Tuesday, 16 July 2013

National Moth Week

Rather propitious considering the blog below! National Moth Week is coming along July 20-28. It's a US invention, of course, (I wonder if Hallmark has cards??)

The aims are:
National Moth Week’s main goal is to promote moths, and more generally, biodiversity, by encouraging interested parties to organize events at their local park, environmental education center, university, or homes. You can help us to reach this goal by registering an event today!

So you can register from anyplace in the world. Check out the blog. There are lots of supporters and sponsors. So get with it.

Be sure to check out Buck Richardson's Tropical Moth Identification Website or help in identifying northern Australia moths. Also see the CSIRO Moth site for help in identifying moths from all over Australia.

And if you are looking for a new hobby, why not take up moth collecting, or mothing, as they call it. It is now a fact that Alzheimer's Disease can be avoided by keeping your brain engaged! Moth collection and identification will certainly keep your brain busy. Google "Entomological Supplies" for information on how to get started making a collection.

Here are a few recent discoveries from the Far North.

The Singing Moth, Syntonarcha minoralis, announcing National Moth Week

Asota heliconia: Aganaidae

 Asota heliconia; Aganaidae. This species is quite variable
Bracca rotundata: Geometridae; Ennominae
Bracca rotundata: Geometridae; Ennominae
 Craspedosis leucosticta; Geometridae; Ennominae
 Anisozyga fascinans; Geometridae; Geometrinae- a male. This species is sexually dimorphic
Chalcyope alcyona; Noctuidae; Catocalinae feeding on grass seed.
 Cascera muscosa; Notodontidae; Notodontinae
  Palpita unionalis; Crambidae; Pyraustinae
 Parotis sp.; Crambidae; Pyraustinae
 Glyphodes actorionalis; Crambidae; Pyraustinae
 Cryptophasa irrorata; Xyloryctidae; Xyloryctinae
A widespread species of the family Cosmopterygidae
An odd oecophorid of which there are many in Australia
  Macrobathra sp.; Cosmopterygidae
Crocanthes characotis; Lecithoceridae

Monday, 15 July 2013

Mothfest 2013

Every couple of years a group of individuals, professionals and amateurs, gather at the Australian National Insect collection, Canberra for a weekend of talk and study. This was the 6th confab. There is no formal agenda. Those who desire to tell the group about their activities are invited to present a 10 minute talk. This is mainly an opportunity to meet and greet fellow "moth-ers" and consult the ANIC Collection, the largest of its kind in Australia.

The meeting is organised by Marianne Horak, Ted Edwards AM and You Ning Su

Denis Wilson has a similar presentation on his blog.

  Mr You Ning Su took all the photos

Remember to click on the photo to enlarge
Marianne Horak welcomes the group and invites presenters
 George Gibbs talks about micropterygid moths
 Buck Richardson explains how moths are used in his artistic renditions
 Richard Glatz enthuses about a new moth family from Kangaroo Island, SA
 John Landy AC, MBE and Don Sands AM talk about National Parks

 Max Moulds announces the forthcoming book on Hawk Moths
Steve Williams talking about moths and caterpillars in leaf litter
Enthusiasm at the bench: answers to questions
Consulting the Collection
The opportunity to float ideas
Meeting folks that you know through the literature

The Singapore Daisy

I made mention in recent blogs of the Singapore Daisy, Sphagneticola trilobata, not being from Singapore. How it got that name is a bit obscure. Perhaps, a reader will inform us. The plant occurs naturally from Mexico to Argentina. It is an attractive ornamental that has "gotten away". So far it is known along the entire east Queensland coast. It extends inland in many places and is quite common in the Kuranda Range. It lives in marginal or disturbed areas but does not extend deep into the rainforest.
Remember to click on the photos to enlarge
 Gary Wilson photo

Plants were common in nurseries in the 1970's and the plant was used as a "bank stabiliser" along roadsides and railway embankments.
 Gary Wilson photo

Here we see a field of the daisies. They have spread and have overtaken all of the small native plants. A few grasses remain and the ferns along the forest margin seem to survive the onslaught.

Plowing and slashing are useless since the plants spread by surface rhizomes as well as seeds.

