Black Widow Spider

Black widow spiders are fascinating but highly dangerous creatures.

  • Black widow spiders are highly dangerous, poisonous spiders, native to urban and forest North American habitats.
  • Black widow spiders range 1.3 to 3.8 centimetres (0.5 to 1.5 inches) in length, and males are typically a quarter or half the female’s size.
  • Black widow spiders are notable for the red hourglass marking on the brown to black abdomen in females, while males are coloured brown-yellow and often have light coloured stripes.
  • ‘Black widow spiders’ are also known as ‘black widows’, with three species using the same name, and these species have the scientific names Latrodectus variolus, L. mactans, and L. hesperus, and are found in northern, southern, and western North America respectively.
  • Black widow spiders are closely related to the Australian redback spiders, and they are from the family Theridiidae, the family of tangle-web or cobweb spiders.
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Black Widow Spider
Image courtesy of Steve Jurvetson/Flickr
  • The venom glands of black widow spiders are large, and the venom is said to be more toxic than fifteen doses of rattlesnake venom.
  • While black widow spiders are placed in the list of the ten most dangerous spiders in the world, their bites do not often cause human fatalities, and symptoms include muscle pain, breathing difficulties and nausea.
  • After mating, the female black widow spider may eat the male, hence the spider’s name; and females produce a cocoon like sac of 100 to 400 eggs, four to nine times a year.
  • Black widow spiders have a life span ranging one to three years, and they are preyed on by birds and wasps.
  • Black widow spiders eat insects including flies, beetles, caterpillars, mosquitoes and grasshoppers, that they catch in their random shaped webs, and once their prey is killed, the spiders inject an enzyme that breaks down and liquefies the insects.
Bibliography:
Black Widow Spider, 2013, A-Z Animals, http://a-z-animals.com/animals/black-widow-spider/
Black Widow Spider, 2014, National Geographic, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/bugs/black-widow-spider/
Latrodectus, 2014, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latrodectus

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Plague Soldier Beetle

Harmless plague soldier beetles can recolour your garden!

  • Plague soldier beetles are flying beetles native to Australia, particularly the south eastern and south western parts of the country.
  • Plague soldier beetles have a mostly orange yellow body, that is covered with metallic forewings of a dark olive green colour, that almost look black, and the rest of the beetle is mostly black.
  • Plague soldier beetles have the scientific name ‘Chauliognathus lugubris, although they are sometimes known as ‘Chauliognathus pulchellus’.
  • Plague soldier beetles are named after their characteristic of plaguing during mating season, that occurs generally in summer.
  • ‘Plague soldier beetles’ are also known as ‘green soldier beetles’ and they are from the family Cantharidae, the family of soldier beetles.

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Plague Soldier Beetles
Image Courtesy of B Being Cool
  • Plague soldier beetle larvae live underground, eating insects, and transform into adults during spring.
  • Plague soldier beetles have colours that warn other creatures that they are poisonous, in that they excrete toxins, which is also used to prevent their eggs being contaminated.
  • At mating time, plague soldier beetles can be found swarming in their thousands, often totally covering plants and other areas, although they are said to leave little damage to the plants.
  • Plague soldier beetle adults are believed to have a diet of mainly nectar and pollen, although they also eat small insects and their eggs, and sometimes other parts of plants.
  • Plague soldier beetles live in habitats with significant numbers of trees like forests, and are often found in urban environments especially during the mating season.
Bibliography:
Plague Soldier Beetles, 2012, Museum Victoria, http://museumvictoria.com.au/about/mv-blog/?tag=chauliognathus%20lugubris
Plague Soldier Beetle, n.d, AustralianMuseum, http://australianmuseum.net.au/Plague-Soldier-Beetle
Pullen K, Insect of the week: The Plague Soldier Beetle isn’t nearly as bad as it sound, 2012, CSIRO, http://csironewsblog.com/2012/11/08/insect-of-the-week-the-plague-soldier-beetle-isnt-nearly-as-bad-as-it-sounds/

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Granny’s Cloak Moth

Do not be fooled by a granny’s cloak moth.

  • The scientific name for a granny’s cloak moth is Speiredonia spectans, and they are from the family Noctuidae, the family of owlet moths.
  • Granny’s cloak moths are native to Australia, typically found in the north eastern areas, but some have been randomly seen in New Zealand and Norfolk Island.
  • Granny’s cloak moth caterpillars have long, flat bodies that have brown coats spotted with spots that are black or black and white.
  • Granny’s cloak moths can generally be found in dark habitats, including caves, and also in or near human settlements.
  • Adult Granny’s cloak moths appear to have brown coloured wings with scalloped edges, with eye spots on each wing and streaks of dark colours, however, in the right lighting situation (especially with flash photography), purple coloured wings are visible.

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  • The wingspan of a Granny’s cloak moth can be up to 7 to 7.5 centimetre (2.8 to 3 inches).
  • Granny’s cloak moths can appear in an eclipse (group of moths) of twelve or more, commonly grouping by the particular plant the bug hatched on.
  • Granny’s cloak moths’ diet mainly consists of plants from the family Acacia, the family of wattles.
  • Granny’s cloak moths are generally active during the night, when their main natural predators, the birds, are asleep, although bats pose a threat.
  • Granny’s cloak moths have super sensitive ears, and can pick up the echolocation calls from some species of bats, who are their predators, and in response, they can dart around to avoid being the bats’ next meal.
Bibliography:
Granny’s Cloak Moth – Speiredonia Spectans, 2011, Brisbane Insects, http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_owlmoths/CloakMoth.htm
Herbison-Evans D, Crossley S & Shaw P, Speiredonia spectans (Guenée, 1852), 2013, Butterfly House, http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/cato/spectan.html

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Trilobite Cockroach

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Unlike trilobites, trilobite cockroaches are not extinct.

