WHAT IS THIS??
This is an insect portal... because INSECTS ARE CRITICAL!
Their presence and absence tell us a lot about the health of ecosystems.
The more we look and learn, the more we can understand how to respond. Looking after insects looks after other creatures and our precious flora.
In mid 2023, we were at the Hindmarsh planting. There we met Fabian Douglas, and struck good conversation.
From there, emails were exchanged, Vicky sent Fabian her photos, and this page grew. What fortune!
Fabian is a renowned entomologist with enthusiasm and incredible experience, and his connection with Nillumbik goes way back.
Read on to discover incredible insects that need our attention and love.
Each one of us can spread the word, and enable better outcomes for biodiversity.
Your attached photo is of Heteropsilopus ingenuus, the Stripe-wing Long Legged Fly, family Dolichopodidae. Apparently, there is not much known about the early stages of this family but the larvae are aquatic or semi aquatic. Some species have larvae that live in wet sand or mud where they are thought to be predacious on very small invertebrates while the larvae of other species are believed to be leaf miners of aquatic plants. I have seen these beautiful little flies on many occasions. However, I have not been lucky enough to have photographed any yet.
Your attached photo is an excellent one of a Native Drone Fly (a.k.a. Golden Native Drone Fly), Eristalinus punctulatus, family Syrphidae (the hoverflies). The adults of this species are important pollinators of many plants. The larvae are known as Rat Tailed Maggots and live in nutrient rich stagnant water. The curious looking tail like appendage at the rear end of the larva is actually a tube through which it breathes. I was not able to find any information about what the larvae actually feed on but they could possibly be detritus feeders.
Extracts from Fabian:
Hi again Vicky,
I realise that you already knew what the Calomantispa venusta (Mantispa Lacewing) was when you sent me the photo of it ... thanks so much for sharing it with me... I have never found one myself and I am now 70 years old.
The colouration of this extraordinary species suggests that it is a reverse mimic of the common and very distasteful to predators Tricolour Cantharid Beetle, Chauliognathus tricolor.
The reason why I say that it is a 'reverse mimic' of Chauliognathus tricolor is that in Calomantispa venusta the black tip of the abdomen resembles the head of the beetle, its orange posterior abdominal segments resemble the beetle's prothorax, the metallic bluish-green area on its wings resembles the beetle's elytra (wing covers) and the yellow area of its wings that surrounds the bluish-green area looks like the edges of the beetle's abdomen.
The final part of the deception is that the head and thorax of the Calomantispa are cryptically and disruptively coloured so that in a natural setting, a foraging bird would only notice the brightly coloured wings and abdomen in the same colours as a Tricolour Cantharid Beetle! See the attached photo of the beetle model for this extraordinary case of potential mimicry. BTW, I did a bit of research on the early stages of Calomantispa and it turned out that not much is known. However, it is thought that its larvae are mobile predators of other smaller insects
Incidentally, there is also a jewel beetle (Castiarina kerremansi) that is (coincidentally) a reverse mimic of Chauliognathus tricolor as well. It occurs widely in S.E. mainland Australia and can be seen during the summer months visiting the flowers of Bursaria spinosa and Leptospermum species.
So, I hope that you have found this info. interesting...?
Extracts from Fabian:
It is a White-spotted Ichneumonid Wasp, Echthromorpha intricatoria (family Ichneumonidae). This species is a parasitoid of the pupae of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).
I did a search for the species on
iNaturalist Australia and found that there are quite a few photos of it and that it likes to parasitize the pupae of nymphalid butterflies
(i.e. Yellow Admiral, Australian Painted Lady and Meadow Argus etc.).
Note from Vicky - the photo from above showing bluish wings is in natural light (late afternoon, under trees, dimly lit). I used a torch for the other pics, giving a rather different view.
Trapezites symmomus soma
Extracts from Fabian:
The Splendid Ochre Butterfly (a.k.a. Symmomus Skipper Butterfly), Trapezites symmomus soma is one of the larger skipper butterflies that occurs in the Nillumbik area. It can be seen flying in natural bushland and nearby gardens (mainly) during February and March and its larvae feed on the foliage of Spiny-headed Mat-rush, Lomandra longifolia. If you happen to live in or near some natural bushland and plant Spiny-headed Mat-rush in your garden, Splendid Ochre Butterflies will be able to breed in the newly created habitat. An indication that the species has taken up residence is the presence of males holding territories near the plants which they defend against conspecific males and other butterflies while waiting for receptive females to arrive.
In the 1980's Michael Braby and a group of naturalists augmented a small occurrence of Spiny-headed Mat-rush in the Greswell N.C.R. (near Macleod) with further plantings of the species. Earlier surveys had indicated the Splendid Ochre Butterfly was absent from the area. After these plantings they introduced a number of Splendid Ochre Butterfly larvae in 1988 by carefully placing them amongst the Spiny-headed Mat-rush leaves. ln subsequent years it was found the butterfly had been able to successfully establish itself in the reserve which is a clear indication that the species can utilise newly created areas of habitat...
MORE COMING SOON
Hi again Vicky. This time your excellent photos are of an adult and a final instar larva of the Yellow Admiral Butterfly, a.k.a. Australian Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa itea). It is a moderately common species that flies during every month of the year, though it is more usually seen during the warmer months. This butterfly has a rapid flight but can be easily observed when visiting flowers to feed on nectar or when it lands to bask in sunlight. While basking they often rest on a vertical surface such as a tree trunk or paling fence in a characteristic head downwards position with their wings held open.
Females are also seen as they flutter around and land on the introduced Stinging Nettle (Urtica urens) which is a commonly used larval food plant of the species. Other native larval food plants are Scrub Nettle (Urtica incisa), Shade Nettle (Australina pusilla) and Shade Pellitory (Parietaria debilis). Although the caterpillars of the Yellow Admiral Butterfly have branching dorsolateral spines along their upperside, they are harmless. They don’t need to sting you. The stinging nettles that they feed on do it for them! They gain further protection from potential predators by resting on the underside of a leaf of the food plant that has been made into a tubular shelter with larval silk.
The pupa of this species is a most beautiful thing in its own right. It is only attached by its cremaster (at the posterior end of its abdomen) to a small pad of larval silk from which it hangs upside down. It has two blunt anterior horns projecting forward from its head, three rows of blunt projections along its thorax and abdomen and is grey or brown, adorned with a series of golden or silver spots and markings.
The Yellow Admiral Butterfly occurs widely in temperate S.W. and S.E. Australia (including Tasmania) but is much less common in the arid central area and tropical zone. It also occurs in New Zealand.