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Images From This Issue Are Here

This issue:
From the AIF Diary
Cassowary Feeding
Plant Identification News – Two interesting rainforest plants identified
New AIF Service - Insect Valuations
Research News
- new species of Jewel Beetle, Stick Insect and Millipede
- DNA Barcoding Project on Phasmids
Bug Files - Insect Cyclone Recovery Timeline

Well here at the farm most of the past year has been spent in recovery mode, re-building, re-planting, re-doing everything! What the cyclone left as mounds of twisted steel intertwined with forest debris has all been cleared and what remains now are open clean areas just ready for us to start all over again. Some more insect greenhouses will need to be built plus loads of plants to replace. The forest still shows its wounds of broken trees and lack of canopy cover. Fortunately after receiving such a severe bashing there was more than ample follow-up wet weather for many months. Having such rain definitely assisted the forest recovery and of course the insect life which followed has been most interesting. Below are some of the more interesting diary entries from the months of June 2006 to July 2007.

From the AIF Diary

June 2006

This has been a year of the most atrocious weather. Three months after the cyclone and the rain continues, almost grounding any attempt to do any repairs to a stop. I have stopped keeping notes on daily rain, it is easier to take count of the 6 or 7 days of no rain. I was fortunate to see two cassowaries today but unfortunately neither was on the property. Both were running in a horribly startled fashion between banana paddocks which lacked any fruit and the busy main highway. Obviously these birds are looking for food as the cyclone has seriously damaged the fruiting trees for these giant birds. The local Innisfail newspaper reports such cassowary sightings are becoming a daily occurrence. On the farm we suspect a single bird is active around our home after spotting some imprints left along the new track leading down to the creek where the water pump is now installed.


Finally signed contracts with the builder for house repairs, very pleased we had house insurance cover, wish we could get insurance for all the rest of the farm repairs. On farm road works now amount to $5,500.00. Still waiting for work to start on the first greenhouse, hopefully that will be this month.

Of particular notice in the forest both here and all along the coast are large stands of Backhousia (Myrtaceae: Backhousia bancrofti) trees in bloom. Working outdoors, the sweet scent of the Backhousia blossom constantly fills the air. Never before have we seen so many in flower simultaneously, usually their flowering is described at its best as sporadic. Good numbers of day flying moths (Alcidis metataurus) are coming in to feed on the Backhousia blossom. For the past two weeks, extraordinary numbers of earwigs have been appearing nightly at the insect light.


An astounding number of day flying moths (Alcidis metataurus) fill the forest. Sure we have seen them here before but nothing like the numbers flying now. The only comparison I can make to the amount of day flying moths currently in the forest is the congregating locations overseas for the Monarch butterfly. Sounds fantastic but to look up into the nude forest and see trees’ quivering with a covering of moths is more than amazing. At least the number of moths flying makes up for the void in bird activity. The forest is generally still quiet with only the odd bird call to be heard. Of notice is the smaller than usual sized specimens of Wood moths (family: Cossidae) and Ghost moths (family: Hepialidae), obviously having been forced into emergence from the loss of their host plants.

No rain for 3 weeks now, fantastic! It has taken 5 months but things are starting to feel like they are on the move, builder is finally available to start house repairs next week and the welding on the first greenhouse has been done. Now it sits like a skeleton in need of its skin, the cover is currently being made in Cairns, estimated to be a couple of weeks. Work is nearly complete on establishing the new water pump systems to both houses. Finally, the plumber has completed his cyclone repairs to both houses. Now all we need to keep moving along is for the fine weather to stay for some time.


Six months after Larry!

Still relatively small, but of considerable notice is the first real chorus of bird songs starting to happen in the mornings. The Backhousia’s still continue to flower and the day moths still fly. Perhaps a little earlier than usual are the Hercules moths (Coscinocera hercules) coming to the night light, up to 4 per night and all males. Sitting outdoors at night, large numbers of Mole crickets (Gryllotalpa species) are attracted to the porch lights. Micro-fauna continues to come in droves, with swarms flying around the lights at night. Another insect out in large numbers are the Jezebel butterflies, two species Delias arganthona and D. mysis.

