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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1926

Entomological Notes

page 36

Entomological Notes

"What little noises stir and pass
From blade to blade along the voluble grass!"

—Francis 7 Thompson.

Insects of all descriptions are scarce during the cold weather, but a few answering to the following notes may still be observed amongst us.

The genus Bustercuttii is very rare now; a few species in the larval stage have been noted, but the only species common in the adult form is Bustercuttii robertsonii. The male is to be distinguished from the female by the absence of hairs in front of the auditory organs in the former.

With regard to Martiniensis Smithii, we understand that our clergyman, who is a very keen entomologist, believes that he has every hope of shortly being able to add a female of this species to his collection. We wish him every success. The male has often been seen by many of our keen observers of Nature, who spend their Saturday afternoons watching the interesting movements perpetrated by this sturdy little insect in the scrub.

Often to be seen in the same locality as Martioiensis Smithii is a gay little butterfly belonging to the genus Julesii. This creature appeals to collectors of the gentler sex on account of its dainty blue neck and thorax, when, as unfortunately occurs only occasionally, it settles in some sunny spot, it preens itself in the most amusing manner. Much enjoyment is to be derived from watching its activities on the wing.

Anatomically, it is interesting to students of biology, on account of a peculiar fungoid growth on the labrum, which is very abundant at certain seasons. We should like to suggest that some valuable research might be done on the subject of this spasmodic growth.

A sombre little moth that is chiefly night-flying in its habits, is Barnia coatii. It is commonly caught while fluttering round sweet-scented flowers at night, although those which are especially attractive to it are difficult to discern, on account of the almost incredible variety which it patronises. Another butterfly which is noticeable in the latter respect is of a more gaudy appearance, and is curious in an almost unique character in the realm of Lepidoptera in that it is equally active both by day and by night. It is a larger and more vigorous flier than the last-named species, and is altogether bolder in its habits. We have been informed by our Chinese correspondent that it is popularly known in that country as Effpee—a quaint Oriental designation. We are, unfortunately, unable to give its correct scientific nomenclature, as there has been some discussion as regards it, and the question will not be decided until the Imperial Entomological Conference meets next month. The optical apparatus of this butterfly is singularly well developed. Instead of page 37 the usual six muscles for the movement of the eyeball, ten are present, allowing for free movement in every direction.

If we turn our attention from Lepidoptera to Orthoptera we shall find insects which appeal, perhaps, not so much to the popular mind, but which, nevertheless, are interesting specimens in their own rather weird and peculiar way. A well-known species is that belonging to the species Jaydunnii, popularly known as the Praying Mantis. When at rest this little insect folds its front legs across its thorax, and presents a most sanctimonious appearance. When, however, some insect crosses its path, our little wolf throws off its sheep's clothing, and. with an expression of diabolical ferocity, catches and devours its unsuspecting prey. Some weeks ago we read a list of other insects with which Jaydunnii is sometimes found. Localities were appended, such as:—

Moncrieffia upon trellis-work;

Smithii on wistaria;

Cooleyia on lavender, etc.

From our own paltry observations, we noticed that the list was most incomplete, and humbly suggest that unless our young entomologists feel able to make a really competent survey of such a matter it would be much wiser for them to content themselves with generalities.

In the same large group of Orthoptera, but belonging to an altogether different family, is that well-known weta, Campbellii. Though of an exceedingly savage appearance, we hear that it is not as ferocious as one would gather from a slight acquaintance. These large wetas are usually preserved in alcohol, and some instinct seems to warn them of this fact. Accordingly, when the faintest odour of this fluid pollutes the air, these insects throw themselves into the most ungovernable paroxysms of fury, and if by any chance they approach any animal which has been in it, they tear the unfortunate creature from limb to limb. From this characteristic it will be seen that these insects have an unusually strong sense of morality. They differ in this respect from such members of the Coleoptera as Jamesii, Nichollsius, and Gledstonia. These beetles are trapped in great quantities by the well-known method of painting the boles of trees with rum and honey.

Any papers embodying original research on these lines, including controversial matter, will be most welcome.