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Cotton Harliequin Bugs

5 Mar

Every year at this time, the flame trees at my girls’ school just erupts in hundreds of Cotton Harlequin Bugs (Tectocoris diopthalmus). The flame trees (Brachychiton sp.) have these fuzzy seed pods, that contain urticating  hairs all over them which can cause itching to whoever touches them.  The insects are fine with them however, with the nymphs tending to congregate inside the seed pods at times.  The mothers of this species lay eggs around a branch, and guards the eggs until they hatch.  The young will usually cluster together as a way of defense against predators-powers in numbers when you’re a small stink bug. When disturbed they can emit a foul odor (I think it rather smells like a mild cleaner), which in turn hopefully make the predator think they are inedible. 20160304_084034

Over the course of a few weeks, the nymphs will undergo a series of molts (shedding exoskeleton) to grow, and will change colour in the process.  The newly hatched nymphs are a bright red, then turning to greens and blues in consecutive molts, and finally settling on a bright orange in adulthood.  Males can also be orange and red but tend to have brighter spots of blue and green on them, where the females are just orange with sometimes no spots, and sometimes with very muted coloured spots.

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Nymphs at various stages of growth.

 

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Male, female and nymph Cotton Harlequin bugs on seed pod.

I’ll be doing a follow up post on these, because the other day for the first time, I noticed two separate clusters of nymphs, on different seed pods.  They were the same size, but one cluster were the red ones you see above, the other group were all green/blue.  I’ve never noticed this before so I’m thinking perhaps the females and males cluster together.  And that means the picture of the red ones above would be all female.  I can’t find information on this, and up to now have read and assumed all nymphs resembled each other until adulthood.  I didn’t have my camera but will be getting a picture soon of the difference.

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Giant Waterbug/Toe Biter

15 Jan

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Like my new hair accessory? Now, before anyone goes warning me about this bad boy “biting” me, I’ll let you know it’s dead. I found it that way. And if you don’t know what this beautiful creature is, it’s the Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus insulanus). Or more commonly known as the Toe Biter, in many parts of the world.

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These guys feed in water (although they can fly)on small fish, tadpoles and your toes, should you step in the water. Just kidding…sort of. 

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As you can see in the picture, their front legs have a small hook like claw, helpful when pulling in prey. They feed (put simply) by sticking their mouthpart, known as a rostrum, into their prey,  injecting a saliva that helps liquify it, and then sucking it up.

And I’ve heard rumor that a piercing from one of these guys is quite painful. But aren’t they stunning to look at?

Bush walk snaps

30 Sep

Today I took the kiddos out for a bush walk to see what goodies we could find.  It seemed at first it was all for naught, but then things picked up speed.

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Casemoth/bagworm caterpillar and case.

We keep points whenever someone spots something, and CJ came out of the gates strong with the Casemoth caterpillar spotting and then…

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Dragonfly

this beautiful dragonfly. The kids got an eye.

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Tree-running Mantid - Ciulfina sp.

Next up we saw this beautiful Tree-running Mantid. I just love how the colour blends with the tree.

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Cicada

We found this cicada moments after spotting an exoskelton. Which my brave girl put on her shirt like a broach.

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Next we found this assassin bug nymph. Such little pieces of artwork.

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Assassin bug nymph

Some of you may have no idea what this next thing is, and I didn’t at first, but this is the secret hideaway of the Spittle bug.

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Spittle bug hideout

The Spittle bug is in the Family Aphrophorid, in the order Hemiptera. (Think Leafhopper) These nymphs form a little cubby of spittle around themselves to protect from predators and dehydration; it is theorized. I see a lot of these in pine trees.

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And lastly, a picture of three happy, bush-walking, insect-hunting kiddos.

Shield bug mother and babies

12 Oct

So while on school holidays visiting the grandparents, I had to bring my Spiny Leafs.  Knowing they needed daily misting and new leaves every couple of days, it was the only choice. (Everyone travels with their bugs, right?)   I had no problem feeding them since the town we visited was simply overflowing with gum trees.  I had also read that if you feed them leaves from the wattle family the Spiny’s will turn green instead of brown.  Eager to test this out, I brought the kids and Grammy along for an excursion to relieve a local tree of a few of its branches.

