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NEWS ARCHIVE

 

AUSTRALIAN INSECT FARM NEWSLETTER
Vol 2 No 2 April 2002

Bringing you all the news from the Australian Insect Farm

This Issue:
*** Welcome
*** Ants; Ants and more Ants!
*** Leaf Insect Survey Update
*** Bugathon 2002 Competition
*** Around The Schools
*** In The Lab
*** Research News
*** The Bug Files - "Peppermint Sticks"
*** Images For This Issue

WELCOME

This summer brought very little rain; in fact wet season activity was low with local rainfall levels way below average. While having practically no rain made for a wonderful summer, it also made irrigation high on the agenda. Constant watering was required for shade-houses as well as the garden food plant beds. Unlike other such dry years that brought a rathe of leaf eating insects, this year produced very few problems for the various food plants. Jack continued his research trips away this summer. Some material has already been forwarded to the relevant specialist awaiting formal identification while other material still waits processing.

 

Ants, Ants and more Ants!

With favourable weather this summer, various filming projects were completed. Ants were amongst the popular topics for visiting crews. A small crew from Korea were interested in the Green Tree Ant - Oecephylla smaragdina. Using a special fibre optic camera they were able to get a closer look inside the nests of the aggressive green tree ants, all without disturbing the nest.

Also working on ants as well as their associated butterfly species was Rod Eastwood and David Lohman from Harvard University along with Darlyne Murawaki who was on assignment for National Geographic.

Leaf Insect Survey Update

After the initial advertising of the Leaf Insect Survey last year, a number of local residents have reported their sightings. While some reports led to other insects such as stick insects, katydids and mantids, some leads were of interest.

At this stage all areas have been investigated where sightings of leaf insects were reported. No adults were located mostly due to these inspections taking place too late in the insect season. Further inspections of these same locations will be undertaken during the coming season and favourable weather conditions.

In January the survey took us to Mt. Lewis, a previously recorded area for leaf insect. While Jack had some years ago recorded a specimen from this area, none were located during this trip. However, five species of Phasmids (stick insects) were encountered. Only one species is familiar to us at this stage with further investigations into the identification of the other specimens is continuing.

We would also like to thank the following groups for their assistance in advertising our Leaf Insect survey in their newsletters -

Entomological Society of Queensland
Land for Wildlife, Nth Qld.
Envirocare, Nth Qld.

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Bugathon 2002 Competition

With the closure to our Bugathon 2002 competition fast approaching now is the time to get your entries in. If you haven't started yet, you still have a few weeks to work but all entries must be received by 20th July to ensure eligibility. Good Luck!


As the school year gets underway, a good number of northern schools have taken advantage of our mobile education unit. As always visits are popular with all age levels and often students will send cards or letters after a visit to their school. Following are some comments by students taken from some recently received mail.

MENA CREEK STATE SCHOOL

Today Mrs Hasenpusch came and talked to us about insects. I found that the burrowing cockroach was very very interesting. 2nd on the list was the stick insects. 3rd was the praying mantis. 4th was everything else on the show. I liked the burrowing cockroaches the best because of how big they got and that they burrow underground. It has legs like a toe biters claws. - Matt.

Today our class had a visit from Mrs Hasenpusch from the Australian Insect Farm, Garradunga. We talked about lots of interesting insects, such as the leaf insect. There were bush cockroaches that clean up the dead stuff from the bush and they're clean and have no diseases unlike the household cockroaches. The walking sticks were the most interesting thing that I found. They are a stick insect but their bodies can curl up. They have spikes on their back but they aren't sharp and if you push softly it is all soft and mushy. I really like the visit because it was fun and interesting. - Jess.

Today Mrs Hasenpusch from the Insect Farm at Garradunga came and told and showed us the insects that she had. The part that I liked the best was the Bush Cockroaches. I liked their nice shiny armour and the way they moved. I also like the scorpion that was digging its burrow under a rock in its cage. And I learnt stuff I didn't know about insects. - James.

Today we had a visit by the Australian Insect farm, Mrs Hasenpusch told us all about the insects. The insect I took most interest in was the rainforest Wijitti grub. The bird-eating spider was quite good even though it wasn't an insect. The burrowing cockroaches weren't my type of insect; I didn't pick one up because their legs feel like they're bitting you. There was a scorpion in a closed tank so nobody touched it. - Jacob.

Today Mrs Hasenpusch came from Garradunga to show us some of her insects. She told us lots of interesting information about heaps of species of insects. Some stuff that we didn't know and species that we haven't seen before. It was very interesting and it taught us lots about the insect farm as well as the insects. Mrs Hasenpusch also brought some other real live giant cockroaches, stick insects, mulligrubs, and witchetty grubs. The cockroaches are cleaner than the normal house cockroaches. She also had lots of dead butterflies in frames and some of them had 2 different colour wings; she told us they are half boy and half girl. In the holding part we were able to hold witchetty grubs, mulligrubs and giant cockroaches. Other than all that I liked the fluoro coloured Christmas beetles the best. - Jasmine.

