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Vol 2 No 1. December 2001

Bringing you all the news from the Australian Insect Farm.

This issue:
Images for this issue

*** Welcome
*** Bugathon 2002 Competition
*** Giant Lace Monitors
*** Ant Filming
*** Around the Schools
*** School Holiday Display
*** In The Lab
*** Research News
*** The Bug Files: Wet Tropics Newspaper Story - Attack of the Spider Eaters
*** Food Plants of a Selection of North East Queensland Butterflies and Moths - Part 2 - Moths
*** Web Site Update - Images For This Issue


In celebration of our first year of newsletters we launch our BUGATHON 2002 competition. Animal activity on the AIF property is at a high, still seeing Cassowary activity (see newsletter Vol.1 No.4) plus a recent visit from a pair of Giant Lace Monitors. Along with all the regular features we also look at Ant Filming; School Holiday Display and finish with Food Plants of a Selection of North East Queensland Butterflies and Moths, Part 2 - Moths.



Like to win an insect kit then get into the BUGATHON 2002. It's easy to enter all you need is a camera!

Here's what to do:

Step 1. Find an interesting insect in the garden and without disturbing it take a photograph.
Step 2. Photograph the plant on which you found the insect.
Step 3. Fill out the data registration sheet when you take the photos.
Step 4. Write a poem or essay, explaining why this insect interests you.

For full competition details visit the AIF web site, BUGATHON COMPETITION page.


While walking around the property we have often seen small Lace Monitors (Goannas). Sightings usually consist of a quick glimpse as they ran furiously across the forest floor before they disappeared up a rainforest tree. So it was with great pleasure recently that a pair of large Lace Monitors were observed.

Seen taking advantage of a strategically placed log for sunbaking upon, both monitors estimated to be around 2 metres in length appeared to be in good health.

Go to images >


ANT FILMING Ants were on the agenda for filming during the month of October. Mr Satochi Kuribayashi, a Japanese specialist in insect filming and in particular ants put many local species under the camera lens including Green Ants, Rattle Ants and Mangrove Ants.

Go to images >


Attention: All Budding Entomologists

If you're involved in studying insects then we want to know about your activities. Reports on insect observations or surveys; class activities; even an environmental insect related issue being addressed at your school or completing a project, as long as insects play a part of the overall project we would like to hear from you.

The most interesting contributions will be posted on our regular website update. All contributions will be acknowledged and if accepted, contributors will receive notification as to when their work will be posted.

Send your contributions via email; by mail to AIF PO Box 26, Innisfail, Qld. 4860; or fax 07 40 633 860.


Congratulations go to Sallese Gibson, grade 5 who received an A+ for her assignment on the Giant Litter Bugs.


What do you think about when you hear the word cockroach? It's probably "Gross!" Did you know that there is more than one type of cockroach? The biggest type of cockroach is the Litterbug, which can also be known as the Giant Burrowing Cockroach. The Litterbug can grow to be eight centimetres! Although these cockroaches are huge, they are actually disease free and the cleanest type of cockroach there is. So don't be scared next time you see a giant cockroach, because it just might be one of these amazing disease free creatures…..the Litterbug!


Litterbugs belong to a family called Blattidae. The Blattidae family is made-up of all cockroaches, including the Litterbug. Almost all of the cockroaches that make up this unusual family can't fly. To be part of the Blattidae family you must have:

* A flat oval shaped body
* A thorax covered by a plate that extends to the head t A mouth that can chew
* 2 compound eyes
* 6 long, hairy legs
* 2 long antennae
* A prominent cerci

Litterbugs are by far the biggest species in this special family!


If you are walking around the Northern Queensland forests and discover something that looks like a large red rock, pick it up because it just might be a Litterbug. Their unusual red coloured body can easily identify these huge insects from other cockroaches. All Litterbugs have:

* Six black hairy legs
* Two antennae
* A big red body that extends onto the head
* Two compound eyes
* A thorax
* A mouth

Litterbugs can grow to be a huge eighty millimetres (eight centimetres)! They have been found to weigh up to 30 grams. Litterbugs may sound like vicious giants, but they don't bite and are just amazing creatures.

