Because of its long period of isolation, Australia has a unique collection of insects, some species surviving the last 400 million years. Indeed Australia’s fauna is dominated by these invertebrates and they play a major role in almost every terrestrial and freshwater environment. As vegetation matures, shelter and food becomes available and a diverse range of insects is now being observed in the Park. See other pages for butterflies, moths, dragonflies, damselflies and spiders.
Australia is dominated by the introduced European honey bee but there are over 1,500 species of native bees, widely diverse in colour and form. Most are solitary, making individual nests for their eggs in burrows in the ground or tree hollows. These bees can sting but are non-agressive. The 10 species that are social store small amounts of honey and have no sting. Bees are entirely dependent on flowers for their protein and carbohydrates and native bees are important pollinators of indigenous flora.
Alkaline or Native Sweat Bee – Lasioglossum spp.
These native bees with bodies up to 8mm long, dig communal burrows in clay soils. They are attracted to sweat and feed on native and exotic flowers.
Honey Bee – Apis mellifera
This is one of three bee species to have been domesticated and is an important pollinator. It is the only bee species to leave its sting behind after it has injected.
Leaf-cutter Bee – Megachile sp. male
This solitary bee is so called because the female typically snips neat round or oval shapes from leafs to create cells although some use resin for this purpose. Cells are constructed inside nests that have usually been burrowed into cavities like holes in stems of abandoned holes in wood. Eggs are laid in these cells, and each provided with a pollen and nectar mixture and the grubs will eat these provisions before pupating. The pollen collected by these bees is carried on long hairs on the abdomen where it more readily transfers to the next blossom making these bees productive pollinators. This male is probably Megachile tosticauda which roosts on grass stems, generally with other males with abdomens facing outwards. A roosting aggregation was observed in 2016 in the Park.
Golden Green Stag Beetle – Lamprima latreillii
The name ‘Stag Beetle’ comes from the prominent antler-like mandibles which are probably used in battles with rival males or in courtship. These splendid-looking, metallic coloured beetles feed during the day on eucalypt and acacia foliage.
Plague Soldier Beetle – Chauliognathus lugubres
Soldier beetles are native to Australia and found in temperate southeastern areas. They occasionally build up to massive numbers. The adults are soft-bodied and their diet appears to be largely nectar from flowering shrubs and trees. The larvae eat other small insects. Soldier Beetles can exude a white viscous fluid from their glands that deters would-be predators. They also secrete the same chemical in a wax form to protect their eggs against infection.
Common Spotted Ladybird – Harmonia conformis
Ladybirds are small with a body length of 10mm-12mm, distinguished by their brightly colours and spots or stripes. They prey on aphids, scale insects and mites. A single ladybird larva can eat up to 100 aphids in a day! Here it is likely to be feeding on tiny white scale insects on an acacia.
Transverse Ladybird – Cocienellus transversalis
The Transverse Ladybird is just 5mm and Australia’s most common ladybird beetle.
Elephant Beetle – Orthorhinus cylindrirostris
Elephant Beetles have a long rostrum or snout with biting parts at its tip and very hard exoskeletons which usually help with camouflage. They can also jump, bounce or tumble away from predators, roll over and play dead.
Eucalyptus Leaf Beetles
Eucalyptus Leaf Beetles are indigenous to PNG and Australia and there are over over 120 species, many brightly coloured. They appear in the Park from late spring to summer. The average female can produce more than 600 eggs. The larvae feed individually or in groups and both larvae and adult stages feed on a wide range of eucalyptus species. They can release eucalyptus oil with hydrogen cyanide from their glands to kill or repeal insects such as ants and shield bugs – their main predator. They move down from the tree to pupate in the soil.
Leaf Beetle – family Chrysomelidae
There are around 2,000 Australian species of leaf beetles, generally small (5-15mm in length), antennae ~1/3rd of body length and often colourful. They feed on living plant material.
Eucalyptus or Tortoise Leaf Beetle – Paropsis atomaria
These beetles produce two life cycles during summer. A females can produce 600 eggs and deposits them at the tip of a leaf or twig. The larvae feed on new growth but the adults prefer older leaves. The larvae can release a defensive liquid of hydrogen cyanide and eucalyptus oil if threatened.
Eucalyptus Leaf Beetle – Paropsisterna sp.
