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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: katydids (2)

The bountiful Mallee

Author
by Patrick
Publish date
17 December 2014
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In Bugs Alive! you can see almost 50 displays of live invertebrates. Most of them from either tropical or arid parts of Australia, illustrating the adaptations needed for living in extreme environments.

Blue butterfly and bee fly resting on grass stems Sleeping beauties, clothed in condensation in the early hours of the morning. | Left: Common Grass Blue (Zizina labradus) Right: A bee fly (Family Bombyliidae)
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

So each year, when the weather conditions are right, we head out to the Mallee to boost our stocks of insects and spiders. The best time to visit is on a hot, humid night—which happened last week—just before or just after a thunderstorm. Like most desert species, Mallee insects wait months for the rain and then emerge from the spinifex in their thousands.

Two people in arid landscape Chloe Miller and Maik Fiedel searching through typical Mallee habitat.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

At night the desert resonates with the songs of katydids, the loudest of which come from Robust Fan-winged Katydids (Psacadonotus robustus). Unfortunately the fat abdomen of this dun-coloured species is often host to the larvae of tachinid flies (family Tachinidae). These parasites feed on the internal organs before emerging from the katydid which dies soon afterwards.

Brown katydid grasshopper A male Robust Fan-winged Katydid (Psacadonotus robustus).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Most katydid species are surprisingly colourful, sporting bright greens, blues and reds.

Three katydid grasshoppers Left: Female Striped Polichne (Polichne argentata); Centre: The undescribed ‘Mystery Hump-backed Katydid’ (Elephantodea species); Right: The unfortunately-named Victorian Sluggish Katydid (Hemisaga lanceolata).
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

One of our prime targets is Mitchell’s Cockroach (Polyzosteria mitchelli) which we breed at Melbourne Museum off-display, perhaps the most beautiful cockroach in Australia. With its golden markings and eggshell-blue legs, this species is one of more than 500 native cockroaches that are rarely seen by the average Australian but which are extremely important in native ecosystems. They shouldn’t be confused with the five or so introduced cockroach species that infest our houses–native cockroaches are happy in the bush and almost never come inside.

colourful cockroach A female Mitchell’s Cockroach (Polyzosteria mitchelli)
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The desert seems to wake up after a rainstorm, with unexpected species such as snails and damselflies making an appearance.

Damselfly and group of snails Left: A female Metallic Ringtail damselfly (Austrolestes cingulatus). Right: Tiny desert snails (Microxeromagma lowei) living under bark.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Wolf spiders are the dominant ground species, their emerald eyes shining in the torchlight. This male wolf spider (below) was seen halfway down a burrow and was difficult to distract until we discovered the source of his interest—a large female wolf spider at the bottom of the burrow.

Wolf spider and burrow Left: A male wolf spider (LycosaRight: Close-up of the male.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Little Desert, Big Desert, Sunset Country and Hattah-Kulkyne each have their own distinct habitats and faunas, just a few hours’ drive from Melbourne.

Landscape with blue sky The endless sky and flat horizon of the Mallee region.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Live Exhibits’ trip to the Alps

Author
by Chloe
Publish date
13 April 2011
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This guest post is by Chloe, a Live Exhibits keeper at Melbourne Museum.

At Live Exhibits we like to keep a range of funnel-web species. This way we can represent not only the infamous Sydney Funnel-web spider, but the majority of Australian funnel-web species in our exhibits.

As it had been six years since Live Exhibits’ last trip to Nariel Valley, it was time for Jessie, Patrick and I to pack up the car and head off on a field trip in the to find some Alpine Funnel-webs (Hadronyche alpina).

Alpine Funnel-web Alpine Funnel-web, Hadronyche alpina.
Image: Chloe Miller
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Local resident Mrs Brown originally alerted the museum’s Discovery Centre to the presence of a population of Alpine Funnel-webs in the Nariel Valley and more particularly her front lawn. Young funnel-webs emerge from their mother’s burrow, find an attractive burrow site, and then burrow down, which makes for high density populations. For us, this leads to quick collection of multiple specimens.

After finding three funnel-webs around our campsite it was time to head off to Mrs Brown’s place, where she showed four large burrows. We started digging holes in the mud more than 30cm deep, a process much more lengthy than expected, using only a desert spoon to dig, trying not to destroy Mrs Brown’s lawn or injure the spiders. Finally we produced four plump female funnel-webs (which were less than happy about being disturbed) then we balanced them on a spoon to be transferred into their new glass homes.

Alpine Funnel-web Alpine Funnel-web, Hadronyche alpina
Image: Chloe Miller
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Soaking wet with seven funnel-webs under our belt and no sign of any more, it was time to head off to Omeo.

The following day drove up the windy, fog-covered hills to Mt Hotham, where we began our search for Alpine Thermocolour Grasshoppers (Kosciuscola tristis), Alpine Blistered Pyrgomorphs, (Monistria concinna), Mountain Katydids (Acripeza reticulata) and Alpine Katydids (Tinzeda albosignata).

Alpine Katydid & Alpine Thermocolour Grasshopper Left: Alpine Katydid, Tinzeda albosignata. Right: Alpine Thermocolour Grasshopper Kosciuscola tristis.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

On warmer days these invertebrates would be sitting up on small bushes and grass clumps, enjoying the sun. However on cooler foggy days, like the day of our visit, many of the invertebrates sink lower into the foliage to protect themselves against the elements, making our search a little harder and much wetter. Thankfully I had donned plastic pants and a rain coat which made the perfect outfit, although they didn’t help the situation in my boots, which contained enough water to fill a small lake.

Foggy Mt Hotham Foggy conditions for collecting invertebrates at Mt Hotham.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

During the morning of searching, Patrick’s alter ego Taxon Boy didn’t let us down, helping us bag 48 Thermocolour Grasshoppers, 7 Alpine Katydids, 1 Mountain Katydid, 12 Alpine Blistered Pyrgomorphs and a female Alpine Wolf Spider (Lycosa sp.).

Alpine Wolf Spider, Lycosa sp.. Alpine Wolf Spider, Lycosa sp.
Image: Chloe Miller
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We made one final stop on our long drive back to the museum to collect some eucalyptus for our stick insects; here Taxon Boy also stumbled across some large Garden Orb-weavers (Nephila edulis) which you can now see on display in the Orb wall in Bugs Alive! at Melbourne Museum.

Garden Orb-weaver Garden Orb-weaver, Nephila edulis.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Infosheet: Spiders of Victoria 

MV Blog: TV Crew in Bugs Alive

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