Mantispids, mantis-flies and misnomers

You can be lucky sometimes! I had read about the insects commonly called “mantis-flies” and seen many images of them, but I had never seen a live one in the flesh. We were at dinner with neighbours one night when one landed by my plate of food – no kidding. Pandemonium ensued as I tried to catch it, shouting for a container of some kind. Finally it was corralled and I had one to photograph. Here it is! (below)

mantis-fly Continue reading Mantispids, mantis-flies and misnomers

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Tomato fly

I picked a tomato off the bush the other day and noticed a little hole in it. I cut it open and saw that the contents were looking a bit ordinary, as if it was about to rot. Under higher magnification I could see the culprits – fly larvae – yep, maggots! The image below shows a close-up of one.

tomato fly larva

Continue reading Tomato fly

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Fear and loathing

It happened one day at primary school back in the 1960’s. “It’s biting me, it’s biting me!!” the boy screamed as he sprinted past me. He then collapsed on the ground in flamboyant B-grade movie style, shrieking loudly. I ran up to him and could see the culprit clinging to his leg, a very large but harmless moth which I now know it to be one of the ‘rain moths’ of the family Hepialidae (below).

Trictena atripalpis Continue reading Fear and loathing

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Gall-inducing insects

Have you ever noticed strange lumps and bumps on the leaves and stems of native plants? Galls are especially common on gum trees and wattles, and they are abnormal plant growths that form in response to invasion of plant tissue by a variety of organisms. Galls can be caused by certain species of wasps, flies, beetles, psyllids, coccids, thrips, moths and aphids, as well as by nematodes, mites, bacteria or fungi. This post concentrates on some common gall-inducing insects found in Australia. Continue reading Gall-inducing insects

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Sex, gender & difference

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus or so the saying goes. However the anatomical differences between male and female humans are relatively minor when compared to the differences between male and female insects.

“Why is this ‘ant’ attacking a ‘fly’ via its ovipositor?” an insect enthusiast asked me in an email recently (the insects in question can be seen below). The image clearly illustrates sexual dimorphism. My Dictionary of Entomology, a massive tome only owned by insect nerds like me, defines sexual dimorphism as ‘differences in size, shape, anatomical features, colour or behaviour between males and females of a species’.

Flower wasp Continue reading Sex, gender & difference

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