Friday, 15 March 2013

Night Wanderings

It has been an unusually dry wet season in the far north of Queensland. To the south it is a different story with record rains and floods in south Queensland and northern New South Wales. The February rainfall averages from 100-600 mm in Kuranda. This year we received 114 mm.

The insects have been patch at best but here are a few examples from recent forays into the local bush.

The Tinaroo Road near Mareeba offers a number of different habitats ranging from wet eucalypt-acacia woodland to rather dry, sparsely vegetated mixed woodland. Along the creeks, there is gallery forest and natural grassland---where it has not been devastated by grazing and burning.

 Antlions are frequent visitors to the lights, especially in mixed woodlands.
 This caterpillar was found on the tip of a Causarina needle
 This Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis, stopped by. It positioned itself on a shrub near the light-sheet and remained there for about 10 minutes after sizing up the situation and deciding there was not much use in hanging around. It is a rear-fanged colubrid snake that feeds on birds, lizards, bats and small mammals. A large example is 2 m but most snakes are much smaller than that.
 The Brown Tree Snake is often called the Night Tiger because of its striped pattern. It is responsible for devastating the bird population of Guam due to its inadvertent introduction there.
 The Snake Mantid, Kongobatha diademata Hebard, waiting to ambush passing prey.
A March Fly. This year they are actually active in March. Females bite ferociously but males like this one lack the mouthparts to provide a blood meal. They feed on nectar and often come to lights suggesting they are nocturnal. Females bite during the day and almost never are seen around lights. Males have large eyes that meet on the top of the head. We have dealt wit this aspect of their life history before.
A pair of mating long-horned beetles. This species seems to be associated with grasses.
 Late afternoon is a good time to photograph diurnal grasshoppers as the ambient temperature winds down and they decrease their activity. This a male of what appears to be Cedarinia costata Sjøstedt. The dorsal stripe is generally atypical of this species.
 Cedarinia costata Sjøstedt, female.
 Caledia captiva (Walker): Acrididae; Acridinae; Acridini is a grassland species commonly found along forest margins or at the edges of walking tracks. The white band near the tip of the hind femur is distinctive of this grasshopper. It is distributed along the east coast of Australia and into the tropics and in the coastal areas of the Top End, that is northern Northern Territory and northern Western Australia. It's genetics have been studied in the past by Dr Dave Shaw and his colleagues at the Australian National University.
The Black-faced Theomolpus, Theomolpus pulcher (Sjøstedt); Acrididae; Catantopinae; Macrotonina is aptly named. It has a rather limited distribution in the tropics south of the Daintree Region. There is one other species in the genus known from Cooktown.
Adult male Black-faced Theomolpus, Theomolpus pulcher (Sjøstedt); Acrididae; Catantopinae; Macrotonina.
 A matchstick grasshopper, Morabidae; Morabinae (formerly family Eumastacidae) at night on Casuarina needle. These grasshoppers appear to be nocturnal.
 Grass-straddler, Rhachidorus longipennis Rentz: Tettigoniidae; Tettigoniinae;  Nedubini uses its long legs to position and steady itself in tall grasses where it feeds on pollen and seeds at night. The tarsi of the hind legs are elongated to help it grasp the stems. This genus, and several others in Australia, is distantly related to those in both southern Africa and the Pacific northwest of North America.
 Caedicia sp.: Tettigoniidae; Phaneropterinae probably pictipes Stål abroad after dark.
  Caedicia sp.: Tettigoniidae; Phaneropterinae probably pictipes Stål, a last instar nymph with banded hind tibiae.
Male Johnrehnia sp.: Ectobiidae; Blattellinae feeding on eucalypt trunk. Females of this species are black. This was one of three Johnrehnia species found a this site. Nothing is known of their activities. Some species of the genus are commonly found in leaf litter but the activity patterns, ecological requirements and and feeding habits of most blattellines are largely unstudied in Australia.

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