Body parts of the Litterbug

Head: The head enables the eyes and mouth to move in different directions. It is the front section of the Litterbug.
Mouth: The mouth is used to eat and chew food.
Eyes: The two compound eyes are used, so the Litterbug knows where he is going. Antennae: Litterbugs use the antennae to feel around for things.
Thorax: The thorax is like the neck for an insect. Abdomen: The rear body section of an insect.
Legs: Legs are used for scuttling and burrowing. All six of the legs are connected to the thorax, although it often doesn't look like they are.


Litterbugs are fairly fast creatures and spend their day burrowing deep into the soil To move to different places, Litterbugs either scuttle along the forest floor or dig to their destination! When eating, Litterbugs have to pick up the food with their teeth and then chew. After doing all of the moving around in a day they like to have a good rest in their chamber underground.

Life Cycle

Litterbugs are very unusual creatures. This is why they have a very different life cycle to normal cockroaches. The first stage of their life cycles is when a female gives live birth to baby Litterbugs. Slowly, these young Litterbugs turn into small nymphs, which is the next stage of the life cycle. After a few weeks these small nymphs turn into a medium nymph. The next stage of the life cycle is when the medium nymphs turn into large nymphs. Finally the Litterbugs go through the last change of the life cycle…turning into adults. After about four years the adult Litterbugs mate and the life cycle starts again.


Litterbugs will start to breed when they reach around the age of four. A male and female Litterbug will mate. In a couple of months the female will give live birth to young Litterbugs. These baby Litterbugs are a creamy white colour. After birth the small Litterbugs scuttle under the mother. The breeding season for Litterbugs is around October. Baby Litterbugs that are bred in captivity need to be separated from parents for the first four months of their lives. This is because the parents can sometimes get very vicious towards the young Litterbugs.


Litterbugs have a very simple diet. Since their habitat is the forest, they will eat anything that you can find on the forest floor. When Litterbugs go out and collect food, they look for things like leaves, twigs, grass and bark. Amazingly, Litterbugs only eat dried crunchy leaves rather than wet, fresh leaves. This is because Litterbugs gather up food that they find on the forest floor. Wet, moist leaves are on trees, which the Litterbugs can't get to!


Litterbugs aren't in very much danger of being eaten by predators. This is because they spend most of their time in their chamber underground. The only time they leave this chamber is at night-time, when collecting food. The Litterbugs main predator is birds. They swoop down from their tree silently and pick up the Litterbug with their beak. So when Litterbugs are collecting food, they try to take as short a time as possible!

Distribution and Habitat

If you are walking around the Northern Queensland forests and discover something that looks like a large red rock, pick it up because it just might be a Litterbug. Litterbugs are found in Northern Queensland. Litterbugs dig tunnels underground until they reach a depth of about one or two metres. Then they will make a small chamber. Normally, Litterbugs will add some leaves to the chamber for comfort.

Interesting facts

* Litterbugs can be the size of an average adults palm
* Litterbugs can have up to thirty babies at one time
* The Litterbug is the worlds biggest cockroach
* Litterbugs can live for up to ten years
* Every Litterbug is clean and disease free
* When living in the wild, they come out at night and gather food
* Litterbugs give live birth
* They don't bite
* Litterbugs have been found to weigh up to thirty grams, which is the same as two sparrows
* They can grow to be eight centimetres long
* Litterbugs are available as pets
* Litterbugs squeak if they are frightened
* The don't have wings like other bush cockroaches
* Litterbugs are born yellow
* Litterbugs scientific name is Macropanesthia rhinoceros


1. Internet, (20021),, Internet
2. Internet, (2001),, Internet
3. Internet, (2001),, Internet
4. Internet, (2001),, Internet

by Sallese Gibson.

Sallese supplied many photos and sketches with this project. Samples of her illustrations are available for viewing.

Go to images >


The September school holiday period was a busy time for the AIF Education program, with a public display featuring an indoor walk-through live butterfly house being conducted in Cairns. The butterfly house proved immensely popular for all ages with considerable interest shown around feeding times as well as offering a unique hands-on experience.

Many other fascinating local northern species were also well accepted in both static and live displays. Spiny Leaf Insects and Peppermint Stick Insects took many unaware visitors by surprise as they hung from the trees around them. There was still considerable hesitation shown on interacting with the Mulli grubs (Rhinoceros beetle larva) but much time was spent explaining the difference to the Wijitti grubs.