Today Mrs Hasenpusch visited us from the Australian Insect Farm. She talked to us about spiders, insects and centipedes. In her informative talk she explained the importance of insects and how they are different to from other house hold pests. The reason that insects are a necessity to the environment is that they decompose remains of dead animals and leaf litter, also the insects are the most important food source because without them the second order consumers will have no food and so forth and so forth. Personally I enjoyed learning about the walking stick insects and how if they don't mate they can produce eggs. - Regina.

BABINDA STATE SCHOOL

Thank you for coming to our school. I really liked holding the bush cockroach. I was a bit scared to hold the witchetty grub. At Cooktown I saw a scorpion. It was very flat. My Dad said it could jump! This is the second time I've seen a scorpion. - Erin

Thanks for bringing your insects along to show us. We found out a lot about insects. Your insects were awesome. I have found and insect for the competition. It is really a white spider. I think it is a money spider. I found it in my backyard chewing on an orange moth. You are lucky to work at an Insect Farm. - Tamira

Thank you for bringing your insects to show us (the class) because we are learning about insects. Thanks for bringing the giant cockroaches and the scorpions, the beetles and the insects in the jars with alcohol in it. Thanks for telling us about the insects and for letting us hold the giant cockroach and the stick insect. - Roderick.

Don't forget, we love to receive your insect project or school mail for inclusion in upcoming newsletters. You will receive notification as to when your contribution will be posted on the website.

Send your contributions via email info@insectfarm.com.au;
by mail to
AIF,
PO Box 26,
Innisfail,
Qld 4860;
or fax on 07 40 633 860.


IN THE LAB

The summer months are always the busiest with adult stock in full swing. Noticeably, the time spent feeding with most species requiring fresh food daily.

Beetle species including Cetonids and Lucanids have been out and mating for most of the summer, so eggs and larva are well underway. Only one species, Dilocrosis atripennis, is still in pupa stage. Other species such as Xylotrupes gideon (Rhinoceros beetle) are all but finished for their mating stage with only few adults remaining. Mantids have produced oothecas with some females still producing. All Scorpions, Centipedes and Millipedes having had their offspring earlier in the season are developing well. Containers of stick insect eggs rapidly fill the shelves with nymphs emerging at a steady rate.

Continuing with the project for Mr Bruce Weber from the University of Melbourne. In preparation for breeding, we reared nymph katydid material supplied by Bruce in August 2001. The aim was to achieve ova production for use in botanical studies. With the natural elements of a dry summer upon us, humidification was required to ensure the health and life span of the stock. Fed on a diet of fresh host plant plus artificial diet and after some various ova production (enticement) trials, ova were produced. Ova and remaining adult material has been forwarded for study use.

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RESEARCH NEWS

New species - Amauropelma hasenpuschi

Brief taken from "Revisions of Australian ground - hunting spiders: I. Amauropelma gen. Nov. (Araneomorphae: Ctenidae)" Robert J. Raven, Kylie Stumkat and Michael R. Gray.

Diagnosis

Differs from most other species in the subquadrate shape of the epigynal plate and from A. bluewater in the relatively larger lateral horns and the rectanguloid median apophysis with very short 'handle'.

Description

Holotype male

Carapace 3.23 long, 2.46 wide. Abdomen 2.61,1.62 wide.

Colour Carapace light brown with dark bands midlaterally and narrow black marginal band.

Chelicerae deep reddish brown, legs orange brown with incomplete dark bands.

Abdomen dorsally pallid with 3 inverted U dark crescents in posterior half and laterally mottled. Iridescent green sheen on legs.

Allotype female

Carapace 3.23 long, 2.42 wide. Abdomen 4.00, 3.08 wide.

Colour Carapace and abdomen almost without pattern; legs banded and in male.

Distribution and Habitat Known only from rainforest in the central portion of the Wet Tropics area, northeastern Queensland.

Etymology For Mr Jack Hasenpusch, the collector of some of the types.

Published: Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 64: 187-227 (2001)

 

Third Know Specimen of Castiarina oedemerida

Dr Shelly Barker originally described this species in 1995, from two specimens Jack collected in 1993. This year while on a research trip, a single specimen of C. oedemerida was collected. This specimen was found within 200 metres of the original material. While research projects are still conducted every year in this area this species has not commonly been seen. A brief description of this species follows.

Castiarina oedemerida sp. nov.

Colour

Head black. Antennae dark blue, Pronotum brown with the following black markings: medial spot, smaller spot on each side, narrow basal border, expanded anteriorly on each side. Scutellum black. Elytra yellow-brown with black markings. Legs dark blue. Hairs silver.

