Junior entomologists get the bug

by Wayne
Publish date
18 March 2013
Comments (1)

Chauliognathus lugubris. The Plague Soldier Beetle. This wee beast accounts for hundreds of insect identification requests we receive at the Discovery Centre during the summer. At this time of year these little pollinators descend from the crowns of flowering trees to indulge in seething masses of mating activity triggered by hot weather.

This frenzied 'coupling' activity rarely goes unnoticed, especially because of the numbers in which the beetles congregate– we often get calls from people describing masses of these little cigar-shaped critters with their distinctive orange collars in their gardens; regular readers will have read our earlier post about Plague Soldier Beetles.

Last week, however, it seems this beast and its plaguing behaviour caught the attention of the Rainbow Lorikeet class at Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten in Richmond. The Lorikeets' teacher Adam contacted us with an identification request, accompanied by some photographs and observations of the insects in question from the students, some of which I’ll share below:

  Grace from Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten holds the 'mystery beetle' for a photo Grace from Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten holds the 'mystery beetle' for a photo
Image: Adam Shrivell
Source: Adam Shrivell

It has 3 legs and 3 legs (from Sylvie). They have two antennae (coming) out of their head (from Andrew and Hugo) 

A great start for young eyes – these are key characteristics of insects that separate them from other arthropods

I think it's a stink bug (from Ralph) and I think it's a beetle (From Taj) 

These are also good observations. Like the animals we call 'stink bugs', they can emit an unpleasant liquid as a defence mechanism.

I think it's a grass hopper (from Harry) 

Harry isn’t quite right here, but the plague behaviour is similar to locusts, so still a good observation.

It's a beetle and he flies away and he has the mummy and the daddy and the baby and the dog (from Jed) 

Apart from the bit about the dog, Jed is also on the money.

I think they only come out once a year in summer (from Grace) 

Grace has also hit the nail on the head – clearly we have some budding entomologists here!

They carry each other (from Lucas) 

In a manner of speaking, yes they do – but we may leave this to Lucas's guardians to explain further if required.

Alexander, Lucas and Grace gathering a specimen Alexander, Lucas and Grace gathering a specimen
Image: Adam Shrivell
Source: Adam Shrivell

As seasoned respondents to enquiries of all types from the public, we thought the Rainbow Lorikeets were particularly clever in separating their observations into 'what we think' and 'what we know' – in doing so, they were more than half-way there with their identification by the time it reached us. This, along with the photos, made our entomologist’s job quite easy in providing the identification as Plague Soldier Beetles.

Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten's Rainbow Lorikeets, with teacher Adam Dame Nellie Melba Kindergarten's Rainbow Lorikeets, with teacher Adam
Image: Adam Shrivell
Source: Adam Shrivell

Well done Rainbow Lorikeets, we in the Discovery Centre are impressed with your entomology skills!

Comments (1)

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Mirah 20 March, 2013 09:46
Great observations and a great story. Adam sounds like a wonderful Kinder teacher helping the littlies to investigate their world and encouraging them to think scientifically. Thanks Wayne for sharing this story!
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