22 January, 2024

Identifying Harpobittacus Scorpion-Flies in Australia

I have recently acquired a copy of "Revision of the Australian Scorpion-fly Genus Harpobittacus (Mecoptera : Bittacidae) Lambkin 1994, with thanks to Kevin J. Lambkin, @christopherburwell and @sdoug7405 and original prompting by @matttudor. Other people who may be interested: @grigorenko @ellurasanctuary @thebeachcomber @rover-rod - if anybody wants a copy I can email it to you (send me a private message if you don't want your email public).

I am working through this now to particularly see the distinction between Harpobittacus australis and Harpobittacus nigriceps and to likely correct many of my past identifications...

The most important section should be the Key, which I have copied out here:

Identification Key to Adults of Harpobittacus

  1. Distal crossvein between CuP and AA3+4 absent in both pairs of wings (Fig. 2) ..... 2
    Distal crossvein between CuP and AA3+4 present in at least 1 wing (Fig. 1) ..... 4

  2. Face orange medially (as in Fig. 6) ..... H. scheibeli
    Face entirely black ..... 3

  3. Abdominal tergites black; mainland south-eastern Australia ..... H. nigriceps
    Abdominal tergites 2-5 orange; Western Australia ..... H. phaeoscius

  4. Mesonotum almost entirely black except for small areas posteromedially and posterolaterally; at least anterior } of metanotum black (Fig. 9); o* head with a deep cavity below antennae (Fig. 5) Western: Australia ..... 5
    Mesonotum black over anterior 1/2 only; metanotum entirely orange or with a pair of black spots anterolaterally (Fig. 10); female head with at most a shallow depression below antennae; eastern and south-eastern Australia ..... 6

  5. Propleuron black; epiandrial lobe almost parallel-sided in lateral view, densely setose dorsally (Fig. 35) and with medial lobe elongate (Fig. 24); anterior setose areas of GS8 with a combined total of >6 long, thick setae (Fig. 65) ..... H. similis
    Propleuron orange; epiandrial lobe dilated apically in lateral view, sparsely setose dorsally (Fig. 36) and with medial lobe short (Fig. 25); anterior setose areas of GS8 with a combined total of <6 long, thick setae (Fig. 66) ..... H. quasisimilis

  6. Hind margin of pronotum narrowly orange (Fig. 13); epiandrial lobes flexed longitudinally
    (Figs 26, 27), in lateral view broad (c. 2× as long as wide) (Figs 37, 38); basistylus black; female S7 wider than long, strongly tapered anteriorly (Fig. 57); GS8 with an anterior hook-like extension (Fig. 67) ..... 7
    Hind margin of pronotum black; epiandrial lobes not flexed longitudinally, in lateral view elongate (mostly >2x as long as wide) (Figs 30-34); basistylus orange; female S7 longer than wide, not strongly tapered anteriorly (Figs 50-54); GS8 without an anterior hook-like extension Figs 60-64) ..... 8

  7. Propleuron entirely orange; hind margin of black area on mesonotum inverted V or U-shaped (Fig. 7); epiandrium in lateral view narrower basally than at midlength (Fig. 37), in dorsal view with medial region short (Fig. 26); central Queensland to New South Wales ..... H. scheibeli
    Propleuron usually with a dorsal black spot (Fig. 13); hind margin of black area on mesonotum usually nearly straight (Fig. 8); epiandrium in lateral view as broad basally as at midlength (Fig. 38), in dorsal view with medial region long (Fig. 27); north Queensland ..... H. septentrionis

  8. Males ..... 9
    Females ..... 13

  9. Metanotum black anterolaterally (Fig. 10); epiandrial lobe with dorsal margin nearly straight in lateral view, apex not upcurved (Fig. 34) ..... H. rubricatus
    Metanotum entirely orange; epiandrial lobe with dorsal margin concave subapically or sinuous in lateral view, apex at least slightly upcurved (Figs 30-33) ..... 10