There are around 100 species of the genus Paropsisterna and they feed mainly on eucalyptus but also Calistemon, Kunzel, Leptospermum and Melaleuca. This one has tucked in its antennae and legs, fearing intrusion.
Long-jointed Bark Beetle – Ecnolagria rufescens
Adults and larvae of beetles in this Tenebrionidae Family principally on dead plant and fungal material and are found in most habitats.
Crusader bug – Mictis profana
This is a large bug (20-30cm in length as adults) and has an elongated snout and large rear legs. These bugs are strong predators and their bite can be painful.
Harlequin bug – Dindymus versicolor
Harlequin bugs feed on a wide range of native plants including flowers ands fruits. They overwinter under bark.`
Pill Bug – Armadillidium vulgare
Pill Bugs are European isopods now found worldwide and they feed on drotting organic matter, helping to cycle nutrients through the food web. Reproductive females develop a fluid-filled ‘brood pouch’ in the breeding season for fertilised eggs and the young crawl out of this pouch when they are fully developed. They are in fact crustaceans, not insects.
Pod-sucking Bug – Riptortus serripes
Regarded as a pest by agriculture, this Pod-sucking Bug or Large Brown Bean Bug is native to Australia and distinguished by its yellow stripe along each side of its body. The adults are good flyers and feed on a wide variety of seeds with a preference for acacia. The four stages of instars resemble ants giving them some protection from predators. This appears to be the first recorded observation of this bug south of Sydney.
Red Jewel Bug – Choerocoris paganus
A group of these brightly coloured native bugs were observed on Dodonea viscosa – Sticky Hop Bush. The seed, which is maturing in the Park (Jan), appears to be the bug’s main source of food.
Shield or Stink Bug – Poecilometis
The Shield or Stink Bug feeds through a long tubular mouth with a sharp rostrum for piercing plants. Some are predatory and use their rostrum to spear prey and extract body fluids. It is possible that the bug in the first image is piercing the psyllid cover to get at the lerp insect within. The third image shows a nymph.
Spittle Bugs – Pilagra parva
Spittlebug nymphs attach themselves to a plant feeding on the sap and consuming so much water and carbohydrates that a liquid is secreted forming bubbles by moving or pumping their bodies. Their hind legs are used to cover themselves with the froth, giving them protection from predators, temperature extremes and dehydration.
Eggs are laid in late summer left to overwinter on plant debris. The eggs hatch in early spring, the nymphs are wingless and almost invisible inside the spittle. The bugs can be seen in the Park in great numbers, mostly on Goodenia ovata.
Shield-backed or Jewel Bug – Scutiphora pedicellata
Thee bugs are called ‘shield-backed’ because of the enlargement of the last section of their thorax into a continuous shield over the abdomen and wings. They feed on plant juices from a variety of species and, like Stink Bugs, omit an offensive odour when disturbed.
Bibio imitator – Compost Fly, female
The larvae of these flies feeds on rotting vegetation. Adults often swarm in spring. Females have a red thorax, males usually black. They are occasional pollinators.
Crane Fly – Family Tipulidae
The Crane Fly has very long thin legs and a slender body and are often mistaken for mosquitos but they do not bite or sting. The larvae are aquatic and live for up to a year but adults last only a few days or weeks.
Flesh Fly – Family Sarcophagidae
These red-eyed flies deposit hatched or hatching maggots instead of eggs on carrion, dung or decaying material, hence their common name. Generally, only males can be identified to species and then only by dissection.
Tachinid Fly, family Tachinidae
Tachinid Flies parasitise other insects such as spiders, grasshoppers and true bugs on which they lay their eggs. The larvae hatch and consume the host before leaving the carcass to pupate. Tachinid flies are considered beneficial in keeping populations of pest species under control. In this image the Tachinid Flies are mating
Native Drone or Speckled Eye Fly – Eristalinus punctulatus
The Native Drone Fly is a hover fly that feeds on nectar and makes droning noises like a bee, hence the name. Its larvae prey on aphids and other soft-bodies insects.
Drone Fly – Eristalis tenax
The introduced drone fly mimics bees in colour, is a fast flyer and hovers around flowers, pollinating them with their fine hairs.
Fungus Fly – Tapiegaster sp.
Fruit Fly – Tephritis sp.
The mottled wings of this fruit fly are continuously flicked. Their larvae induce galls in the stems and heads of Asteraceae – shown here on Xerochrysum viscosum.