The display was a great success with visitor numbers far above expectations.

Go to images >


With the typical pre-wet season weather upon us, work in the lab is becoming slightly uncomfortable. Although we swelter in the humid conditions, the insects are thriving!

While most beetle tubs are full of pupa, some beetles have been emerging such as the Rhinoceros beetles, which have been coming out for some time now. Orthopteran insects have emerged in abundance such as the many species of stick insects; katydids; crickets and cockroaches. Mantids are developing with the first adults mating underway. To avoid predation, Centipede babies have been individually housed.

We are currently assisting a university student in rearing selected Katydid stock to be used in upcoming research.


A new species of Buprestidae (Jewel Beetle) found here at the AIF is currently under research by Dr. Shelly Barker, University of Adelaide.

The first recorded specimen of the genus Synhoria has been collect here at the farm. The only previously known genus in this Australian Meloidae group was Horia. This bright red beetle was active during the day when captured and is suspected to be predator of native bees.


Attack of the Spider Eaters

By Sue Hasenpusch

Reprinted with the permission of Wet Tropics Management Authority.

Wasps are usually overlooked or feared. In fact, wasps are vital in controlling the number of other insects in the environment, maintaining that all-important balance between species.

In particular, hunting wasps are efficient predators of many insects including beetles, flies, crickets and caterpillars. Some are specific and hunt spiders only.

Females hunt prey for the next generation of wasp grubs, using scent to locate their prey. A female may spend hours searching the garden until her perseverance is rewarded with a juicy spider or caterpillar.

After seeking out a suitable sized victim she stings and paralyses it. Some wasps then lay their eggs directly onto or into the victim on the spot, while others grip their prey in their long legs and carry it back to the nest. After stocking up with a number of immobilised victims, the female wasps lay their eggs and the prey becomes host for the emerging grubs to feed on.

Some hunting wasps live underground and can be seen leaving an excavated burrow, while others use clay or mud to construct their homes. You might find mud nests on trees in your garden, or on the exterior walls of your home. These mud nests need not be feared or seen as home to swarming wasps. Hunting wasps are solitary - they live alone. Observing a female as she constructs her nest over several days can be interesting. Watch the huntress as she comes and goes stocking her nest and you'll soon know which insects she is culling from your garden. While solitary wasps are generally slow and docile, they will act in self-defence if they're provoked, and a sting can be painful - so keep out of their way.

Unfortunately, some other wasps are more aggressive and encountering a nest of social wasps may result in an attack. These wasps live in colonies where all the activities are shared. Within the safety of the nest lives the queen, producing eggs.

Nests of social wasps are easily identified by their paper-like appearance. They are constructed from chewed plant material and are usually attached to a plant, making them difficult to see amongst the garden foliage. Always take care around any social wasp nest- if threatened they will defend their communal home. Sometimes a nest is built in a frequently used area and is difficult to avoid, especially if small children are around. If necessary, carefully remove the nest.

Wasps are more active during the heat of the day so nests are best approached in the cooler hours. But instead of reaching for the spray can, look for a green ants nest. If there's one nearby, you can try you hand at bug warfare! The green tree ant is a fierce predator on many insects and will tackle a troublesome wasp nest with great enthusiasm. First, the green ants need to have access to the wasp nest, so attach a piece of string close to the ant nest and run it out to the wasp nest. The green ants will attack at dawn, swarming across the string. The wasps who survive will fly away and build a new nest elsewhere - hopefully well out of your way!

Remember, green ants bite too, so it's best to approach their nest in the cooler hours of the morning or evening.

Go to images >


Part 2 - MOTHS

* Largest and most colourful species of moths

Plant Form
v vines which need support (trellises, trees, fences, etc.)
t large to medium sized trees
s shrub or small tree
h herbaceous plant and small plants generally