September 30th and the builders have finally finished the repairs to both houses, six weeks of shifting gear from one room to another and some days one house to the other. Now the builders are gone, we have started what we have so fondly come to call ‘the great clean-up of 2006’. Starting with our home there has not been a single spot or item not in need of thorough cleaning. The amount of mould growth everywhere, a result from water entering the houses is unbelievable. Once our home was finished, we started all over again in the main house, double punishment! Perhaps there would be some house keepers who would relish the opportunity to have a totally clean house, maybe so but believe me I don’t ever want to go through all this again. Not one bit of fun at all!

Workshop is now operational once again, albeit with not much stock but it is only a matter of time and this too will improve. Luckily, Jack had the foresight before the cyclone hit to gather all the eggs from the adult female stick insects. These eggs are now emerging, so stock is starting to happen. Stick insect food plants are starting to look good in the only greenhouse which is finally now complete with its cover. Now because the house had been open to the elements for so long, there are a number of local insects which have become resident in the plants. This includes the caterpillars of the Tailed Emperor butterfly (Polyura sempronius) feeding on the Powder-Puff (Caliandra sp.) bushes. But there are many other intruders not welcomed, wasps, weevils, leafhoppers and moths mostly, all of which will have to be eradicated. If left alone, the moth larvae will eventually devour the food plants and of course the wasps are definitely not welcomed. Jack continues to work on establishing plants in the garden but some will have to be propagated from seed while others will take along time to replace. Then there are those plants originally collected as seed from the Cape York and other areas some 20 years ago, perhaps we will never replace such plants.


Currently, there are a number of government programs offering aid for cyclone recovery. One program I have registered for is ‘Operation Farm Clear’ which assists farmers in clearing their property of debris and damaged infrastructure. Over 250 jobs have been logged on for this service so far, so there is a period of waiting. The amount of mess covering the other greenhouses is huge, definitely a job for heavy machinery.

Hardly a quiet moment between bird calls now, the forest is starting to gain some real life to it again. That has been the hardest to get over, the deathly silence that fell upon the forest after the cyclone. One extra sighting of a single cassowary brings the grand sighting total to two birds on the property. Locally the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service have established 58 cassowary feeding stations, using an astonishing 1000 kilos of fruit per week. A total of 21cassowary deaths have been confirmed since the cyclone, the majority to dog attacks and vehicle accidents. The forest is still deficient in fruit feeders such as Wompoo Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus magnificus) but seems to have returned to normal when it comes to the activity of insect and seed feeding birds. One sound that remains constant in the forest is the sound of trees snapping and falling. Looking at our mountain range from outside the property the forest appears green. But this green belt is very low and sticking out from this is the remains of the taller canopy forest level which now resembles sticks with grey coloured tufts on top. The tops are just bare dead branches.

During the day we are constantly bombarded with micro-fauna, mostly wood boring insects - Cerambycidae (Longicorn beetles) and Curculonidae (Weevils), keeping samples for later ID. Then at night we are bombarded again with insects that measure no larger than 4 mm in size, moths, sucking bugs, earwigs, leaf hoppers, weevils, and a multitude of wood boring beetles.


With 16 crews operating through the local area ‘Operation Farm Clear’ has finally made it to our place. While they all commented that our job was one of their lightest to tackle, it still took two days with an excavator, taking a total of 18 truck loads of tangled greenhouses and forest debris away for dumping. A regular and local publication the ‘Operation Recovery Update Newsletter’ reports that the average Operation Farm Clear job has cost around $4500.00. I am glad we could get assistance from this program we still have the costs of further heavy equipment needed to prepare the site for rebuilding the greenhouses. Once where four greenhouses stood, now is a large vacant area.

One noticeable absence in the forest is that of the Green Tree Ants (Oecophylla smaragdinus). Nest numbers are very few and any green ant activity is ground orientated. No doubt some insects are finding food a little scarce, especially for butterflies or any other nectar feeder, as there is still a lack of flowering plants available. Just the other evening while relaxing with a glass of red wine, a single fruit sucking moth was attracted to the glass and proceeded to drink profusely. Fruit is definitely lacking in the forest. What has become really obvious is the increased amount of Orthoptera (grasshoppers mostly) literally adorning the forest plants. With such low foliage in the forest it is relatively easier to locate insects rather than when they are up high in the canopy. At the moment walking through the forest at night it is not uncommon to see stick insects feeding on foliage lower than your knees. The numbers of katydids and the diversity in species is way above any normal activity for this time of year. A mountain of new and lush foliage is literally available for every leaf eating insect for miles, perhaps this summer will be the ‘season of the Orthopterans’.

