Okay, so I have to tell you, I’m a little too excited about this blog post. Mainly because (unless you saw me post part of the answer on Facebook) you are not going to believe what the above creature is. Well, what it turns into, I should say.
Let me first tell you that the above version of the insect is not the final product. Crazy, right? That’s what I thought. See, like katydids (as I mentioned in this blog post —>) and most other insects, they go through many stages, or ‘instars’ as they are referred to. Instars are defined as “a phase between two periods of molting in the development of an insect larva or other invertebrate animal”. As an example, fleas go from egg, larva, pupa and finally to adult.
The above picture is only the second instar. Now, when I found out what these little guys become, my first thought was, “Wow, talk about an ugly duckling!” But that was of course in reaction to what they finally become. But truth be told, when I first found this bug I didn’t necessarily think it was ugly but more…unusual. So unusual, in fact, that when a friend of mine suggested perhaps I had found a new species (talk about dreaming) I actually thought it might be true. I mean, have you ever seen anything like that?
Well, fortunately for all of us, there are people out there who have dedicated their lives to identifying these types of things and after much research of my own, that led absolutely nowhere but the wrong direction, I decided to write to an expert at the University of Queensland and beg for help.
I’m happy to say that a mere day or two later, Kathy Ebert from U of Q wrote me back. And in addition to her answering my question, she included some really great links.
So, with no further ado (and I know I’ve made you wait) I will post Kathy’s letter, some pics of the final product and the links. Be sure to note the last paragraph where she mentions my blog. 🙂 Enjoy!
*photo credit: http://www.brisbaneinsects.com
Thanks for your query! It’s not a Heteropteran because Heteropterans have piercing and sucking type mouthparts and this guy has great big grabbing mandibles out the front. What you have is a Neuropteran larva! Neuropterans include lacewings, ant lions and owl flies. These are great insects to have in the garden as they are predaceous on pest insects. This larva is probably a type of owlfly based upon those projections along the side of its body and how flat it is. The Australian Museum has some good information about these creatures. Check out:
The following websites also have photos and more info about Neuropterans and their very cool larvae. Some attach debris to their bodies as camouflage; others dig those little pits you see in the sand where they’ve made ant traps.
I took a look at your blog and it looks like you’re off to a good start. Your katydid photo is a beauty! Your owlfly larva should give you some interesting things to write about. If you have any bug queries in future, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll try and remember to take a look at your blog periodically to see how you are going!
***Quick note: There are many types of owlflies and I’m sure at this point you are shaking your head saying, “I thought those things were called Dragonflies anyway.” I promise to clear up the difference in a future post. Once you know how to tell these guys apart, you’ll be surprised you ever got it wrong.