The Lord Howe Island phasmid (stick insect) is the world’s rarest insect and the entire population was limited to one bush on a remote sea stack.
Image Credit: Granitethighs/Wikimedia
by Becky Crew
FOR AN INSECT to be otherwise known as a ‘land lobster’, you know it’s got to be seriously big. The Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) is a flightless, nocturnal insect that stretches up to 12cm long, and weighs 8-9g.
During the 19th century, this large insect prowled Lord Howe Island in such numbers that fishermen would use them as bait.
But then mice were introduced to the island, followed by black rats in 1918, and they made such a meal of these insect that by 1920 not a single one was recorded on the island.
By 1960 they were officially proclaimed extinct.
But in the late 1960s, sightings of stick insect remains were reported on Ball’s Pyramid – a volcanic remnant that sits 20km away.
Said to be the tallest volcanic stack in the world, Ball’s Pyramid is about 550m high, around 300m wide and 1 km long. It’s so narrow that there’s no way anyone can land a boat on it.
Instead, you have to anchor your boat in the ocean, launch yourself onto the vertical pyramid wall and climb your way up.
Many reckless explorers risked their lives to find a Lorde Howe Island stick insect here and bring the species back from the dead.
The viceroy butterfly appears similar in colour and pattern, but is markedly smaller and has an extra black stripe across the hind wing.
The eastern North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the United States and southern Canada to Mexico.
During the fall migration, it covers thousands of miles, with a corresponding multi-generational return North.
The western North American population of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains most often migrate to sites in California but have been found in overwintering Mexico sites Monarchs were transported to the International Space Station and were bred there.
Meet the Pellucid Hawk Moth (Cephonodes hylas), a gorgeous cross between a moth, a cicada, and a glasswinged butterfly.
At home in an array of habitats across Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and in Queensland, Australia, this strange little species starts off as a bright green caterpillar, feeding upon some of the finer things in life – coffee and pomegranate plants – wherever it can find them.
Locally, these caterpillars will snack on our native butterfly (Pavetta australiensis) and banana bushes (Ervatamia angustisepala), and the leaves of our introduced gardenia plants until they’re fat enough to construct a cocoon and undergo the rather gooey process of metamorphosis.
When a pellucid hawk moth first emerges from its cocoon, the scales obscuring its stunning pair of transparent wings will begin to drop off, eventually revealing the species’ most distinctive trait.
Together with their green, yellow, or orange abdomens, banded in black, these clear, wispy wings give them the appearance of a great big bumblebee – hence the nickname of their genus, ‘the bee hawks’.
The largest of the species will develop a wingspan of over 7cm.
Glass wings act like invisibility cloak
Just a handful of species in order Lepidoptera, which includes all butterflies and moths, have scaleless, transparent wings.
So, you might be wondering what the point of them is, when coloured wings can serve so many functions, including communication, defence, thermoregulation, feeding, and waterproofing.
The giraffe weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) is a weevil endemic to Madagascar. It derives its name from an extended neck much like that of the common giraffe.
The Giraffe Weevil is an herbivore and is not commonly known by most people. The giraffe weevil is sexually dimorphic, with the neck of the male typically being 2 to 3 times the length of that of the female.
Most of the body is black with distinctive red elytra covering the flying wings. The total body length of the males is just under an inch (2.5 cm), among the longest for any Attelabid species.
The extended neck is an adaptation that assists in nest building and fighting.
When it comes time to breed, the mother-to-be will roll and secure a leaf of the host plant, Dichaetanthera cordifolia and Dichaetanthera arborea (a small tree in the family Melastomataceae), and then lay a single egg within the tube.
She will then snip the roll from the remaining leaf in preparation of the egg hatching.