  10. Epiandrial lobe short, in lateral view c. 2x as long as wide, apex only slightly upcurved (Fig. 33) ..... H. tillyardi
    Epiandrial lobe elongate, in lateral view >2%x as long as wide, apex strongly upcurved (Figs 30-32) ..... 11

  11. Pronotum entirely black; inner ridge of epiandrial lobe strongly produced mesad as a tooth-like lobe (Fig. 19) ..... i. australis
    Pronotum usually with some orange laterally, at least in a small spot at base of lateral seta (Figs 11, 12); inner ridge of epiandrial lobe only slightly produced mesad (Figs 20, 21) ..... 12

  12. Epiandrial lobe in lateral view <3 x as long as wide and tapered apically (Fig. 31) ..... *H. albatus*
    Epiandrial lobe in lateral view more elongate, >3x as long as wide and not tapered apically ..... M. christine

  13. GS8 with 2 areas of long, thick setae (Figs 61, 72) ..... Y. albatus
    GS8 with 1 (posterior) area of long, thick setae (Figs 60, 62-64) ..... 14

  14. S7 entirely black, or black with a longitudinal orange stripe (Fig. 16) ..... 15
    S7 entirely orange, or at most with lateral margins narrowly black (Fig. 17) ..... 16

  15. Lateral regions of pronotum orange (Fig. 12); metanotum entirely orange; GS8 broad and plate-like, not noticeably tapered anteriorly (Fig. 62) ..... H. christine
    Pronotum entirely black; metanotum black anterolaterally (Fig. 10); GS8 narrow, tapered to an acute angle anteriorly (Fig. 64) ..... H. rubricatus

  16. T5 entirely orange, or sometimes suffused with black anteriorly and posteriorly; GS8 narrow, tapered to an acute angle anteriorly (Fig. 63) ..... H. tillyardi
    T5 entirely black, or sometimes with an orange area posteromedially; GS8 broad and plate-like, not noticeably tapered anteriorly (Fig. 60) ..... H. australis

From distribution maps

  • H. australis distributed through much of Victoria (excluding northern & north-western inland), Tasmania and along the coast of South Australia to the Eyre Peninsula and through the mountainous regions of NSW to the Qld border
  • H. christine Bunya/Towoomba regions
  • H. albatus costal regions from Wollongong to Rockhampton (plus a couple of records a bit more inland and one in Townsville)
  • H. septentrionis Mackay to Cairns
  • H. scheibeli southern Qld quite far inland and just into northern NSW
  • H. nigriceps SE corner of SA along coast then broadening range through central Victoria into west Gippsland from Wilsons Prom and along northern foothills just into NSW.
  • H. tillyardi coastal NSW and coastal southern Qld
  • H. rubricatus southern inland Qld, inland NSW into NW Vic and through middle third of SA to top of Eyre Pen.
Posted on 22 January, 2024 08:10 by reiner reiner | 11 comments | Leave a comment

16 July, 2022

A New Way For Tracking Undescribed Species

Previously I have been tracking recognizable undescribed fungi using the "Tag" feature of iNaturalist. These can then be used in a search yo find all matching ones. A disadvantage of doing this is that you can only add tags to your own observations so you communicate with others in the hope to include all such observations.

Now I am trialling a new way of doing this: using Observation Fields. These can normally be added to any observation so could potentially be easier for including more observations.

As an example, I have first started adding it to my observations of a fungus with the working name Marasmius 'angina' - a fairly common fungus in wet forests of south-eastern Australia. This name has been used by the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (and possibly fungimap) for over a decade while we wait for it to be described.

Currently Included Fungi Species

Hymenoscyphus 'olive cream with black rhizomorphs'
Found in damp Eucalyptus forests in leaf litter.

Hymenoscyphus 'white bruising orange'
Found on logs in damp-wet forests. When gently scratched with a fingernail these turn yellow after about 10 seconds.

