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Vol 2 No 3 August 2002

Bringing you all the news from the Australian Insect Farm


This Issue:

*** Welcome
*** I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
*** Bugathon 2002 Competition Winners
*** Hairy Beetle's on Harry's Practice
*** Daintree Display
*** In the Lab
*** Around the Schools
*** The Bug Files: Rainbow Stag Beetle - Phalacrognathus muelleri
*** Images For This Issue



This issue we announce the winners of the 'Bugathon 2002' competition. A good response was received with the three winning entries included in this newsletter. Other topics include work on the Survivor series, Harry's Practice, the release of a new insect pet plus the regular features.



Taking a change from the usual filming projects, August had all hands at the AIF busy in preparation for the UK Survivor-style series "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here". Filmed on location in the Tully region, eight British celebrities spent two weeks in an isolated camp under the rainforest canopy. Contestants had to endure various challenges to earn their daily meals including a bug and insect shower for British socialite Tara Palmer Tomkinson along with a bug-tucker meal for psychic Uri Geller. Although Uri is a devote vegan, he quickly made his way through wijitti grubs; stick insects and other insect delicacies, all in the name of charity. With all production facilities on site daily filming went to air in Britain that same night. Around 9.4 million people tuned in for the final show.


The "Bugathon 2002" competition closed on the 20th July. Every child entering had to send a photo of an insect they found. They also had to include either a short poem or essay detailing their insect. We received a good number of entries and have selected the following 3 winners who won their choice of insect kits.


Awarded to David Miller of Landsborough in Queensland. David aged 13, presented a very informative brief on the Leafwing butterfly found in his area. He supplied three images as well as the following information on his butterfly.

-Doleschallia bisaltide australis
by David Miller

The reason why the Leafwing butterfly interests me is because it has beautiful orange, brown and black wings with three or four white spots on the tip of the two upper wings and has two very small tails on the two bottom wings. All of this helps to camouflage it in the leaf litter on the ground because when this magnificent butterfly closes its wings it looks just like a dead leaf sitting upwards and out of the sight of prying eyes.

When you are observing these butterflies you will notice that they can move extremely fast and are impossible to follow in the shadows of the rainforest or they can sit perfectly still and be camouflaged in the trees, making them impossible to see.

The larvae are just as spectacular as the butterflies, as they have beautiful iridescent - blue spots along their spiky black bodies.

The pupae hang upside down by their tails. They are caramel in colour and very geometrically shaped, camouflaging them effectively amongst the undergrowth.

David received three insect kits for his winning entry.

Go to images>


Awarded to Sam Ballantyne from Millicent in South Australia. One of our youngest entrants at age 7, Sam submitted a poem about a carnivorous cricket he found interesting.

By Sam Ballantyne


Sam received two insect kits for his entry.


Awarded to Brittany Standen from Monash in the ACT. Brittany aged 14, also chose a butterfly for her topic, submitting a butterfly story of interest.

By Brittany Standen

"CRACK" the chrysalis that had been hanging from a branch for many weeks had finally cracked open and emerging from it a beautiful butterfly. This is not just any butterfly, this is one of the last of its kind and its survival depends on the survival of its species.

After getting used to her new wings, she goes in search of the delicious golden nectar from which she feeds. Just like the butterfly's species, the flower she eats off, is rare as well and takes the first few hours of her life to find.

Being a caterpillar was so much easier; your food was always available, right under you nose.

After eating all the nectar, butterfly looks for a place to live. She finds it under the leaves, in a gum tree. She spends the next two days recovering from only just emerging from here safe hide-away.

Life for butterfly will not be easy, she will have to face winter soon and without a mate her kind will surely die. Butterfly recovers and soon gets into the routine of pollinating nearby flowers. Her task is easily done as most of the surrounding flowers are dying, preparing for the winter ahead.

After a long days work, butterfly goes out and looks for a mate. She flies to the top of her tree, spreads her purple and yellow wings and flaps them together very fast, which sounds like humming. Soon after, a yellow striped male flies to her tree and starts to dance around her. She immediately surrenders and the male 'mounts' her.

The first winter snows have started to fall. The male soon after mating flies away, never to see her again.

The next few weeks are hard for butterfly. The winter is an unusually heavy one and food is scarce. Butterfly's once beautiful and full green tee is now a dead white twig. She must now go out in search of a new home. She finds it several kilometres away. Once she gets to her new tree, she settles. The trip has been a hard one on her.

As she lays down, her breath labouring, her body starts to heave and push. The eggs she has been carrying with her for weeks are finally being born. With her last breath, butterfly delivers the last egg. She will never see her babies' hatch and never see them reproduce.