The end of November and we are once again officially in our ‘wet season’. In the last week a cyclone has been reported forming out in the Pacific, hearing news like that also brings some anxiety. Local newspapers report that there are approximately 200 or more houses still covered in tarpaulins and face the wet season under such conditions. I feel we were certainly fortunate to have had our house repairs completed.

December 2006

Of interest has been the larger than ever numbers of Cane beetles at the insect light. I wonder if there will be a cyclone flow-on problem for the cane farmers following such an emergence of large numbers. Longhorn beetles appear to be low this summer.

January 2007

Stick insect breeding has hit an unexpected setback. Food plants in the greenhouse have been heavily hit with infestations of insects that remained on or in the plants within the house when re-built. What was starting to look like healthy and luscious plants are now showing signs of insect attack both in the foliage and trunks. Insects infesting the greenhouse plants include weevils, butterfly and moth larvae, wasps, katydids, assassin bugs and various spider species. Many food plants are dying and will now have to be removed and replaced. This will definitely set-back the breeding of stick insects for some months.

Insect activity has become unbearable at night when sitting outdoors. While only micro size, the insects are in droves, getting stuck in your hair, down your clothes, even entangled in the hairs on Jacks legs! The nights remain quite humid with the occasional shower of rain. No real wet season happening yet.


Finally, numbers of breeding stocks are increasing in the lab. All though, for some species it will be another year before we will obtain breeding stocks.

The forest is starting to thicken out with foliage but the canopy remains open and offers very little shade. I have taken to using an umbrella when walking from house to house, the only way to create some shade. Vine growth is becoming more noticeable as they head up the bare tree trunks. A vine that has remained almost missing until now has been the Wait-a-while, but now it shoots everywhere. Relying on tall trees to grow upon up to the canopy, many will collapse as there simply are not enough tall tree trunks available. Unfortunately, fallen wait-a-while plants only add to the impenetrable forest that already exists. Seeing a few more snakes than usual, Red-bellied blacks (Pseudechis prophyriacus), Slaty-greys (Stegonotus cucullatus) and Scrub pythons (Morelia emethistina), obviously taking advantage of the overload of sunlight reaching the forest floor. Also taking advantage of the open sunlit conditions are all the various grasses and weeds, in quantities never before seen on the property.

No Cicadas! Normally, you can set your watch by the start of the nightly cicada calls, 7 pm sharp! But there aren’t any to be heard so far for this summer. Groups of up to 7 Crested Hawks (Aviceda subcristata – Pacific Baza) continue to be regular visitors. Working in a group they are so quiet as they move through the trees

We have received some good rainfalls for this month, in a 6 day period alone we received our monthly average rainfall of 1300 mm. So far for this month rainfall figures are running at over 1500 mm.


With one year passed since the cyclone we once again visited the Feast of the Senses festival. There was an obvious lack of fruit at this year’s celebration but most of that would have been due to the massive loss of tropical fruit trees.

In following with the year passing of the cyclone, the Far North Queensland Natural Resource Management held a ‘Disturbed by Larry’ workshop. Topics were varied but cyclone related such as general forest recovery, Cassowaries and native plant propagation. I gave a short presentation which I based on post cyclone insect activity as observed on our property.

Something we were happy to see recently was a small cassowary dropping on the road near the main house. It was only a week ago that Jack saw a young bird at the same location. A single adult Cassowary also made a brief appearance up at home.


No sign of the young cassowary lately, however the adult bird makes regular visits around both houses. It is sad to watch such a large bird feeding on some of the rainforests’ smaller fruits such as wild raspberries and fallen mistletoes. Of amazement is that they are eating green tree ants and the jalapeño chillies from our vegetable garden.

Up till now we thought there was only one adult bird visiting but with Jack taking photos of the Cassowary, we have actually found out there are two adult birds visiting. As we started to look closer at the images we realized there was substantial difference in their horns structures.


