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Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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Beetles

Fireflies (Lampyridae)

  • Fireflies are beetles.
  • In Australia most are found in the wetter areas, favouring rainforests and mangroves.
  • The blinking light, which comes from segments on the underside of the tip of the abdomen (far right), is created by a chemical process.
  • This is triggered when the beetle opens small apertures to allow air in.
  • The chemicals react to the presence of oxygen with a blaze of light, but are soon exhausted.
  • However they quickly recharge in time for the next burst -- hence the flashing effect.
  • Males are the main flashers, cruising at night in search of a mate.
  • With enormous  eyes and a visor to keep his attention focused, he is on the lookout for an answering blink which indicates a suitably impressed, but flightless, female. 
  • Firefly larvae, and pupae, are also slightly luminous.
  • The larvae feed on snails, which they are able to paralyse, but it is thought   that the adults (like some other beetles) do not feed at all.
  • Their short lives add a certain urgency to their flashy courting behaviour.    

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency       illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO)

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Ladybirds (Coccinellidae)

  • A favourite among beetles, the standard ladybird is welcomed by gardeners for its (and its larva's) habit of feeding on garden pests such as aphids, mealybugs, mites and scale insects.
  • In fact, a number of Australian species have been used to combat agricultural pests overseas.
  • However some species, such as the twenty-eight spotted ladybird, feed on foliage of tomato, pumpkin, and potato plants.
  • The bright colours of many of these beetles warn potential predators that they are poisonous, with toxins exuded from their knees.
  • There are over 300 species of ladybirds in Australia, most of them small and easily overlooked. 
Ladybird larvae are 
just as useful as
adults 
at controlling pests.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.   illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO)

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Passalid beetles (Passalidae)                                

  • Passalid beetles are found particularly in wet tropical and subtropical forests where they feed on decaying wood.
  • Many are large and shiny black with 'waists' between front and back sections.
  • They are of particular interest because they live in semi-social family groups, with parents caring for and feeding their young.
  • The young larvae lets its parents know where it is by rubbing hind and mid legs together to produce a sound.
  • The adults (which rub hind wings against abdomens in reply) then chew up wood for the larva to feed on.
  • Their presence in a log can often be detected by the presence of large piles of sawdust collecting beneath the log.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.   illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO)

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Christmas beetles

  • Christmas beetles  buzz loudly in flight.
  • There are many types, a fact which sometimes leads to arguments between people with a fixed idea of their appearance.
  • As larvae, these beetles feed on grass roots but as adults they can seriously defoliate trees (particularly eucalypts) during summer.
  • The aptly-named golden scarab, found in the Wet Tropics is a Christmas beetle.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.) 

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Weevils (Cuculionidae)

  • Weevils are distinguished by the elongated snout (rostrum) which they use to drill into leaves and bark to feed, and in the case of females, to create egg chambers.
  • However, bark beetles and ambrosia beetles, whose rostra are inconspicuous, are also included in this group. 

  • The Ithystenus hoolandiae lives on the outside of logs and has an interesting sex life.
  • The males, which have unusually long legs, come in two sizes - large and small.
  • The large male stands over his chosen female, but the small male sometimes sneaks between his legs and mates with the female instead - a strategy not unlike that of parrotfish!

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.    illustrations: Australian Weevils courtesy  CSIRO

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Ambrosia Beetles

  • Ambrosia beetles have earned their name from the yeast-like ambrosia fungi which they cultivate for food.
  • Known also as pinhole borers, they make tiny tunnels into the heartwood of dead or dying trees, lining the tunnel walls with the fungi.
  • They even carry it with them when they move from tree to tree.
  • Some Abrosia beetles also build colonies with societies not unlike those of termites or bees.
  • Their burrows are not a perfect refuge, since certain predatory beetles follow them into their tunnels for an easy meal.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.   illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO

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Longicorn Beetles  (Cerambycidae)

  • Also known as longhorn beetles, members of this large family have long antennae which measure from three-quarters to several times the length of their bodies.
  • This increases their sensory powers and may also help them to survive attacks (as a small bit of antenna lost to an ant doesn't matter so much if they are extra long).
  • Larvae generally feed on dead and dying wood, and some large ones are a favourite traditional Aboriginal food.
  • This group contains Australia's largest beetles - the 80mm batrocera wallacei, from the Cape York Peninsula, and the slightly smaller and brightly coloured B. boisduvali, common in the Wet Tropics.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.   illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO
Australian Longicorn Beetles (Cerambycidae) List

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Ground Beetles (Carabidae)

  • These beetles number about 2500 different species in Australia, with 500 different species being found under the bark of Eucalypts alone.
  • Most are predators, both as larvae and as adults, the latter equipped with long legs for fast movement.
  • Although many of the species which live on the ground are flightless, they are swift, effective hunters,.
  • They can often be seen in the day.
  • One particularly ferocious group of species has earned the name 'tiger beetles'.
The ground beetle, Mecynognathus dameli (above), is a 75mm flightless scavenger and predator from the tip of Cape York Peninsula. It is feared that cane toads, when they arrive, may threaten its existence, as they seem to be doing for many ground beetles in the Wet Tropics.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.  illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO

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Aquatic Beetles

  • Beetles inhabit every part of the world except the sea.
  • Two large families live in freshwater, where they are able to dive by storing air under their elytra or abdomen.
  • Most have streamlined bodies and modifies legs which act like oars.
  • Sometimes they crash-land on the shiny paintwork of cars in what is assumed to be an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.   illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO

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Rove Beetles (Staphilinidae)

  • Many rove beetles are long, with small elytra, and flexible bodies.
  • Lacking the solid, hardened appearance of the standard beetle, they are easily mistaken for other sorts of insects such as earwigs.
  • Most are black or brown, although some Wet Tropics species are purple and green.
  • It has been noticed that some rove beetles fold their wings as many as 12 times to fit them under their small elytra.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.   illustrations: Insects of Australia courtesy  CSIRO

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Jewel Beetles (Buprestidae)

  • This large family includes some of our most attractively-coloured beetles, many with a metallic sheen.
  • Adults tend to feed on nectar, with some preferring leaves, while most larvae feed under bark or bore into wood, stems or roots.
  • Larvae which feed on hoop pine have been known to emerge as adults from furniture up to four years after it was made from the timber.
  • Smaller species are responsible for the galls formed on many trees while others are leaf miners, tunnelling around in the leaf tissue.
  • Forest-dwelling tribes in many parts of the world use the colourful elytra in ear-rings or necklaces.

(Script Source: Environmental Protection Agency.)

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Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tablelands
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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