Saturday, 16 September 2017

Congratulations Papua New Guinea: Papua National Day 2017

Today is the National Day in Papua New Guinea. It is a day of celebration.

I had the chance to be in Porgera in 2009 by the Rapid Assessment Program of Conservation International which was concentrated primarily in the Muller Range, a part of the central Cordillera on the border of Western and Southern Highland provinces of mainland Papua New Guinea. A published record of one group of tettigoniids (katydids), Naskrecki and Rentz (2010) described many new species in the tribe Agraeciini.

We were fortunate to be staying in Porgera and on our last day, we had the chance to see people of many PNG groups getting ready for the big parade and activities in the sports stadium. Here are a few pix. Unfortunately, we missed the big show as our plane was due in early afternoon.
Porgera and the Muller Range is almost due north of the tip of Cape York, Queensland

 Preparations for the Big Parade. Those are Bird of Paradise feathers he's working with
Just about ready!
 The Big Parade!

 The Mudmen are coming!
And so are the Hairmen!
And now for a few orthopterans, some familiar and some not.

Naskrecki, P., Rentz, D. C. F. 2010. Studies in the orthopteran fauna of Melanesia: New katydids of the tribe Agraeciini from Papua New Guinea (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae; Conocephalinae) Zootaxa 2664: 1-35. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

They're Back: Mr Cassowary and the Bubs for 2017

We've known about this years young cassowaries for about 6 weeks. They had been seen regularly at Cassowary House, not far from here. But this is the first visit  that we know of to this part of their range. We did not feel too bad about this because they have to cross busy Black Mountain Road to get to our place. It's rather extraordinary that the the male cassowary has done this for over 40 years and has not come to grief with a vehicle. Let's hope his luck holds out.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Carnival On Collins 2017

The annual Cairns Festival opens with the Cairns Festival Parade which commences a week of cultural and other varied activities around the region.

The week concludes with the Carnival on Collins. Collins Ave, which runs through the suburb of Edge Hill and in front of the Cairns Botanic Gardens, is blocked off and a variety of stalls appear with people selling all sorts of things.

The Carnival began years ago as a "Gardens" activity but it has enlarged to the extent that it is entirely run by the Cairns Regional Council.

Plant sales are a major part of the Carnival with all sorts of tropical plants for sale.

A few highlights.

 Tropical orchids are favourites with the locals. About 6 stalls sold a large variety of plants.

Anyone hungry?

  In case you run low on $$
Something unusual?

 Lots of interest in a local icon

 I have no idea what this is about

At the end of the day maybe 20,000 people attended. the weather was prefect this year (it often rains)
and it seemed that everyone had a great time.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Love is in the Air: Lovebugs

Almost every time we put out  light sheet in northern Australia, no matter where, in or around rainforests or out in the open country where mixed forests dominate, "Lovebugs" show up.

Plecia ornatipes 

Firstly, Lovebugs are not bugs at all. They are flies, relatively primitive flies in the family Bibionidae. There are about 30 species in Australia. The larvae live in the soil and are considered beneficial in that they help to decompose leaf litter and other organic material.

The flies usually arrive shortly after the lights are turned on. They arrive singly but it does not take long for males to find females and mating to occur. In this shot, the male is the top fly.

Males have a differently shaped head with large eyes that are only narrowly divided.
 Plecia ornatipes, male 
Plecia ornatipes, male showing large eyes

 Plecia ornatipes, female

Females have more prognathous, or projecting mouthparts, seemingly adapted for dipping deep in the floral parts of plants.

What do Lovebugs do, other than the obvious? Adults feed on flowers and probably are pollinators as they can live for about 3 days. Males seem to have reduced mouthparts and may not feed.

In Florida, an introduced species from South America, looking very much like P. ornaticeps, occurs in such number that flying swarms can obstruct windscreens at certain times of the year. 

Taxonomists usually rely on the structures of the males found at the tip of the abdomen to make their identifications.

Tip of the abdomen of male Plecia ornatipes

a braconid wasp at the same lightsheet as the Lovbebugs

This fly seems to be involved in a mimicry complex. Birds and lizards seem to avoid eating the adult flies. The flies usually spend the day on the light sheet, whereas, the moths, beetles and other insects that accumulate seem to be rapidly consumed by birds. Could the braconid wasp shown above be part of such a complex?