What we thought were two cassowaries visiting has now grown to three. Again, by taking photos of the birds has made it possible to identify each bird. So now there are two females and one male visiting regularly.

Late June and the male cassowary has stopped visiting. As it is breeding season we hope the disappearance of the male means he is sitting on a nest with eggs. Time will tell, hopefully soon we will see him with some chicks.


Cassowary Feeding

When tropical cyclone Larry crossed our coast in 2006 it left extensive damage to the forested areas of our local region. It is well known that these areas support a large population of the endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii). As a result, food sources were dramatically reduced for the existing birds. With the amount of damage we received to the forest here at the farm, I have no doubt that some birds would not have survived.

Even today, 16months later, walking through our forest is an ordeal let alone for the cassowaries. They must still be facing great difficulty in using anything of their regular pathways through the forest. It was well over a year before we saw any Cassowaries here, but once they did appear they became daily visitors. At first there was a single female bird, then a smaller bird, a male, started to appear. After some weeks, a third bird identified as another female made only a few visits. But it was the first female and the male that made almost predictable visits around the houses. Watching them walk on through, I always wondered what would happen if two birds appeared at the same time. Well that very thing happened much to our surprise and here’s the scenario:

“The two birds approach from different directions, not seeing each other as the boat sits in the yard between them. Jack’s up in the boat busy washing it down and not noticing the birds approaching from either side. Catching a glimpse of something from the corner of his eye, Jack stands up just as the male spies the female. Within a second the male does a u-turn, with head down and horn out vertical he shoots off! With amazing leg stride he was gone in no more than a couple of seconds.”

A very brief encounter but there was no way the male was going to hang around. As for the female, she just continued on her way showing no concern at all and taking her time to pick through the raspberries.

With their pathways through the forest closed, the road between the two houses has become a main pathway for these birds. Often there are fresh scats (droppings) along the road, giving us an opportunity to see just what the birds are eating. Usually the bulk of a cassowary dropping consists of large forest fruits, with a fresh dropping resembling a small pyramid in shape. Not the case for these cassowaries. Their droppings are flat and sloppy. One dropping even appeared to have some tomato plants sprouting. Lack of forest fruit is obviously still an issue.

With this in mind we contacted the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, to see what assistance was available for these birds. After site inspection and health assessment of the birds by QPWS, a feeding station was approved and feeding started in June. Initial feeding called for a single bucket of chopped fruit every two days. Now in the fourth week of feeding, we have scaled down to a bucket every three days. All feeding is done within the QPWS ‘Exit strategy for the post-Cyclone Larry cassowary supplementary feeding program’.

Some interesting facts from the feeding program are:
Currently,50 feeding stations are established, Tully to Innisfail
Feeding stations supplementing the dietary intake of at least 115 cassowaries
Maximum feeding stations established was 61 in November 2006
1000 kg of fruit purchased each week, approximate cost $6000 per week
Another 100 kg of fruit being donated by community members and businesses.

Supplementary feeding will continue for the birds on our property along with ongoing observations and monitoring by QPWS staff and ourselves. Eventually such feeding will cease.


Plant Identification News

A couple of interesting plants were recently identified on the property. In conjunction with a CSIRO project looking at weeds and their growth after the cyclone, Andrew Ford from Atherton CSIRO visited here in May.

Uncaria cordata

Two plants were of major interest. The first being a large vine that grows along the track up the hill was confirmed as being a species which hasn’t been seen in 85 years!!! The plant, a Rubiaceae called Uncaria cordata. At this stage only this single vine has been seen on the property. In addition, Andrew also identified another vine as Salacia erythrocarpa, only the third record for Australia.

Except for two clumps of Giant Sensitive Weed, no weed problems were identified on the property. These two clumps have since been removed and destroyed.

Insect Valuations – A New AIF Service

The AIF is now pleased to offer a new service – “Approved to value Insecta for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program”.


Research News

Jewel Beetle - Cisseis suehasenpuschae

Brief taken from Twenty Five New Species of CISSEIS (SENSU STRICTO) and Two New Synonyms (COLEOPTERA: BUPRESTIDAE: AGRILINAE) by S. Barker. Dpt of Entomology, South Australian Museum, Adelaide 5000.