Size

Males 10.0 x 3.5 mm

Remarks This species appears to be an oedemerid mimic as its colour and pattern are similar to known oedemerid species; the model is unknown. It is not close to any other known species.

Etymology

The name is derived from that of the beetle family Oedemeridae.

Published: "Eight New Species of Australian Buprestidae (Insecta: Coleoptera) by S. Barker. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia (1995)."

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THE BUG FILES -

PEPPERMINT STICKS

There are an estimated 2500 species of stick insects recorded worldwide. In Australia there are just over 100 species formally identified. More than half of these are found in Queensland. Many new species are awaiting description, which could add up to an extra 100 species to the list of Australian stick insect fauna.

Stick insects are amongst Australia's largest species. A Ctenamorpha species found in the Wet Tropics region has been measured at 300mm body length with an overall length over 500mm. This is Australia's largest stick insect.

Usually known for their outstanding camouflage capabilities with a stick or leaf like appearance, stick insects are very difficult to see. Such an ability to successfully blend with their environment helps to conceal them from predators.

All stick insects eat leaves from suitable host (food) plants and some will even eat flowers or nibble on bark. For some species their diet consists of many plant species while others are more host plant specific. Stick insects are mostly nocturnal, often taking refuge amongst the vegetation during the day.

When it comes to flying, not all stick insects have fully developed wings. In some species the males are winged, while females can have insufficiently formed wings and therefore have no flying capability. Although in a few species the female can fly very well.

Many species of stick insects reproduce sexually with normal pairing of both sexes. Some species have the amazing ability to reproduce by parthenogenesis. This refers to the ability of unfertilized eggs hatching, ensuring the continuation of the species. Chemical signals released by females known as Pheromones may be important in attracting a male. Mating usually takes place at night. Under the safety of darkness there are hopefully less predators active.

Generally harmless, stick insects will react with some form of defensive mode if disturbed. A few may attempt to bite if handled roughly while others may slash out with their spiny legs. However, some species do squirt a defensive substance that may irritate the eyes and skin.

A most amazing insect found living in the coastal rainforests of the Wet Tropics region is the Peppermint stick insect, Megacrania batesi. Classified in the order Phasmatodea, the Peppermint stick insect is quite unique within the Australian stick insect fauna.

This insect inhabits the complex Mesophyll rainforest areas along the wet coastal lowlands. Such complex forests have several canopy layers and are associated with the most fertile soils. These lowland rainforests contain fan palms, epiphytic ferns, strangler figs and woody vines. The Peppermint stick insect is restricted to its specific rainforest type from Mission Beach to Cape Tribulation. A population is recorded from the Pellew Islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

With a range of colour variations this insect is remarkable in its ability to camouflage. Peppermint stick insects found in the Mission Beach and Innisfail area are generally a brilliant lime green. While the populations around the Cape Tribulation area are a little more colourful from lime green through to shades of aqua to almost sky blue. During the earlier stages of development the young may also display dark purple bands across the body. The antennae and wing buds can be brilliant red.

Peppermint stick insects are unable to fly, even though both sexes have some wing structure in their adult stage. Males are very slender with longer wings, which are used to parachute to the ground. Females' wings are very short.

In individual populations the Peppermint stick insect either reproduces sexually or by parthenogenesis. Populations found around the Cape Tribulation region consist of bisexual specimens, while only female Peppermint stick insects have been recorded from the Mission Beach and Innisfail areas.

Eggs are camouflaged to suit the immediate environment and can resemble lumps of sand, soil or pumice (volcanic rock). Eggs are dropped to the ground while others wedge within the plant growth. After a period of around 4 months the young stick insects will emerge.

The Peppermint stick insect has developed an efficient defence mechanism used to deter predators. When disturbed, special prothoracic glands situated behind the insects head act like small pumps, spraying a milky substance which has a strong peppermint scent. When produced, this spray can reach a distance of around 60 cm in any chosen direction. This defence spray is produced by the more mature Peppermint stick insects and is very effective on any intruder.

The Peppermint stick insect feeds on the leaves of various species of native Australian Pandanus plant. Found usually growing close to the beach the Pandanus plant is easily recognised consisting of a crown of long narrow leaves that have very sharp spikes along the edges. Many species have stilt root systems.

Presence of a stick insect is usually evident by fresh chewing marks on the edge of the leaves. These fresh chew marks will be green in colour different to the old chew marks, which will be brown edged. Pandanus plants can be heavily eaten by the Peppermint stick insect, especially during the favourable breeding seasons when the crowns of the plants can be totally devastated.

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IMAGES FOR THIS NEWSLETTER

Cheers
Sue Hasenpusch
Editor
Copyright 2002 Australian Insect Farm. All Right Reserved.

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Australian Insect Farm
PO Box 26
Innisfail
Qld Australia
Ph/Fax: 07 40 633 860

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