Sunday, 12 December 2010
The Coral Jewel, Hypochrysops miskini (Waterhouse); family Lycaenidae, is aptly named. This little butterfly has a narrow, disjunct range along the coast from southeast Queensland north to the Cairns region.
A small, silent cricket, Trigonidium bundilla Otte and Alexander, family Gryllidae, a common resident in the understorey..
The Cruiser, Vindula arsinoe (Cramer), family Nymphalidae is a common garden visitor but not easy to photograph. Like the Coral Jewel, this butterfly has a very narrow range occurring in rainforest along coastal Queensland.
Horns of a Elephant Beetle Xylotrupes ulysses australicus, family Scarabaeidae is quite vocal when disturbed. Despite its the size and strength, Pied Butcherbirds will attack the beetles and beat them into submission before consuming the softer bits.
Jaws of a prionine woodborer, family Cerambycidae. These mandibles are capable of a painful bite. They are used by the beetle to chew through wood.
This little millipede was seen during the rainy period we had recently.
A Plume Moth, Sphenarches anisodactylus (Walker); family Pterophoridae, a delicate visitor to the light sheet.
A sleeping blowfly, family Calliphoridae.
A handsome Assassin Bug, family Reduviidae. Note the dark underside. This bug feeds on other insects and is not regularly seen in our garden.
It has been so wet that this little fungus grew from the top of a bamboo stake. After a day, it was finished.
A Spider Wasp, family Pompilidae. These wasps are common in and around the house where they hunt for spiders.
Saturday, 4 December 2010
The white-lipped Treefrog is often abroad on wet nights. It has been a good year for frogs.
The Northern Green Grocer cicada. Most specimens are green. The dots on the head between the yes are ocelli. Australian cicadas have very unusual names.
Owra insignis is a small cicada, measuring only about 15 mm. It regularly is attracted to lights.
Aneipo diva Kirkaldy, is a colourful fulgoroid (family Achilidae) that is often attracted to lights.
This is a fairly large leafhopper that one sees on rare occasions.
Methiola picta grasshoppers are now maturing and can be found in the greenery that borders the rainforest.
A large stick inssect, Malandania pulchra Sjøstedt, has a very restricted known distribution being found only from Kuranda to the Atherton Tablelands in rainforest. This is a last instar nymph. One more moult and it will be adult.
Webber's Caedicia, Caedicia webberi Rentz, Su Ueshima is common in the Kuranda vicinity and is known from coastal rainforests from Locherbie to south of Innisfail, Qld. Its closest relatives seem to be similar-appearing species from the rainforests of New Guinea.
Leucopodoptera eumundii Rentz and Webber, was named after both a fearless aboriginal warrior and a Queensland lager. Sadly, both are now defunct. But it is a nice katydid.
This is another recently described katydid, Acauloplacella queenslandica Rentz, Su, Ueshima. It is one of four species known in the tribe Phyllomimini from Australia. All are tropical and live on leaf surfaces. They are plant feeders and nocturnal.
Although not keeping to the green theme, it seems appropriate to include this hepialid here as it showed up just a few days ago. Once it landed, its bright yellow colours were quite startling. It seems to be H. mirabilis Rothschild. Have a look at the variation in this and other species.
A Christmas Beetle, Anoplognathus punctulatus, is a harbinger of summer. For some reason, these beetles are not eaten by Pied Butcher birds. The latter seem to prefer Cane Beetles, at least around my lights.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
“Not Any Sheila: A Woman At War” A biography by Helen Irvine. Published by Strictly Literary, 81 Hoff St., Mount Gravatt East, Vic. 428 pp. ISBN: 978-0-9805489-8-3
The late Tony Irvine was well known to the botanical community in the Atherton and Cairns area because of his work as a rainforest ecologist at CSIRO, Atherton and his passion for conservation. He was active in a number of “green” endeavours such as reforestation and reclamation of “fallow” lands. In fact, he and his wife, Helen, bought a large parcel of cleared grassland just outside Atherton in the 1980’s and planted it with local rainforest trees and exotic fruit trees. Today it stands as his monument to a cause. The area has been returned to the rainforest and their crowning accomplishment was the appearance of a Cassowary a few years ago who seemed to approve of the development. In fact, it chased Helen and Tony into the house.
I first met Tony in Canberra in the early 1980’s. His personality was such that he was very “people-oriented” and enjoyed talking with anyone who was involved in rainforest or conservation research. Tony was described to me by Ray McInnes as the “gentle giant”. A couple of years before his death, Tony and Helen told me that the latter was writing a book about Tony’s mother who was a most “interesting” person. This was putting it mildly. His mother was a monster.
Anthony “Tuppy” Kyle Irvine was born in Melbourne in 1937 and shortly thereafter his father went off to Europe to fight in WW II leaving Tony’s mum, Sheila, to raise him, and later his brother Vivian, alone. As luck would have it, Tony’s father was killed in the war.
