Thursday, April 5, 2012

Australian of the Week: Mystery Oedomerid Maybe

Spring in the Home Bug Garden - 5 April 2012
To paraphrase what a friend of Samuel Clemens allegedly said several times, 'the Home Bug Gardener often complains about the weather, but never does anything about it'. Well, after today's heart-attack cum hernia snowstorm, I'm doing something: indulging in nostalgia for a warmer climate without tons of snow that need moving.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Qld version of snow
I once saw frost in Brisbane, in an open field on a cold winter morn, was once snowed on while driving on the New England Tablelands, and saw snow on the ground in the Snowy Mountains, Victorian Alps, and Tasmania. That is where snow belongs as far as I am concerned - on the ground and NIMBY! Sure you can see paddocks white with sheep or cockatoos in Queensland, but snow is as rare as the Aurora Australis.
False Blister Beetle - Lamington National Park
So here is a bit of colour from a long lost and much lamented research site, an oedomerid beetle from Lamington National Park (named after the Lord, not the possibly eponymous pastry). Allegedly this beetle (scanned in from an old slide film image) is Agasma semicrudum. But neither the all-knowing Google nor the Web of Science can confirm this and the only citation in the latter is a 20 year old paper in the Young Entomologist's Society Quarterly*. The genus Agasma was moved from the Malacodermidae to the Oedomeridae by Arthur M. Lea in 1909 (London Transactions of the Entomological Society: 45-251), apparently in a small taxonomic spat with a T. Broun (1909. Annals & Magazine of Natural History Series 8, 3: 223-233; 385-415). After this transformation, however, our mystery red and black beetle seems to disappear until the Young Entomologists had a go. Perhaps some beetle fancier can offer some advice?
Food and defence: chrysomelid larvae bums outward on gum leaf
Speaking of Queensland beetles, I used the above picture of a group of grubs of a leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) as an example of group-feeding/ communal defence in lectures for several years. I always wondered what they might be, and now Myrmecos has offered a possible answer: Paropsisterna. We do have chrysomelid grubs that feed on tree leaves here in Alberta, but they seem to do so singly, so probably lack the cyanidic bums. Willows are a good place to look for them - once the trees have leaves and the snows are well and truly gone.
Chrysomelid grub on willow (probably Chrysomela sp.)
Well, I've had my rant and my rest from shovelling, and now it is time to sand the walkways so the neighbours and ourselves can walk them tomorrow without falling on our bums.
Grevillea coccinna, King's Park, WA

*Mawdsley, J. R. 1992. A new example of mimicry in Coleoptera from Australia. Young Entomologists' Society Quarterly 9(3):21-24.


  1. I'm glad we finally have an idea of what the chrysomelid larvae are. I'm embarrassed to admit that for years after taking this photo I thought I had a great shot of group defense in sawfly larvae.


  2. Perfect shot you've made to those larvae.