Marasmius 'angina'
Found in fallen branches and leaf litter. Extent of black on stem varies and this may be a species complex. The genus *Paragymnopus* has been suggested.

Mycena sp. indet. A of Grgurinovic
Found on wood in wet forests. Has a slender, yellow stem tending to white by the cap that is quite sturdy. Might belong in the Marasmiaceae family or *Hemimycena*. Also known as Mycena 'epipteroides'.

Bolete 'Jackson's Bend'
Found in wet forest and rainforest. Name as used by Gates & Ratkowsky. Now considered to be *Amoenoboletus* species.

Marasmius 'flat white with short yellow stem'
Found on leaf litter in damp-wet forest with eucalypts, including in the crowns of tree-ferns. Features a fairly flat, white cap with wide, shallow gills and a pale stem usually grading to yellow at the base. These have been microscopically examined and determined to be consistent with *Marasmius* by Virgil Hubregtse.

Lepiota 'pale blue'
Posted on 16 July, 2022 10:29 by reiner reiner | 8 comments | Leave a comment

25 December, 2021

Big Swamp Survey

Having surveyed a small swamp earlier in the morning I decided to also survey the nearby Big Swamp (so named) in a similar, repeatable manner. This was mainly for Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), particularly for the generally rare Ancient Greenling (Hemiphlebia mirabilis). This swamp is ephemeral and dries out over summer most seasons (apart from the artificially deepened dam). It is also significant as the only known breeding site for the Common Glider (Tramea loewii) dragonfly in Victoria as I observed one emerging there ten years ago.

The temperature was about 20°C–22°C with light to moderate wind gusts and sunny. Water depth was generally to about 10cm but deeper around the area of the dam in the east where I started. I bisected the swamp roughly in an east–west direction across about 300m of the swamp and recorded all insects I disturbed:

  • 41 Ancient Greenling (Hemiphlebia mirabilis)
  • 14 Slender Ringtail (Austrolestes analis)
  • 5 Wandering Ringtail (Austrolestes leda)
  • 3 Aurora Bluetail (Ischnura aurora)
  • 3 Blue-spotted Hawker (Adversaeschna brevistyla)
  • 2 flies
  • 1 moth

view observations

A significant number of the Austrolestes were newly emerged and all the Adversaeschna brevistyla seen had emerged that morning (a few more of these could not be photographed/recorded as they flew away).

Posted on 25 December, 2021 20:33 by reiner reiner | 1 comment | Leave a comment

A Small Swamp Survey

After just about walking off from this swamp, rather than just leaving things at my normal "only recording species' presence," I thought I'd take a slightly more scientific approach and bisect it, recording every damselfly and dragonfly. Normally for these sorts of activities you'd record weather but I can only estimate temperature from memory, remembering it was quite cool, only around 16°C, with some light to moderate wind gusts, but most importantly it was sunny.

I walked from the far side through the middle of the 50m wide swamp. Water depth was 5cm at most. I recorded:

  • 5 Slender Ringtail (Austrolestes analis)
  • 4 Ancient Greenling (Hemiphlebia mirabilis)
  • 3 Aurora Bluetail (Ischnura aurora)
  • 1 spider
  • 1 fly

view observations

I couldn't find a name for this swamp. The old (no longer working) governement mapping system might have had more names but the new one doesn't have a name for this one.

See also the Big Swamp Survey a little later in the morning.

Posted on 25 December, 2021 09:54 by reiner reiner | 2 comments | Leave a comment

24 January, 2021

Tail Waving Damsels

I had circumnavigated the lagoon and photographed every species I found so now what? Still having time on my hands I decided to try and photograph a charismatic little damselfly performing its characteristic tail-waving. Having capable photographic equipment I thought I would use the opportunity presenting itself — the temperature wasn't too hot to be out in the sun but still warm enough for these insects to be active.

It had been documented that the Ancient Greenling Hemiphlebia mirabilis damselfly waves it tail about at times. Originally thought to only be male territorial signalling behavior I found that both sexes perform this display equally.

