Sunday, 12 September 2010

Miscellaneous Miscellany

Garden Miscellany

A number of “creatures of interest" have appeared in the past few days and here they are!

The flowering of one of our Amorphophallus plants (see Aroids) has attracted some interested observers. This Rove beetle, is active by day and its slow swooping flights can be frequently seen, especially if a Cane Toad, for example, has been killed in the driveway or run over by the mower. It is more colourful than most Rove beetles. It is said to be a predator and so would be looking for prey at a source that would attract them, like a stinky Amorphophallus flower.

The Rove Beetle, Actinus macleayi, family Staphylinidae.

St Andrew’s Cross Spider, Argiope keyserlingi is a widespread spider and everyone who is observant in the garden has seen it. The X is called a “stabilimentum” and apparently has a number of functions. It is thought to attract insects. It’s silk is different from the rest of the web and reflects UV light that may attract pollinating insects using UV to find flowers. It is also hypothesized that it helps the spider to camouflage itself and additionally warns birds that there is a web there. When annoyed, the spider shakes the web vigorously and the startle effect of the “X” may help in convince the attacker that it should move on.

St Andrew's Cross Spider, Argiope keyserlingi in its web.

A case of mistaken identity

I was surprised when this creature appeared at the light. At first I thought it was an odd Milionia queenslandica Jordan and Rothchild. A closer look revealed it was a butterfly. The Purple Dusk-flat, Chaetocneme porphyropsis (Meyrick & Lower) is a skipper butterfly with a very restricted geographic distribution. It is known from from Cape Tribulation to the Paluma Range near Townsville. The caterpillars feed on several rainforest trees and at least one introduce tree, Cinnamomum camphora. See Braby (2000: 68).

The Purple Dusk-flat, Chaetocneme porphyropis, family Hesperiidae; Pyrginae

Milionia queenslandica Jordan and Rothchild, family Geometridae, Ennominae.

Similarities don’t end there.

This little moth, Synechodes coniophora, is active during the day flying like the wind and alights only for a fraction of a second. It also flies at night since the moth is found occasionally at the lights. The caterpillars bore into the stems of palm flowers and fruits, especially Lawyer palms, Calamus spp. I find them buzzing around the giant Oil Palm we have in our driveway.

Synechodes coniophora Turner; family Brachodidae.

Love Bugs, flies of the family Bibionidae, Plecia ornaticornis ( see Love Bugs)are commonly seen on flowers during the day and around lights at night. They seem to be shunned by vertebrate and invertebrate predators alike. Ants avoid them. Birds leave them on the light sheet and my friend the Boyd’s Forest Dragon doesn’t touch them. Their similarity to the Synechodes moth is striking but the resemblances don’t end there. The cantharid beetle fits these criteria too. They are probably part of a Mullerian Mimicry Complex. See Mullerian Mimicry).

Plecia ornaticornis; family Bibionidae

Elegance in moths!

Barnatola panarista (Turner) has been seen on this site before but it is a beaut little moth. Nothing is known of its biology.

Barantola panarista (Turner); family Depressariidae.

Luxuriating Turkeys

These turkeys are taking advantage of the warm spring weather to do a bit of “anting”. They lay down in the sun and expose their feathers and look very silly. The warmth of the sun kills lice (Mallophaga) that live on the feather shafts. These parasitic insects are very sensitive to temperature. They die if it varies only a degree or two. That’s why bird lice don’t survive for long on humans. We are just too cold for them.

The wonders of spring!

All but unconscious in the sun!


Braby, M. 2000. Butterflies of Australia: Their Identification, Biology and Distribution. Volume one. CSIRO Publications, Collingwood, Vic. 457 pp.

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