Tony’s mother never forgave his father for going off to war and felt it was the “easy way out” for him to avoid bringing up his children. She told him repeatedly in letters that she hated him for it and really never liked him in the first place. His father tried to make amends but to no avail. Sheila sometimes forgave him but soon reverted to derision. She was what we would now call a paranoid schizophrenic.
Sheila resented having the children and often told both brothers just that. Tony’s brother was given names that could apply to both a male and a female because Sheila did not want to be bothered thinking up names for either a boy or a girl. At other times Sheila seemed compassionate and happy to have the children around. Several times she fobbed them off to agencies in foster care or sent them off to boarding school. The children seemed poorly nourished and often needed medical attention which Sheila could ill afford.
Tony had an innate interest in plants and eventually gravitated towards a career in Canberra at CSIRO. As a young man he was an accomplished Australian Rules player with the Ainslie football team. There are award plaques on the wall in the Ainslie Football Club with Tony’s name on them. Late in life Tony suffered from extreme back problems comprising fused vertebrae. He told me he was convinced that this was caused by using telephone poles as a measure of his jumping ability. He would jump for long periods, each time trying to outdo a previous jump. This he thought helped to compress his vertebrae and exacerbate arthritis later in life.
I was a guest in Tony’s lab in Atherton for 4 months in 1988. He was a most generous host turning over half of his lab to me for my bottled of living katydids and crickets. I was allowed access after hours to make tape recordings of the sounds produced by the insects. Tony and Don and Judy Fitzsimon often accompanied me on nocturnal fieldtrips in the Atherton vicinity. They were instrumental in my discovering many new species in this group.
At her death Tony and Helen set about the task of liquidating Sheila’s assets. This took months. Her house was jammed with goods of all kinds. Sheila was an “accumulator” for lack of a better word, one of those people they have TV series about these days. As an example, Sheila kept all butcher paper—tons of it because “you’ll never know when you need to write a shopping list”. But because of this syndrome, the book was able to be written. Sheila fancied herself a writer and she kept diaries and meticulous notes. It was from all this that Helen was able to piece together Tony’s horrible life as a child.
So it was with absolute astonishment to read Helen’s book. She has done a remarkable job of correlating mountains of written material into a very disturbing thought-provoking treatise on schizophrenia, paranoia and child abuse. It is still a wonder to me how such a nice, gracious, hospitable person as Tony Irvine could result from such a horrible upbringing.
Tony Irvine had a big following in our area. He was frequently quoted in the newspaper and was often on the local ABC commenting on botanical or environmental matters. His memorial service consisted of a celebration by friends (and there were lots of them) and family followed by a tree-planting in fallow grassland on the border of Lake Barrine. Anyone who knew Tony, or anyone with an interest in child abuse, will find this book interesting, disturbing and thought-provoking. Thanks. Helen.
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Borneo is the centre of diversity for the genus Apis, the honeybee genus. Five species occur on Borneo. There is a wonderful book on the Honeybees of Borneo that should be in the libraries of all beekeepers and entomolgists with an interest in bees. The Honeybees of Borneo documents honeybees in Borneo in a most readable style. I was able to find two Apis species whilst in Borneo recently. Fortunately, one was the Asian Honeybee, the importance of which is noted below.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Louse flies are members of the family Hippoboscidae. They are dorso-ventrally flattened blood-sucking muscoid flies, the adults of which live as external parasites of birds and mammals. They fossick amongst the hairs or feathers and the flattened body plan aids in this activity. Some have complex life histories involving "adenoptrophic viviparity". This means that eggs are nourished and hatch within the female and living larvae are deposited rather than eggs. This happens in a number of unrelated flies, the most awful example of which is an Australian brown blowfly.
Sunday, 14 November 2010
This is a little gem of a tetrigid. It is smaller than most, wingless and characterised by the hood-like projection of the pronotum that extends over the head. This may be an undescribed genus--but one must be careful, there may be a related species in New Guinea that has a generic name. This species lives on bark at the base of large rainforest trees. It may feed on moss.
If it's the bizarre that interests you, here is a rainforest tetrigid from the Muller Range in Papua New Guinea. This is a common species where it occurs and is active by day feeding on mosses that grow on leaf surfaces. We don't know its identity. It possesses a combination of bizarre characters, the most obvious of which is the elongated head. There is no similar species in Australia.
The Pyrgomorphidae contributes a single genus and species to the Kuranda rainforest. Desmoptera truncatipennis Sjøstedt, The Large Rainforest Pyrgomorph, occupies a narrow range along the coast from the Daintree to the Atherton Tablelands. Its specific name is derived from the truncated or cut-off appearance of the wings. To the north in the rainforests of the Cape, the smaller Desmopterella sp. can be found.
The Large Rainforest Pyrgomorph, male brown morph. This species has a variety of colour forms and, interestingly, none include shades of green.
Methiola picta Sjøstedt, the Red-legged Methiola, is the only acridid grasshopper you are likely to encounter in the rainforest proper. It is common in the Daintree, Kuranda and Atherton Tablelands. As noted above, it is a grass feeder.