They usually wave their tails about immediately after landing or when another perches nearby; most of the rest of their time they spend sitting quite still and may only move to catch a passing meal. So to get them doing their dance I walked back and forth along the edge of the swamp and flung my camera in their direction whenever one I disturbed landed again (like most damselflies they don't fly far). It isn't easy to catch this action as they may only do it two or three times and each wave only lasts around a second. Even though my camera focuses fairly quickly on something near its last focus distance it was still not easy to capture this, but using continuous shooting I managed to get some reasonable images. Ideally I would have had the camera level with the little beasts but as they prefer to perch on emergent swamp vegetation below half a metre tall my photos were angled somewhat from above.

Until 2013 coupling had not even been observed (oviposition is unknown to this day) but the male pounces on the wings of the female and holds them closed (so she can't fly), walks up the wings [image 1 and image 2] before curling his abdomen undernath his body and normal damselfly mating follows. The males don't seem to be too exact about selecting a potential mate and I have photographed one on a male Austrolestes leda and even two on the same male Ischnura aurora! As a result of this indiscriminate behavior I think both sexes have evolved the tail curling as it could dislodge an unwanted attachment. [This is my opinion based on many observations however traditionally it is still believed they are waving at each other, which I guess they are sort of doing and saying "don't land here, Mr".]

Observations 67188374, 67188376 and 67188377 illustrate the tail curling behavior that I captured in the late morning on 25th December, 2020. The second of these shows the full sequence of the tail-flick in chronological order.

Posted on 24 January, 2021 11:17 by reiner reiner | 1 comment | Leave a comment

04 October, 2020

A Numerical Milestone

When I first started using iNaturalist I had already accumulated about 15,000 observation records via other systems, but over 16 years. On iNaturalist however inspirational people like @finatic, who was leading the way with over 50,000 records, motivating comparisons like in this blog post about how many finatics other people were (as a ratio/fraction). In Australia I think @vicfazio3 had most observations and I remember globetrotters @sea-kangaroo and @silversea_starsong having many observations and identifications too. However at the time I thought I'd never become one finatic.

Changing circumstances however meant I started travelling more and I began photographing stuff almost every day. Previously I would be very targeted - I'd spend half a day chasing dragonflies and photographing nothing else. I now started photographing everything I could vaguely identify or that was interesting. Although typically I only make one observation of a species on a trip/walk (as I still do) - maybe sometimes I will make a few extra observations on longer trips. This meant I started accumulating records and once I was mentally programmed to photographing things in passing it was easy to average 100 observations per day.

For a few months since travel restrictions were imposed I didn't think I'd make 100,000 records by now but I still have some older images not submitted anywhere. I don't want to duplicate records so this is complicated by be submitting some records to other systems that reached Australia's national aggregator ALA (that includes many sources including museum specimens). When I'm away from home I take photos all day and evening until I go to bed (there isn't anything else to do). What I've also been doing this spring is spotlighting in my garden like I do when I'm out in the bush - its amazing how much minuscule life is out there (I don't live in a very urban area).

Of course 100,000 is an insignificant number of itself, it just looks aesthetic with out base-10 numbering system but it doesn't really mean much more than 99,000. However the next such aesthetic milestone of one million records is not within reach of me in my lifetime even if I continue to submit 30,000 records per year so at least I will save myself another blog post. :)

Thanks to all the great people who have lead the way and continue to help me and others understand what is around. I will mention a few people off the top of my head now but I hope everyone else isn't offended if I left them out. Identifying machines like @johnascher, who corrects all my many bee misidentifications (and of course globally). @borisb for all his beetle input, even reading up old literature to work out poorly known species from the other side of the world. Similarly @tony_d for his work on Australian flies and @matthew_connors has done a lot of researching numerous invertebrate groups. Also thanks to @wongun for bug assistance and @susanna_h for wasps.

My biggest problem is I know enough to know how little I know. 😀 See you all around online.