The genus Cisseis Gory & Laporte (1839) has not been revised since Carter (1923) gave a synonymy and described new species. Since then many more specimens have become available, mainly through the activities of amateur collectors. Much of this material has bee acquired by ANIC and is available for scientific study.

Cisseis suehasenpuschae sp. nov.

Holotype: m, ‘Garradunga’ Innisfail Qld, 27.ii.1990, J. Hasenpusch, SAMA.
Allotype: F, ‘Garradunga’ Innisfail Qld, 2.i.1993, J. Hasenpusch, SAMA.
Paratypes: Qld: F, Polly Creek, ‘Garradunga’, Innisfail, 2. i.1993, J. Hasenpusch, MHSA; 6 FF, Polly Creek, ‘Garradunga’, 6-14.xii.2001, J. Hasenpusch, JHQA

New Species cisseis suehasenpuschae

Size: Holotype 8.2 x 3.2 mm
Colour: head mostly green, coppery-red basally. Antennae bronze with copper-red reflections. Pronotum dark blue, Scutellum dark blue with coppery-red reflections. Elytra black. Ventral surface and legs black.
Shape and sculpture: body convex in lateral profile. Head punctured, flat, inter-antennal bridge 0.25 inter-ocular width. Pronotum striolate, anterior margin projecting broadly, basal margin sinuate, dorsal carina diverging from ventral carina basally, more or less parallel to it, diverging just before meeting anterior margin. Scutellum scutiform, unpunctured, anterior margin convex. Elytra scutellate, laterally tapered post-medially to rounded, sub-serrate apex. Ventral surface faintly scutellate, with minute setae adpressed to surface and pointing posteriorly. Legs: meta-tibial setigeris with one section raised; tarsal claws with inner notch.

Size: range 9.0 x 3.4 – 9.8 x 3.8 mm.
Colour: head and antennae coppery-red. Pronotum, scutellum, ventral surface and legs bronze.
Shape and sculpture: as in male.

Remarks There is no other described species of Cisseis which is this shape.

Published: Transactions of the Royal Society of S. Aust. (2006), 131 (2), 257-284

Stick Insect - Ctenamorpha gargantua [Gargantuan Stick-insect]

Brief taken from ‘Studies on the Australian stick insect genus Ctenamorpha Gray (Phasmida: Phasmatidae: Phasmatinae), with the description of a new large species

Jack Hasenpusch & Paul D. Brock

Description: Male (holotype): Elongate, dark brown insect with light blotches. Body length 189 mm. Abdomen: Remarkably elongate, sparsely granulated. Wings: Forewings long, leaf-like, with whitish margin. Hindwings brown, long, but only reaching end of 5th abdominal segment. Legs: Very slender and elongate, with series of small dentations, except fore tibiae. All femora with pair of bold apical spines.

Notes on the female: Unfortunately not available fore description, the only definite female of this species is from photographs of a 300 mm specimen found in the Evelyn Tablelands, north Queensland, 3,000 feet. The previous record for the longest Australian phasmid was Acrophylla titan Macleay, 1826 (p to 270 mm). The overall length of A. titan at c. 390 mm is dwarfed by C. gargantua at c. 525 mm, based on a tape measure used on one photograph. In fact, gargantua is only exceeded in body length by a new Phobaeticus species (375 mm) and Phobaeticus kirbyi (328 mm), both from Sabah.

Holotype: male, Mourilyan Harbour, north Queensland.
Distribution: So far found in rainforest in a small part of northeast Queensland, where males are attracted to light. Likely to be much more widespread.

Published: Zootaxa 1282. 7 August 2006

MillipedeDesmoxytoides hasenpuschorum Brief taken from ‘Dirt-encrusted and dragon millipedes (Diplopoda: Polydesmida: Paradoxosomatidae) from Queensland, Australia

Robert Mesibov, Queens Vicotoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania.