  • Trilobite cockroaches are usually dark brown, flat, oval shaped roaches that appear to have armour, and they sit close to the ground and are not usually fast movers.
  • Trilobite cockroaches are from the family Blaberidae, the family of giant cockroaches.
  • Trilobite cockroaches range from a size of 1 to 2.5 centimetres (0.4 to 1 inches) in length.
  • ‘Trilobite cockroaches’ are named after ‘trilobites’ due to the females looking like the extinct, unrelated, aquatic species.
  • There are approximately 15 species of trilobite cockroaches, all of which are native to Australia except two that can be found in Papua New Guinea.

Trilobite cockroach, Giant Cockroach, Black, Female, Wingless, One, Wood, Ten Random Facts, Animal, Insect, Bug, Australia

  • Trilobite cockroaches can be found in wooded areas, forests and gardens, and are often found underneath objects such as leaves, bark and wood or rotting vegetation.
  • The scientific name of trilobite cockroaches is ‘Laxta’, or ‘Laxta Walker’, the genus named after the British entomologist Francis Walker, who worked for the British Museum in the 1800s.
  • Trilobite cockroaches are also known as ‘bark cockroaches’, ‘woodroaches’ and ‘flat cockroaches’.
  • Trilobite cockroaches live in little groups that communicate via smell and their diet typically consists of fibres from wood.
  • Trilobite cockroach female adults do not have wings, while males do; therefore the wings significantly change the appearance of the two genders.
Bibliography:
Bark Cockroach, 2011, Brisbane Insects, http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_cockroaches/BarkCockroach.htm
Flat cockroach, 2009, AustralianMuseum, http://australianmuseum.net.au/Flat-Cockroach
Trilobite Cockroach, n.d, Oz Animals, http://www.ozanimals.com/Insect/Trilobite-Cockroach/Laxta/sp.html

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Cyana Meyricki

Any more hair and the cyana meyricki caterpillar would be a hairball!

  • A Cyana meyricki is a type of lichen moth from the family Arctiidae, a family of moths that includes lichen moths, tiger moths, wasp moths, and footman moths.
  • Cyana meyricki caterpillars are mostly black and tan in colour and have lots of long hairs, and are believed to eat lichen and algae.
  • Cyana meyricki caterpillars protect themselves during the pupa stage, by using their long hairs, joined together with silk to create a small, mesh-like cage that surrounds the pupa.
  • A Cyana meyricki pupa rests in the cage without touching the sides, suspended by fine threads of silk.
  • A Cyana meyricki moth squeezes out of the springy cage without tearing or breaking it.

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Cyana Meyricki Caterpiller

Cyana Mericki Cacoon, Pupa, Mesh cage, bug, Moth, Ten Random Facts, Australia

Cyana Meyricki Pupa
  • Cyana meyricki moths have a wingspan that is typically 3 to 4 centimetres (1 to 1.5 inches) in length.
  • Cyana meyricki moths are tan and black in colour, and have stripey bodies, with symmetrical large yellow patches or spots on their wings.
  • Cyana meyricki pupae are sometimes destroyed by a tachinid fly (a large fly) inside its cage, as these flies are parasites, laying eggs on the caterpillar, or on the caterpillar’s food so that they are consumed and then cause internal damage to the caterpillar, and then the cage is used by the fly for protection of its own pupa.
  • Cyana meyricki caterpillars and moths are native to Australia, in the states of New South Wales and Queensland.
  • Cyana meyricki moths are one of more than 60 Cyana species, and they have also been called ‘Clerckia meyricki’ and ‘Chionaema meyricci’.
Bibliography:
Cyana Meyricki (Rothschild, 1901), n.d., Atlas of Living Australia, http://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:828cb218-e027-4411-a71d-ec6561e3cfa1#
Herbison-Evans D & Crossley S, Cyana Meyricki (Rothschild, 1901), 2013, Caterpillars: Especially Australian Ones, http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/arct/meyrick.html

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Housefly

“Shoo fly, don’t bother me!”

  • ‘Houseflies’ are also known as ‘house flies’, ‘house-flies’, ‘common houseflies’ and ‘common flies’ and are often referred to by their generic name ‘fly’.
  • The scientific name of houseflies is Musca domestica, and they are from the family Muscidae, which is a family of flies.
  • Houseflies are the most common type of domestic fly, making up 91% of all domestic flies.
  • Houseflies grow to be 5 to 8 millimetres (0.2 to 0.3 inches) in length and have one pair of wings, that have a few major veins in them.
  • Houseflies generally have a grey or black thorax with a brown to yellow coloured abdomen and are somewhat hairy.

Housefly, Small, Insect, Fly, Sitting, Jeans, Pants, Ten Random Facts, Australia

  • Housefly maggots can become pupa after a half to one and a half days, and live two to four weeks as an adult.
  • Female adult houseflies usually lay eggs in waste products, 75 to 150 eggs at a time, and can lay up to 9000 eggs in its life.
  • A housefly egg takes on average a day to hatch, and grow quickest in warm to hot weather.
  • Houseflies can be carriers of over 100 diseases of parasites, bacteria and viruses.
  • Houseflies can convert solid food to liquid, and they have tubular shaped tongues, like straws, with which they suck up their food.
Bibliography:
Flies, n.d, Pestworld for Kids, http://www.pestworldforkids.org/flies.html
Housefly, 2013, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_fly

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