 10 or so species
that live in the house are actually introduced. It is this small
handful of pest species that give all the other cockroaches a bad
Various people in Australia are currently conducting research
on the Giant Burrowing cockroaches. However, there is much to be
discovered about the biology of the giants of the insect world.
Go to Images
WEB SITE UPDATE
Images for this newsletter include:
To Bullaringa and Back
Around the Schools
Science Week Festivities
New Education Kits
The Bugs Files
Land for Wildlife
Until the next newsletter in September,
Sue Hasenpusch Editor
Australian Insect Farm. All Right Reserved.
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