While holding one of the branches with a lovely yellow bloom on it, my oldest excitedly told me she found “a bug mama and babies!!”

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You can see all of the adorable babies underneath Mom in the above picture.

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In this picture we can even see the egg casings.

I did a little research and I can confidently say the insect is a Shield bug.  I’m going to guess a Brown Long-headed Shield bug.

And let me tell you, she was a good guardian of those little ones.  If I put a finger on the left side of the leaf, she would lean her body over to that side to keep me and the babies on opposite sides.  And she never budged from that spot.  And the babies even stayed put, for the most part.

Fascinating.

In case you’re wondering, we did relocate her and bubs to a new tree that they could feel safe in and still feed from.

What is it?

28 Sep

Quick post to ask if you can teĺl me what is in this picture.  There are actually a couple of things going on here but I’ll post the answer and more pictures tomorrow.

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So, what were they?

14 Sep
Goliath Stick insect

Goliath Stick insect

Australia’s largest Phasmid (leaf/stick insect), this baby can top out at 25cm (9+ inches!).  The females are larger than the males and although they have wings, they’re not very useful, unlike the males. Perhaps the coolest fact about these creatures is that the female doesn’t even need a male to have babies; a type of reproduction called Parthenogenesis (from the Greek parthenos, meaning ‘virgin’ and genesis, meaning ‘birth’.)  All eggs, however, will hatch into female clones of the mother, whereas if she were to mate with a male, the offspring can be male or female.

Mole cricket

Mole cricket

So, although when I first saw one of these I thought it was in fact my worst nightmare…it is simply a mole cricket.  In the same family as your average cricket, this guy looks more like an alien cousin.  And if you can actually get past its creepiness and hold one (which I have) you’ll be simply delighted to find out that those strong little paws (more like hands, if you ask me) are quite strong and they will persist in trying to dig free. Or they may just give you a quick little (harmless) bite. Fun.

African Cave spider

African Cave spider

Okay, I admit, even being a spider-lover, this guy could easily be categorized under ‘Worst Nightmare’.  Even more so when you watch Fear Factor and people actually had to eat them…alive.  Not enough money in the world…

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Anyway, this African Cave dweller can range from 7.6-60 cm (that’s 3-23.6 inches) in size and its pedipalps (one of the second pair of appendages near the mouth of a spider or other arachnid that are modified for various reproductive,predatory, or sensory functions. – thefreedictionary.com) act like those of a mantis and help them to grab and hold onto prey.  But here’s the clincher-they don’t have any venomous fangs and are harmless to humans.  Which is why people do this…

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Next, is this little anomaly…

So, here’s what I’ve discovered on this little guy; it may or may not be a leafhopper, it may or may not be a shield bug.  Nymph? Adult? The site I found this on had no further information and when I went to research it, I couldn’t find much.  So, this will be one for either my insect friends to help on (wink, wink) or I’ll have to put in some late nights at the library.

To be continued…

Now, I know most of you will think that this is a totally Photoshopped image of a spider but how do you know spiders don’t have great teeth close up?  The answer to this one is, clearly, the look my friends give me when I say I like spiders.

What is it?

13 Sep

So, this time I decided to do a multiple What is it? post.  Trust me when I say that there are many strange and wondrous creatures out there and here are just a few.

 

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Photo credit: amazingamazon.com.au

1.

a. My worst nightmare

b. Goliath Stick insect

c. Amazonian tree grasshopper

Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org

2. 

a. Mole cricket

b. My worst nightmare

c. Burrowing Southern cockroach

3. 

a. Belthar’s Dark scorpion

b. African Cave spider

c. My worst nightmare

Photo credit: orionmystery.blogspot.com

Photo credit: orionmystery.blogspot.com

4. 

a. A pumpkin seed

b. A leafhopper

c. Early instar (development stage) of a grasshopper

5. 

a. My mother when I told her I was moving out.

b. Totally photoshopped image of jumping spider

c. The look my friend gives me when I say I love spiders