Posted on 04 October, 2020 02:16 by reiner reiner | 8 comments | Leave a comment

19 June, 2020

The Third Tree

More discoveries of Auriscalpium sp. 'Blackwood'
This article first appeared in Field Nats News No. 309 (July 2020), newsletter of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria Inc.

Normally, at this time of year the FNCV Fungi Group would be out on frequent forays, including to Blackwood (west of Melbourne) where they discovered the rare Stemless Earpick Fungus (Auriscalpium sp. 'Blackwood') in 2005. In most years since, the fungi has appeared again, but were only ever observed on the same tree trunk, a Narrow-leaved Peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata), 'the first tree'. I have attended several forays there in the last 10 years, but unfortunately these elusive fungi were not present on each of these occasions. Many autumns being quite dry, they eventually appeared later in the season (after the forays) in some of these years.

Blackwood, being about as far on the other side of the city as my home is to the east, I have spent more time in local areas instead. I thought the forests around Silvan and Gembrook could be suitable but never had any success until last year when I stumbled across a good colony in Olinda, 'the second tree'. Some FNCV members formally searched several hundred nearby trees over two days without further success.

Being brown and small, typically around 10mm across, (but I've measured them up to 25mm, see observation 48624044), they aren’t easily seen unless you are within a few metres and on the right side of the tree They mostly grow on the shady side. Additionally, they don’t appear for very long if rains aren’t reasonably continuous, drying to nothing within a couple of weeks. The bark on which they grow seems to need to be spongy and wet.

Sporing body on 8th April, 2020 (left) and same 15th April (right)

When searching there are problems of being deceived by other fungi that look similar at first glance. Pseudohydnum gelatinosum is fairly common on trunks of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) where it develops grey-topped, gelatinous sporing bodies to around 5cm. However in Kurth Kiln Regional Park there are some on Eucalyptus radiata that forms smaller structures with a browner top (but the spines are still white).

Small Resupinatus can also be misleading when sighted from a distance. Resupinatus cinerascens (usually larger), Resupinatus subapplicatus and Resupinatus aff. merulioides can form similar colonies on gum tree trunks, but they are easy to distinguish from Auriscalpium when inspecting the under-side.

Pseudohydnum gelatinosum at Kurth Kiln

Resupinatus aff. merulioides from above

Resupinatus aff. merulioides from underneath

Another site regularly visited for FNCV fungi forays is Mortimer Nature Trail in Bunyip State Park near Gembrook. I believe that was where I went on my first foray with the group. Interestingly it was here where, on a tree immediately beside the track, I found the third known colony of Auriscalpium sp. ‘Blackwood’ on 5th May this year 2020, ‘the third tree’. Admittedly it wasn’t in the wet gully where most of the foray time is spent but it is still an area frequented by fungi enthusiasts. It has also been found in Kurth Kiln Regional Park this season.

My understanding is that the description is close to being published, so these Auriscalpium may soon have a formal specific epitaph (species name). In Australia it seems to help being given a conservation status, if a species has been named and properly described. It is unfortunate that it has taken fifteen years. It is only in the past two years that more than one colony was known. Before that it would easily have qualified as Critically Endangered, the highest ranking before being considered extinct.
Posted on 19 June, 2020 09:05 by reiner reiner | 3 comments | Leave a comment

09 May, 2020

I Am Biased & An Aberration

Statistical problems with my observations

Until the government imposed lock-downs this year I travelled north during winter to escape the cold weather. As I make a lot of observations compared to others, some interesting things start to become apparent. One such artifact is seasonality records for the Scarlet Percher dragonfly Diplacodes haematodes show a bulge during August and September. This is a fairly common species in New South Wales and Queensland and, with mature males being bright red and perching beside water habitat, also readily photographed. Until this past summer nearly half of the records were from me and the chart pictured here was even more distorted. Anybody looking at that would think there is a strange peak emergence at the end of winter but actually its just a freak emerging from the south. As more users come on board this curve will gradually be flattened but highlights the problem of me. 😊

I am somewhat of a pariah - I'm not doing what everybody else is doing and I'm doing a lot of it. This includes local observations too. For example, a common mushroom here is the attractive, bright blue Pixie's Parasol Mycena interrupta but over 90% of the records on iNaturalist are mine.