Few insects seem to feed on the leaves of the plants. Grasshoppers like this nymph of Atractomorpha similis eat the petals of the flowers from time to time but they seem to do minimal damage.
 You can see the rather slight damage to the plant caused by the feeding of the grasshopper.
 This crambid, pyraustine moth, probably Hyalobathra aequalis (Lederer) may be feeding on the pollen and nectar of the flower. As far as known its caterpillars have not been observed feeding on the leaves of the plant.
 Small ectobiid cockroaches like this Johnrehnia sp. search for pollen and nectar  at night.
 Crickets, large and small, do not seem to be affected by dense expanses of the daisies. They take refuge in the tangle of stems at the base of the plants by day and emerge at night to feed on the "rain of particulate" matter the accumulated on the leaves after dark. This is the female of the trigonidiine cricket Amusurgus tinka Otte and Alexander.
 This female of the trigonidiine Homoeoxipha lycoides (Walker). It is both diurnal and nocturnal. It normally lives in grasses but seems at home in the patch of Singapore Daisies.
The euscyrtine Euscyrtus (Osus) hemelytrus (Haan) is a widespread diurnal and nocturnal cricket that lives in weedy areas in tropical Asia and Malaysia. It is normally associated with grasses but hides in Singapore daisies.

As far as known there are no programs dealing with the biological control of this weed. Something must be done soon before it gets completely out of control.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Winter (Dry Season) Ramblings

Remember, click on the photos to enlarge!
 Several trips in recent weeks to a study site south of Cairns, Queensland, near Babinda revealed a small patch of an otherwise extensive area of grassland caused by clearing for various agricultural activities that was attractive to female Painted Grasshawks, Neurothemis stigmatizans stigmatizans. These large dragonflies dart over the fields during the day but as evening approaches, several females alight for the night in a patch of a couple of square metres. We have observed this over a period of a couple of months.
Painted Grasshawk, Neurothemis stigmatizans stigmatizans, female

Why do the Grasshawks choose the same place night after night. And where are the males? (Males have distinctive reddish brown wings) The males may have ended their season and gone to Dragonfly Heaven.

Females may have a good reason to be where they are.
Paddy Bugs or Slender Rice Bugs, Leptocorisa acuta (Thunberg)
There are huge aggregations of Paddy Bugs not far from where the dragonflies spend the night. This bug is notorious for forming aggregations during the dry season and this species of dragonfly is a known predator of this bug.

Paddy Bugs occur in tropical Australia as far south as Brisbane. The species has a broad range in the Pacific and south Asia where it is a pest of Rice. It feeds on rice during the "milk stage" of the development of the rice grains. It causes considerable damage to rice crops. The Paddy Bug also feeds on a wide range of plants ranging from Tea (Camellia sinensis) to Nutmeg (Myristica spp. ). Several biological control agents have been used to reduce bug numbers. These include fungi, egg parasites and encouraging katydids of the genus Conocephalus that feed on the nymphs (see blog below A Night in the Grass). Certain rice cultivars are less attractive to the bugs. These include "bearded" varieties of rice, that is, rice seeds which are covered by sheaths with long hairs that make it more difficult for the bugs to penetrate the husks. 

Thanks to G. Monteith and G. Theisinger for identifications

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Living Dangerously

We have been visiting Gary Wilson's Nepenthes study site near Babinda, Queensland frequently in recent weeks. There is always something of entomological interest happening there.

The site is on the edge of a lowland rainforest and abuts a cleared field that is comprised mostly of the introduced Singapore Daisy, Sphagneticola trilobata, which, curiously, is not from Singapore but is native to tropical America. It is a perfect weed. It quickly takes over any open area through propagation by rhizomes. But I digress. I will have more to say about this in future blogs.

In a rather open, degraded area adjacent to the rainforest the Singapore Daisy seems to avoid, there is a small population of the Pitcher Plant, Nepenthes mirabilis. I have reported on this before. We commonly see insects around the pitchers and many meet their fate in the juices within.
 This noctuid moth has been attracted by the odour and the food provided by extrafloral nectaries. It may be "lured" towards the inside of the pitcher. If it strays too far within, it will be unable to get out and will eventually drop into the digestive fluid and be "consumed" by the plant. The level of the liquid in the pitcher can be seen just below the small red spot in the centre of the pitcher.
Feeding nctuid, probably Mocis sp.
 The tongue of the moth is ingesting the liquid from the extrafloral nectaries that surround the lip of the pitcher.
Some insects may be too large to fit into the pitcher and "short-circuit" the system by feeding and then leaving. This native cockroach, Methana convexa, is probably too large to fit into this pitcher but its nymphs have been found in other pitchers from time to time. The plant wins--eventually.