Araba Bioscan

Araba Bioscan 18-25 December 2020

One of the flies captured this week seems to have been parasitised by a nematode or other “worm” that has apparently hollowed out at least the interior of each compound eye. The fly had no wings remaining and the head was rotated through 180°. Finding information on parasites of insect eyes is very difficult since searches repeatedly return pages on insect parasites of human and animal eyes. Any information on clades that destroy the eyes of flies would be welcome. I assume that the parasite also controlled the fly’s behaviour to climb upward (and fall into the sampling bottle) despite being so badly compromised.

Araba Bioscan

Araba Bioscan 11-18 December 2020

This week’s sample images again focus on the diversity of parasitic Hymenoptera appearing in the Malaise trap.

A new species for the trap was Ulonemia burckhardti (Hemiptera: Tingidae). The photo of the parallel sides to the channel on the underside that holds the rostrum at rest confirms that this is the correct species, according to the 2018 thesis by Ryan Shofner: Taxonomy and Phylogenetics of the genus Ulonemia Drake and Poor, 1937 (Heteroptera: Tingidae), with an emphasis on the population genetics of a pestiferous species. This thesis informally proposes the ultimate move of this species to a new genus named Proteatingis.

Araba Bioscan

Araba Bioscan 4-11 December 2020

The week included a few cooler days and biomass in the trap was lower than the previous two weeks.

Photographs this week include several species ichneumonoid wasps that resemble others caught in recent weeks, but also many species not previously caught or photographed.

One of the cicadas caught this week and last week has been identified by David Emery as Yoyetta robertsonae Moulds, Popple & Emery 2020. The type locality for this recently described species is within meters of the Malaise trap. See the paper here: A new species of Yoyetta Moulds from south-eastern Australia with notes on relationships within the Yoyetta tristrigata species group (Hemiptera, Cicadidae, Cicadettini).

Araba Bioscan

Araba Bioscan 27 November to 4 December 2020

The trap continues to collect a wide diversity of insects in the new location. I’ve photographed a larger-than-usual selection, including several striking flies and wasps, and three different beetles from the family Mordellidae (tumbling flower beetles).

Many thanks to all those who have assisted with identifications on iNaturalist or in person.

Australia Pterophoridae

On the identity of Pterophorus tinctidactylus Newman, 1856

On 3 December 1855, Edward Newman read a paper to the Entomological Society of London on Characters of a few Australian Lepidoptera, collected by Mr. Thomas R. Oxley, subsequently published (in 1856) in the society’s Transactions (New Series, 3(8): 281-300). Oxley’s specimens were collected in Victoria, Australia, “at Forest Creek, Barker’s Creek and Campbell’s Creek, all on the Mount Alexander Range, and at a distance of about eighty miles from Melbourne.”

This paper described one new plume moth on page 300:

Genus PTEROPHORUS, Geoffroy.

Sp. 1. Pterophorus tinctidactylus, Newm.

Albus citreo-tinctus, lunula alarum pallide fusca anticarum, posticis dilute ochreo-cinereis. (Alarum dilat. ·65 unc.)

[i.e. Lemon-tinged white, with a pale fuscous crescent on the fore wings, and with hind wings slightly ochreous grey. (Wingspan 0.65 ? inches ?)]

White with a very slight tinge of lemon colour; on the fore wings is an indistinct brown mark just at the base of the cleft ; the hind wings are pale ochreous grey.

A single specimen only was taken ; it a good deal resembles P. osteodactylus, but is readily distinguished by the paler colour of the posterior wings, and by the citron-yellow — not fuscous hue — of the antennae. A second species of Pterophorus also forms part of the collection, but is so injured that I cannot venture to characterize it.

The type for tinctidactylus is apparently lost. Subsequent authors have suggested various ways to interpret Newman’s description.

Writing of Australian Pyralidina in 1885, Edward Meyrick simply wrote that he could not speak with certainty of P. tinctidactylus, Newm.

In 1994, Michael Schaffer and Ebbe S. Nielsen (in Nielsen E.S, Edwards E.D. & Rangsi T.V., Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia) offered a new combination, Hellinsia tinctidactylus (Newman, 1856). No explanation was offered, but this reflects Newman’s original statement that his species resembled Pterophorus osteodactylus, which is now treated as Hellinsia osteodactylus (Zeller, 1841).

In 2003, Cees Gielis (in World Catalogue of Insects Volume 4: Pterophoroidea &Alucitoidea (Lepidoptera)) tentatively (with two question marks) suggested that Newman’s species might be an alternative name for Platyptilia celidotus (Meyrick, 1884). If this proved true, Newman’s name predates Meyrick’s and would become the accepted name for the species. However, there seems no reason to suggest the identity between these species. Newman is clear that his insect is yellowish, whereas Platyptilia celidotus is a greyish to ivory-coloured insect. P. celidotus does have an streak at the base of the forewing cleft, but this is straight and angled.

There is however an Australian plume moth found in the region where Oxley collected his specimens and which fits Newman’s short description. His comparison was with Hellinsia osteodactylus, which indeed has a lemon-coloured tinge:

Hellinsia osteodactyla (Zeller, 1845) – J. Tyllinen, Copyrighted free use, via Wikimedia Commons

Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) (originally Aciptilus aptalis Walker, 1864) is a lemon-yellow coloured species with a variable crescent-shaped fuscous mark at the base of the cleft, yellow antennae, and paler hindwings than Hellinsia osteodactylus:

Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) – Specimen from Australian National Insect Collection, via Barcode of Life Database
Imbophorus aptalis (Walker, 1864) – Fresh individual, Victor W. Fazio III, via iNaturalist

The resemblance seems clear. Again, Newman’s description actually predates Walker’s description of Aciptilia aptalis and the name would have precedence, if the type were still available for confirmation.