But other biases are less apparent. I am more inclined to photograph something I know and ignore stuff I expect won't be identified. Historically I've been ignoring small herbs and bryophytes as unidentifiable and therefore not worth recording. For example, so far this year I have recorded the common moss Cyathophorum bulbosum 20 times, which represents over half the observations here. Its not like it suddenly appeared, I've just not been able to recognize it previously and thought I wouldn't be able to have it identified anyway. Another example is Indian Weed or Eastern St Paul's-Wort Sigesbeckia orientalis: half the Australian records are from me and half of those are from this year.

So by being one of the more active observers I am introducing statistical biases. I hope you don't mind. 😎

Posted on 09 May, 2020 23:41 by reiner reiner | 4 comments | Leave a comment

21 February, 2020

My Try for a Big Day

Today is the 21st of February and after a few days of showers and distractions I decided to go out to Healesville today (Badger Weir to be precise). I thought there might be a bit of fungus out and the open picnic area there is also good for insects when the sun comes out.

The first stop was Silvan, the forest behind the reservoir park. This is normally a good place for fungi too but today it was quite lean. However once I got out into the open I started to see numerous roosting insects in the long grass receiving an unwanted morning shower from the occasional drizzle. I was glad I was wearing my gumboots as the grass was quite wet and was amazed when I ended up with 140 photos for the area. Once I started getting a bit of stuff I thought I'd really go for it for the rest of the day and get as much as I could.

Up the road I visited the bushland in Seville. There isn't much here but there is always stuff hanging around in the long grass along the creek - once again I took over 100 photos.

I finally made it to Badger Weir at lunch time and found numerous perched insects before heading off along the forest tracks. All up I took over 750 photos, which is somewhat of a record for me. I suspect this will give me a personal record for number of observations in a day (well over 200 observations).

My observations will be available via this link as I upload them.

Posted on 21 February, 2020 09:10 by reiner reiner | 4 comments | Leave a comment

28 September, 2019

My Dragonfly Book

Several years ago I was considering writing a book on Victoria's dragonflies and damselflies, having seen and photographed nearly every species in the state. As I started collating some photos I realized many were not of publishable quality. For example, in latter years I wasn't bothering trying to photograph the very common Blue Skimmer Orthetrum caledonicum very well as I already had many photos but it turned out they were not really of very good quality. So having a reasonable camera by then I went out and ensured I got decent photos of all species I needed. During the past couple of seasons I also managed to finally find Nighthawk Apocordulia macrops, the last extant species within the state I had not seen.

Initially I was going to cover south-eastern Australia but I was missing too many species from New South Wales so decided to restrict it to Victoria. Having recently visited Tasmania in February I also recorded 4 of their 5 endemic species so the book could almost be expanded to cover that state too, and indeed a followup visit in November I got the final Tasmanian endemic. So that's why the book became the "Dragonflies and Damselflies of Victoria and Tasmania".

At this stage I was putting things together and had images with nice margins just most other field guides. I then realized things look better without margins so had to go through and re-edit all the photos to fit the full page. It also turned out that since Southwestern Billabongfly Austroagrion cyane had been found in Victoria there were no species in South Australia that weren't also in Victoria, so the book can also be used as a complete guide for SA (but no distribution maps or flight times are provided).

So after about 250–300 hours of editing time (including separation into damsels and dragons and then recombining) a book was born. It is available from the Entomological Society of Victoria (launched at the October 15 meeting). Cost is $30 (plus $5 postage within Australia or $20 to America or Europe).

» download sample...

Posted on 28 September, 2019 10:36 by reiner reiner | 16 comments | Leave a comment