Sunday, 8 August 2010

What's This?

This is a moth, family Arctiidae; subfamily Ctenuchinae. It is a species of Ceryx, probably C. sphenoides Meyrick. It resembles a wasp or bee and is active during the day and if you are not a careful observer, you might be deceived. Four species occur in northern Queensland and there are others in New Guinea.
We see these fuzzy leaves on the ground occasionally and thought they were probably scale insects.
However, our friend Dr Penny Gullan informs that they are actually White Fly nymphs. White flies are members of the family Aleyrodidae, a group related to scale insects. Some aleyrodids are among the worst agricultural pests. Some have become resistant to pesticides and are foes in greenhouse culture of ornamental plants and vegetables. Some whiteflies transmit viruses to plants. Penny thought this might be Aleurodicus destructor Mackie, known often as the Coconut Whitefly. However, this specimen was not from a palm and this species is known to have many many hosts. This illustrates the dilemma of common names.
Sitting on a light sheet this moth is plainly visible. Imagine it amongst a mass of twigs. The wings are rolled and held at angles not seen in most other moths.
This is the same moth with wings spread. It is a species of Balantiucha. Its larvae probably excavate the underside of leaves of its host plant. These moths are quite commonly seen around lights.
This looks very strange-like something is missing.
Seen from another angle, it is even more weird.
We see the eyes and what looks like the mouthparts. Actually it's the swollen base of the antennae with the filamentous tip protruding. This is actually a sucking bug of the family Derbidae. I frequently find this or similar-appearing species living deep within leaf axils of Pandanus.

This looks like a blob on the end of a stick. Actually it was found by my young friend Benji on a plant is his garden. The swollen portion is the "head end" but its not the head at all.
The head is partially hidden under this swollen portion of the thorax. This is a balloon-head caterpillar of a moth of the family Nolidae, subfamily Chloephorinae. The caterpillar was noted in Densey Clyne's book on caterpillars, p. 24. The book was reviewed earlier in this blog. The exciting part is that we have no idea what the moth is. So we await the emergence of the moth from the coon below.
This is the cocoon made by one of the caterpillars and we will await a short time to see the results! We will keep you posted.
Residents in the Australian tropics frequently see these little spots moving up the wall. They measure a little less than 1 cm in length.
On closer observation we discover a flat case with something protruding.
What we see is a pupal case of a moth. The moth larva has constructed the case using bits and pieces found in the house (Is our house really this dirty!) and tied them together with silk. It moves around slowly finding things to eat. It may actually be feeding on fungal spores of mould which is so prevalent in dwellings in the tropics.
You can see bits of detritus that comprise the case. Clothes moths are often associated with this behaviour but we have not found any damage to clothing yet!
This is the adult moth, barely measuring 7 mm across. When you see the moths in the house, they seem to just disappear, flying erratically and alighting abruptly. They are difficult to trap because they drop suddenly and run from the threat. Tineid moths are well-known detritus feeders. They live in leaf litter and are often found in caves where the larvae feed on feathers, hair and other consumables found in such habitats.

Clyne, D. 2009. The Secret Life of Caterpillars. pp. 1-48. New holland (Young Reed), Sydney.


Ted C. MacRae said...

What a fantastic variety of cryptic species.

alkene said...

Thanks for the information! I kept finding these at home (average of one per day) and they freak me out...