Holotype: Male: Mt Hosie, Kirrama Range, Queensland.
Description: Male/female approximate measurements: length 10/12 mm, maximum vertical diameter 0.9/1.3 mm, maximum width across paranota 1.3/1.6 mm. Well-coloured specimens in alcohol dark chestnut brown above, grading to a very pale yellow beneath. Distribution and habitat: Known from 16 sites in tropical rainforest from the Isley Hills southwest of Cairns to the Kirrama Range inland from Cardwell in north Queensland, an approximate linear range of 150 km and an elevation range of 400-1100 m.
Published: Zootaxa 1354. 9 November 2006


DNA Barcoding Project on Phasmids - CBOL

Professor Barbara Mantovani, Paul Brock and Jack Hasenpusch are currently collaborating in starting a project for DNA barcoding (Ratnasingham & Hebert, 2007) in Phasmidae. The initial emphasis will be on the Australian fauna where there are several taxonomic issues to be resolved. This hopefully should add to the Consortium for the Barcode of Life aims ( throught a molecular taxon diagnosis, but, the analysis will also produce meaningful data concerning phylogeny at the genus and species levels.

The following is a list of CBOL requirements for this project

1. Species name (although this can be interim)
2. Voucher data (catalogue number and institution storing)
3. Collection record (collectors, collection date and location with GPS coordinates)
4. Identifier of the specimen
5. COI sequence of at least 500 bp.
6. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers used to generate the amplicon
7. Trace files

This project involves a requirement to sequence 5 to 6 specimens of each species (possibly even 5 to 6 specimens from different localities in some cases, an example would be Extatasoma tiaratum tiaratum from North Queensland, whose nymphs’ exhibit population differences); adults of both sexes will be selected so that the identification is unequivocal. It is the intention that voucher specimens will be preserved dry, for the Australian project lodged in the Natural History Museum, Londan and Australian depositories; a leg from each specimen will be preserved in 100% alcohol for a wide molecular analysis, cross-referenced to voucher specimens. Barbara Mantovani will organize the DNA barcoding in Bologna, Italy. Hopefully, other research groups from different parts of the world dealing with the molecular approach will join her efforts.

Bug Files Cyclone Recovery Timeline – A personal observation diary made at the AIF property. (Unless stated otherwise, all insects listed were in excess of 100 specimens in any one sighting, excluding butterflies but where numbers are still extraordinarily high)

April 2006
Micro-insects (under 4mm)
Moths, Beetles, Weevils and Bugs

Beetles (larger than 4mm)
Rove And Ground beetles

Mole Crickets
June 2006
Vinegar And Fruit Flys
July 2006
Congregations of day flying Alcidis metataurs

one species- chrlisochidae sp.

August 2006
1st Emergence
Early emergence of Cossidae and Hepialidae
Herculse - Cosinocera hercules
up to 7 speciments per night as light (all male)
Mole Crickets

Timber borers - Weevils

October 2006 Micro-insects (under 4mm)
Beetles - Longhorn; Weevils
Saturnids, Hawk And wood moths
Assassin and various shield bugs
December 2006
Stick insects, Mantids and Grasshoppers
Cane Beetles
January 2007
Micro-insects (under 4mm)
Moths, Beetles, Weevils and Bugs
Birdwings, Ulysses, myriad of other species
Predatory Species
Other than fruit feeders, larger than 4 mm
Stick insects, Mantids and grasshoppers
Various native species
March 2007
Predatory Species
Birdwings and Ulysses
Microinsects (under 4 mm)
Beetles, weevils and bugs
May 2007
Microinsects (under 4 mm)
Beetles, weevils and bugs

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From the Editor

As you would have read by now, we are well on our way to full recovery from cyclone Larry. Unfortunately though, our first anticipated recovery date of Christmas 2006 was way out, more likely date of Christmas 2007 and we will be back in full operation. Not everything is all bad following the cyclone.

While there is no argument to the level of devastation that the property has been subjected to, it has however led to the forest undergoing a dramatic change from the once dense canopy-covered wet forest to a now open yet much lower level of dense forest. In passing we have often made the joke that we have a new research site to work! It will certainly be interesting watching the recovery process of the forest in the coming years. It will in fact be some years before the property shows any sign of a real canopy cover developing. With the amount of black wattle trees (a native, yet dominating pioneer species which out- grows other rainforest species) removed by the cyclone, the forest now has a chance to restructure with more diverse rainforest species dominating once again. More diverse flora means more diversity in insect species.


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