Greenbottle Fly – Chrysomya sp.
Greenbottle Flies are found in most parts of the world. The larvae of the species consume dead tissue while leaving live tissue intact making their maggots useful in some medical procedures. Adults feed on decaying matter, excreta and flowers.
Hover Fly – Melangyna viridiceps
The native Hover Fly mimics the stinging Batesian wasp with the yellow and black abdominal stripes. The larvae are predators of aphids and scale.
Robber Fly – family Asilidae
Robber flies prey on a wide range of other insects, often larger than themselves and generally taken in flight. The Robber Fly drives its short stout proboscis into its prey, injecting a neurotoxic saliva. Enzymes help to digest the meal and the ‘juices’ are sucked out by the Robber Fly leaving a discarded exoskeleton. They have a dense ‘moustache’ of bristles on their face.
Sawflies and wasps
Steel Blue Sawfly or Spitfire – Perga affinis
Native to Australia, this sawfly is related to wasps and gets its name from the saw-like ovipositor of the female which is used to open holes in the plant within which she lays her eggs. The hairy larvae, resembling caterpillars, can be seen during the day in the Park in late winter and spring, massed in large groups, dispersing during the night to feed on eucalypt leaves. They can quickly defoliate young trees. They enter the soil to pupate in strong, paper-like cocoons – a stage which can take two or three years.
Chalcidoid Wasp gall – Trichilogster signiventris
Black Flower Wasp – Discolia soror
This native, solitary wasp is common in Australia. Adults are 20-30mm long with iridescent blue wings. They feed on nectar and the powerful female burrows into soil and stings and lays her eggs on scarab beetle larvae. They otherwise rarely sting and are not aggressive.
Orange Caterpillar Parasite Wasp – Netelia producta
This wasp paralyses large moth or sawfly larvae then lays its egg onto the skin near its head head. The larva develops externally, hanging off the head until the larva tunnels into the soil and forms its pupation chamber. The wasp larva will then feed and kill the host and spin a black furry cocoon within this chamber. The female is capable of inflicting a painful sting.
Yellow banded Ichneumon Wasp – Xanthopimpla sp.
The female of this species uses her long and strong ovipositor to inject eggs into host larva or pupae and after hatching the wasp larva eats its host live. Adults feed on a diversity of foods including plant sap, nectar and other insects
Locusts and grasshoppers
Spur-throated – Austracris guttulosa
This large (50-80mm long) locust is native to Australia and distinguished from other species by the spur between its front legs. It swarms less often than non indigenous locust species but is nonetheless a declared pest of crops.
Giant Green Slant-faced grasshopper – Acrida conica
Relatively poor flyers and jumpers, the Giant Green Slant-faced grasshopper does however use camouflage – green and brown – to avoid predation. They are relatively large – females 8.5cm and males 5.5cm in length. They are found in grasslands and edge habitat with medium to tall grass. This species is native to Australia and widespread in the eastern states.
Wingless Grasshopper – Phaulacridium vittatum
Adult Wingless Grasshoppers are native to Australia. They are small – <2cm, hatch in spring and the adults die in late autumn. They feed on flowering, broad-leaf plants (not grasses) – seen here on Nardoo and Hop Goodenia. During droughts they can be destructive, defoliating small trees, shrubs and crops. Only the juveniles are wingless.
Purple-winged – Tenodera australasiae
Tenodera australasiae is a well-camouflaged mantid to 100mm in length with purple margins on their wings. Their triangular-shaped head is very mobile. They often hunt hanging upside down in shrubs and tall grasses, pouncing mainly on insects and occasionally small vertebrate animals such as small frogs or skinks. The female lays her eggs in an egg case or ootheca. The young look like miniature wingless versions of the adults.
There are hundreds of Australian species of gall inducing insects; scale, psyllids, whiteflies, wasps, thrips, flies, beetles and even moths. The swellings and deformities you can see, provide the insect with habitat shelter and food. Most galls are created by the larvae or nymph stage of an insect’s life although the insects do not themselves build the gall. Rather it is the plant responding to a gall inducing agent – possibly feeding activity or chemicals or genetic material injected into the plant. Forms are widely varied and specific to insects. The insect can inhabit a single chamber or many and chambers may contain a single or multiple insects. Galls can form on any part of the plant but it is usually on actively growing plant tissue – young leaves, stems or flower buds. Whilst they can damage the plant, galls play an important role in maintaining the structure of their ecological community. The adults are often pollinators, they help prevent native plants becoming invasive and weedy, the galls can house other species, including parasites and some species are good bush tucker. (Reference: Life in a Gall, Rosalind Blanche, CSIRO Publishing 2012)
Gall-forming Psyllid – Schedotrioza genus
As a by-product of feeding from the sap of plants, scale produce honeydew which in turn is collected by ants and other insects that protect the scale from predators and often assist in spreading it in return for the sugary food.