Host Plant Species
Moths which feed on Host Plants
Acacias (wattles) A. flavescens, A. holosericea,A. melanoxylon and species with composite true leaves (not phyllodes) are best. t Hundreds of moth species including w Ghost Moths (Aeneuts spp.), Eye Spot Moths (Donuca spp.), * Large Leaf Moth (Cherepteryx chalepteryx) and * Anthela spp and Cossid Moths (Xyleutes spp.)
Alocasia brisbanensis(syn. A. macrorrhiza)Cunjevoi / Native Elephant Ear h Four species of Hawk Moths
Alphitonia excelsa
Red Ash (other Alphitonias host a subset of listed species)
t * Giant Ghost Moth (Aenetus mirabilis), * Northern Emperor Moth (Syntherata janetta)
Brachychiton acerifolius
Flame Tree
t Several small moths
Callistemon spp
t/s * Ghost Moths (Aenetus spp.),
* Emperor Gum Moth and many smaller moths
Canthium coprosmoides
Coast Canthium
s/t Cephanodes hylas, C. kingii (Hummingbird Hawk Moths), Gnathothlibus erotus, Macroglossum hirundo (interesting Hawk Moths.)
Canthium odoratum
Sweet Suzy
s/t Cephanodes hylas, C. kingii, Macroglossum spp. including M. hirundo (Hummingbird and Bumblebee Hawk Moths) and possible Dudgeonea actinias
Carallia brachiata
Corky Bark
t * Four o'clock Moth (Dysphania fenestrata)
Cayratia spp.
Slender Grape
v * Harlequin Moth (Agarista agricola), and at least six species of Hawk Moths
Cissus spp.
Native Grape / Watervine
v * Harlequin Moth (Agarista agricola), Cruria donowani and at least six species of Hawk Moths
Endospermum medullosum
(syn. E. myrmecophilium)
Toywood Tree
t * Zodiac Moth (Alcides zodiaca), w White Striped Moth (Lyssa patyroclus)
Eucalyptus spp.
t Hundreds of moths, * Emperor Gum Moth, * Ghost Moths (Aenetus spp.), Giant Cossid Moths
Euodia bonwickii
Yellow Euodia
t * Northern Emperor Moth (S. janetta)
Evodiella muelleri
Little Euodia
s/t * Northern Emperor Moth (S. janetta)
Exocarpos cupressiformis
Cherry Ballart
s/t * Large Leaf Moth (Chelepteryx chalepteryx), Lichen Moth (Anispzyga insperata)
Ficus spp, esp. F. racemosa, F. opposita, F. benjamina
t Foam Moths (Asota spp.), Foam Moth (Neochera dominia)
Glochidion spp. esp. G. sumatranum, G. phillipicum
Buttonwood / Cheese Tree
t * Hercules Moth,* Ghost Moths (Aenetus spp.), * Northern Emperor Moth (S. janetta)
Gymnanthera oblonga v Lichen Moth (Agathia prasinapsis), Foam Tiger Moth(Rhodogastria rubripes)
Hibiscus tiliaceus
Coast Cottonwood
t Numerous moth species
Litsea leefeana
Brown Bollywood(L. australis, L. breviumbellata are good
t Indian Cossid Moth (Zeuzera indica)
Lophostemon conferta
Brush Box
t Many moth species
Melaleuca spp. esp. M. quinquinerva, M. viridifloraand M. leucadendra t * Ghost Moths (Aenetus spp.)
Melicope elleryana, M. vitiflora
Pink and Yellow FloweringEuodia
t * Scott's Ghost Moth (Aenetus scotti), * Northern Emperor Moth (S. janetta)
Microcitrus spp.Native Limes t/s * Northern Emperor Moth, Bee Hawk Moth.
Mistletoes esp. Ameyma spp., Dendrophthoe spp., (Melicope elleryana, Eucalypts, Callistemons & Melaleucas are excellent Mistletoe hosts) h/s Mistletoe Emperor Moths (Opodiphthera spp.)
Myrmcodia beccarii h Sphinx Hawk Moth (Cizara ardenia)
Omolanthus novo-guineensis
Bleeding Heart
t * Hercules Moth
Omphalea queenslandiae Day Moth Vine v/s * Zodiac Moth
Pavetta sp. aff. australiensis
Snow Cloud
s Hummingbird and Bumblebee Hawk Moths
Pipturus argenteus
White Mulberry
s/t At least two species of Hawk Moths
Planchonia careya
Cocky Apple
s/t * Brown Emperor Moth (O. saccopoea), w Anthela acuta, Hawk Moth (Theretra oldenlandiae), Cup Moth
Polyscias elegans
t * Hercules Moth
Pycnarrhena novoguineensis v * Othreis fulliona, * Othreis iridescens, * Phyllodes imperialis, Othreis jordani, * Khadira aurantia (all colourful Fruit Moths)
Scolopia braunii
Brown Birch
s/t Zebra Moth(Cerura multipunctata)
Terminalia spp.
t * Emperor Moth (S. janetta)
Timonius timon(syn. T. rumphii)
False Fig
t * Hercules Moth, * Emperor Moth (S. janetta)
Tinospora smilacina(rainforest form is best)
Snake Vine
v Othreis materna, Rhytia cocalus,* Othreis fullonia,Othreis jordani, * Khadira aurantia (all colourful Fruit Moths)