But that's what life's like for a butterfly!

Brittany received one insect kit for her entry.


A feature on Harry's Practice (Channel 7) during the month of June was the AIF Hairy Beetle Kits. Filming for this show was done over a few months to enable the complete life history from egg, larva, pupa and fresh adult to be covered.


In September a new insect diorama display was installed at the Daintree River Cruise Centre, north of Cairns. Featuring insects of the local Daintree region, the display will be used to educate day visitors to the centre. Situated on the Daintree River the lush rainforest surroundings make for the ideal opportunity for visitors to see many of the insects displayed in the wild.

Go to Images>


Grubs, grubs and more grubs fill the shelves as usual during the winter period. Of course most of these are beetles grubs. The very first of these beetle grubs have started pupating while the last of the Coscinocera hercules larva finish spinning their cocoons.

A breeding programme started over three years ago came to fruition this winter. While Dilocrosis atripennis has been in breeding for many years, breeding was increased over the last three years to enable this beetle to be released as an additional insect pet. After much debate and due to it's colouring the name 'Caramel Beetle' was adopted. With all other beetle kits being adults during summer the Caramel beetle is available as an adult during winter.

In preparation for the Survivor show, insect numbers in the lab grew by 30,000. This included grasshoppers, grubs, roaches, beetle pupae, stick insects and beetles. Such numbers were required to accommodate the many rehearsals then the actual filming for the show involving the chosen celebrity.


The mobile education unit visited many schools in the northern region including Kairi State School situated on the Atherton Tablelands. After an enjoyable visit to their school students wrote the following:

Dear Sue:
Thank you for telling us information about insects. We really liked all of the insects you brought but we loved the cockroach and the Preying Mantid the most.

From Bjorn, Katelyn and Natalee
Class 3 & 4
Kairi State School
20th May 2002


Rainbow Stag Beetle - Phalacrognathus muelleri

Phalacrognathus muelleri is a well-known but poorly documented species. It is also known as the Golden, Rainbow, Magnificent, Mueller's and King Stag beetle. It is the Largest Australian member of the Lucanidae family.

The Rainbow Stag beetle is confined to the rainforests and adjacent wet sclerophyll forests of coastal north-eastern Queensland between Helenvale near Cooktown and the southern end of the Paluma Range.

Breeding Sites
This most spectacular beetle breeds in rotting wood in both fallen and standing, living or dead trees. The larvae feed on the decaying wood of various species of trees. This decaying matter is usually moderately moist although they can at times be found in relatively dry timber. Adults feed on the same material as the larvae and supplement their diet with plant sap, fruits and nectar from flowers.

Up to 50 eggs are laid by each female. Eggs are deposited singly, but females have been observed to lay up to 30 eggs in a close group. Eggs take from 10 to 14 days to hatch, in which time each egg expands to become almost double it's original size. The larva is visible within the egg just before emerging. Oviposition occurs throughout the year. Males have been recorded in the company of ovipositing females.

The larva constructs a pupal cell, which may take up to a week to complete. At this stage the larva moults and a pupa is formed. The pupa will change position in the cell many times during its development. The pale pupa begins to attain a metallic colour, almost opal like. The soft beetle then emerges with soft white wings that harden and develop their brilliant rainbow colours over a period of one week. The adult may remain with the pupal cell for up to eight months before emerging.


Males can vary in length from 24mm to 70 mm. Females are generally much smaller measuring from 23 mm to 46 mm. Irrespective of individual beetle size, mandibles can vary considerably between males.

Adults break out of their pupal cells using their mandibles and jaws. Males with well-developed mandibles use the base of these for chewing while using their tarsi for raking out any excavated material. Upon emerging from the pupal cell an adult will disperse in search of food, mates and an oviposition site. Adults are known to live for up to 18 months in captivity.

Males use their mandibles as levers when in conflict with one another. Two protagonists will approach each other with the mandible lowered. Each beetle tries to pass beneath its opponent's body or legs, at which point the mandibles are raised in an attempt to dislodge the rival. It is not unusual for the combatants to be thrown into the air or rolled over on their back.


- larva, a young insect which leaves the egg in an early stage of development and differs fundamentally in form from the adult
- mandibles, the first pair of jaws of an insect
- oviposition, the act of depositing an egg
- pupa, the resting inactive stage of an insect, the intermediate stage between the larva and adult

Go to images>


Sue Hasenpusch Editor

Copyright 2002 Australian Insect Farm. All Right Reserved.

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