Brown Gumtree Scale – Eriococcus coriaceus
The female scale insect lays hundreds of eggs in the brown sac in which she is encased. The small opening allows nymphs to leave the sac. Over time the honeydew exuded by the insect causes a black sooty mould to grow on the stems and leaves which can affect photosynthesis and damage the host plant. Natural predators are ladybirds and parasitic wasps.
Cottony Cushion Scale – Icerya Purchasi
This soft-bodied scale is native to Australia and feeds on a wide variety of woody plants. The adult attaches itself to twigs and branches using waxy secretions and produces a white, grooved sac which encases hundreds of eggs. Early stage nymphs feed from the veins of leaves and small twigs.
Mealybugs – family Pseudococcideae
Female Mealybugs feed on plant sap, attach themselves to the plant and secrete a powdery wax layer for protection. Males are short-lived and do not feed at all.
Pink-white Wax or Wattle Tick Scale – Cryptes baccatus
These scale insects are enclosed in thick waxy encrustations. The young have three pairs of legs, known as ‘crawlers’ and spread out to look for suitable sites to start new colonies. They are very small and can be transported by wind.
Psyllids and their lerps
There are 6 families and over 100 species of psyllids in Australia. They are small leaf sap-sucking insects, generally associated with particular plants. These psyllids are typically seen in the Park on Eu. camaldulensis – River Red Gum and Eu. viminalis – Manna Gum. The larvae or nymphs secrete honeydew to form a waxy and sugary cover called a lerp. This is protective for some predators and harsh weather conditions. Black sooty mould eventually grows on the honeydew. Psyllids have the capacity to produce several generations in a year. Females lay from 45-700 eggs and these hatch, in ideal conditions, within 10-20 days. The nymphs have five life stages under the lerp, with wings developing in the third, and emerge in 1-2 months as an adult. Psyllids, like many other insects, ‘sing’. Hear this at www.psyllid.org/otherPsyllidSOUND.htm
The sugary lerp and often the psyllid insect beneath it are a substantial part of the diet of birds like honeyeaters and the Spotted Pardalote.
Lace or Basket Lerp Psyllid – Cardiaspina
Red Gum Psyllid – Glycaspis brimblecombei
Psyllid – Lasiopsylla rotundipennis
Shell Lerp – Spondyliaspis plicatuloides
There are around 20 native aphid species. The 143 introduced species of aphid are responsible for the serious damage to cultivated plants. They feed entirely on the liquid sap of plants, piercing the tough-walled cells of their host plant’s epidermis with a long beak or rostrum stemming from their head. They are tiny – 1-6mm – and have soft exoskeletons. They moult 3-7 times before reaching adulthood. Ants are often present around sap-sucking insects and play a useful role for aphids in warning off their ladybird beetle predators.
Bloodworm or Non-biting Midge – Chironomus or Tanytarsus sp.
Chironomidae are a family of nematoceran flies, the larval and pupal stages of which are aquatic. They are very diverse and widespread, living in most climates and a wide range of water environments, fresh and saline. They adult female lays eggs on the water surface which drift down to the bottom where they hatch into the larval stage. They are an important food for fish, birds, bats and other insects. Many Chironomidae have plumose or very hairy antennae.
Springtail – Collembola
The Springtail is a hexapod and no longer considered an insect. They have a tail-like appendage that is folded beneath their body and used used for jumping. They mainly consume fungal hyphae (the root-like structure of fungi) and spores and are usually present as soon as fungal fruiting bodies emerge, as above on Egg-yolk Fieldcaps.
Green Plant Hopper – Siphanta acuta
The Green Plant Hopper’s wings form a steep, triangular roof over their abdomen and nymphs are covered in protective white wax filaments. They are sap suckers which can damage crops but generally don’t cause severe damage to native plants.
Leaf Hopper – Family Cicadellidae, nymph