The Hercules Moth of North East Queensland is the World's largest moth (an unconfirmed Innisfail specimen had a 36 cm wingspan!). Reports of the Atlas Moth are probably from mis-identification of the Hercules Moth. In Australia, the smaller Atlas Moths are rare and confined to the Darwin area.

Rainforest edges, lowland vegetated streamlines and rainforest/sclerophyll ecotones or mixed forests are the richest butterfly habitats. Flowers, which attract adult butterflies and moths often increase the usage of larval food plants when they occur in close proximity. Amongst the most attractive native flowers for Lepidopterans are Bottle Brushes, Golden Pendas, Pavetta, small Melaleucas, Umbrella Trees, Canthiums and a selection of heavy flowering Proteads and Myrtaceous plants. Some butterfly larvae require particular species of ants to be present before eggs will be deposited by adults. It should be remembered that caterpillars may damage their foodplants and fruit-piercing moths may attach edible fruits.

When planting natives to attract a variety of butterflies and moths it is important to be aware of the vigour and size of such trees as Pink Euodia and vines like October Glory. Where sufficient room is available, a combination of trees, shrubs vines and herbaceous plants is best. Of the large to medium sized trees, Pink Euodia, Red Ash, Northern Laurel, Native Limes, Cassias, Tuckeroo, Celtis, Bumble Trees and Corky Bark are particularly good. There are probably not as many outstanding small trees and shrubs but the Little Euodia, Lime Berry, Cocky Apple, Velvet Bean and Brown Birch are amongst the most useful in the region. Vines usually need support and often need to be controlled. Numerous species are excellent butterfly and moth hosts including the Native Dutchman's Pipe, Lacewing Vine, Day Moth Vine, Native Grapes, Zig Zag Vine and Cynanchum carnosum. Herbs and other ground plants such a Cunjevoi, native Dipteracanthus spp. and Hemigraphis spp., Pastel flower and Mat Rush are some of the few very good small plants for attracting butterflies and moths.

If plantings are for the purpose of creating wildlife corridors or increasing food resources for animals such as frogs, lizards, birds and insectivorous mammals, selecting plants which host the greatest range of moths and other insects should be considered. There is risk of young plants being stripped of foliage before they can withstand insect attacks, but such plants could enhance the ecological values of revegetation efforts if they survive. Eucalypts are extraordinary as they host more than 300 moth species in Australia. Acacias are also excellent hosting over 100 species. Several other local plant genera are highly significant in that they host between 10 and 50 moth species. They include Leptospermum, Lophostemom, Melaleuca, Casuarina, Cissus/Cayratia, Hibbertia, Canthium, Glochidion and Ficus.

Reprinted with permission - Mike Trenerry and Sue Vize


Moths: Moths of Australia (1990) I.F.B. Common, Melbourne University Press.

Butterflies: Butterflies of Australia (1981 rev. ed.) I.F.B. Common & D.F. Waterhouse, Angus and Robertson Australia.

Various works by Sankowsky, Valentine, Fay and Fisher, and personal observations of several people (especially the Hasenpusch family) have been particularly useful in compiling this list.



Images for this newsletter include:

* Ant Filming
* Around the Schools
* School Holiday Display
* The Bug Files

Following our first year of newsletters we thank all that have joined our mailing list. From this issue there will be a minor change from four to three newsletters per year; this is due to the ever-increasing workload here. You can expect to see the larger AIF newsletters in May, September and January.

Best wished to all for a prosperous 2002.


Sue Hasenpusch


Copyright 2002 Australian Insect Farm. All Right Reserved.

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