Can you help with insect identification? (Outback Australia)

This was in my child's shoe that was left outside. They got it out of the shoe and it went on the wall where they measured it. The body is approx 3 cm and from head to tail it's 6 cm. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

We are in central Australia in the Outback.

This is a member of the family Anostostomatidae, but given its sex is unlikely to be placed further (many Orthoptera are best identified on the basis of males, including this family). There don't seem to be internet-based identification tools for the group (but the page shows a number of specimens and living examples, the latter usually taken only to family); Chapter 5, "Australian king crickets: distribution, habitats and biology (Orthoptera: Anostostomatidae)" in the book The biology of wetas, king crickets and their allies appears to be the best option I've seen that might allow a further identification.

The insect you have is commonly known as a Weta. The Weta covers over 70 species, two superfamilies (Stenopelmatoidea, Rhaphidophoroidea) and two families (Anostostomatidae and Rhaphidophoridae).

I believe this is from the Superfamily Stenopelmatoidea and Family Anostostomatidae. Let me let me tell you why.

The two families are separated based in part of their anatomy of the ovipositor - to be non-technical: the stringer-looking projection on its butt. This is a tubular organ through which the female insect deposits its eggs. Figure 1. Anatomy of Cricket

From “The Biology of Wetas, King Crickets, and their Allies” the main differences between Rhaphidophoridae and Anostostomatidae are as follows:

Anosto-stromatidae are characterized by dissimilar ovipositor - The lower part of the upper upper valae are inserted in special furrows of the lower valvae.

Rhaphidophoridae Ovipositor - the lower valvae are covered with the lower parts of the upper valvae on the outside (a trait found in both Rhaphidophoridae and Stenopelmatidae).

If we take a look at your first picture again, you will notice that there is a furrow going around the ovipositer. This why I believe it is from the family Anostostomatidae.

Finding the correct genus is a little more difficult. Nearly all 70 species of Weta are located in New Zealand and Australia. Here is a pretty good summary of the different Weta Species. I would say this is a female tree Weta, more specifically the Hemideina femorata.

Interesting side note, the Giant Weta is considered to be one of the heaviest insect in the world, with one female weighing in at 2.5 oz!!

Graham Chiu had it right, he's just posted a picture of a male (they are highly sexually dimorphic) - the female is lighter in colour and has an ovipositor, while the male is dark with curved cerci. The book that has been mentioned a few times (The biology of wetas, king crickets and their allies) is a great resource, I have it on my desk at the moment actually. I am studying a close relative of these creatures, the Wellington tree weta (Hemideina crassidens) and the females look very similar to these ones - see my profile pic for one of my girls! We get weta in the city when they belong in the bush, they travel in vehicles, on clothes, on other animals, they're pretty good at getting around, so I wouldn't be surprised if one managed to make its way to the outback.

Looks like a king cricket, Anostostoma australasiae

Moths of Australia

Enlarge cover


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1 Skeletal anatomy and key to orders
2 General anatomy and function
3 General biology
4 Principles and practice of systematics
5 Phylogeny of extant hexapods
6 Fossil history and the evolution of hexapod structures
7 Biogeography
8 Biographical history
9 Insects and humans in Australia
10 Australian insects in scientific research
11 Collembola
12 Protura
13 Diplura
14 Archaeognatha (Microcoryphia)
15 Thysanura (Zygentoma)
16 Ephemeroptera
17 Odonata
18 Plecoptera
19 Blattodea
20 Isoptera
21 Mantodea
22 Grylloblattodea
23 Dermaptera
24 Orthoptera
25 Phasmatodea
26 Embioptera (Embiidina)
27 Zoraptera
28 Psocoptera
29 Phthiraptera
30 Hemiptera
31 Thysanoptera
32 Megaloptera
33 Raphidioptera
34 Neuroptera

35 Coleoptera
36 Strepsiptera
37 Mecoptera
38 Siphonaptera
39 Diptera
40 Trichoptera
41 Lepidoptera
42 Hymenoptera

Knowing insect life cycles helps you control pests

Through this Network, we bring you information on ways to increase food supplies for your family, or to sell—ways that other farmers have used successfully.

Today, George Atkins has some basic information for us about insects. Here’s George.

Some insect pests have wings and fly around. Others look like worms with legs—we know them as caterpillars. Sometimes we see them crawling on our plants—other times they’re like small worms inside the stems or even in the fruit. There are others too in the soil that attack the roots of our crops.

We really do have a lot of pests of these kinds, and we see them in many different forms, colours, shapes, and sizes.

Now did you ever think about where pests like this come from and how they grow?

Actually, you could say that these pests are something like chickens. You know that hens lay eggs, and that if a hen sets on fertile eggs for 3 weeks, baby chicks will hatch from the eggs. Then after a few weeks, a baby chick will become a full grown hen or rooster. So a chicken really has 3 different forms or stages in its life cycle—the adult hen or rooster, the egg, and the baby chick. Then later when that baby chick becomes an adult chicken, the cycle starts all over again.

But remember, each one of these different stages—the chicken, the egg, and the baby chick—looks completely different.

Perhaps you never really thought about that before—a chicken, an egg, and a baby chick are really all the same creature, but in different stages of its life cycle.

Well these pests I was talking about are something the same. They have different stages in their life cycle too. You may know that adult flies, moths, or beetles lay eggs. They’re not big eggs like hen’s eggs, but they are eggs. Perhaps you’ve seen these tiny eggs on the underside of leaves, under the bark of trees, in the soil—in different places. Each kind of insect usually lays or deposits its eggs in one special kind of place—some on the underside of leaves, some under the bark of certain kinds of trees, some in rotting garbage.

Now maybe you noticed that I’ve just mentioned two of the stages in the life cycle of these pests—the adult and the egg.

Thinking about the life cycle of a chicken again, you know that the adult hen lays her eggs and that from these eggs come the baby chicks. So baby chicks are another stage in the life cycle of the chicken. With insects, another stage appears when the insect eggs hatch into a form that doesn’t look anything like the adult insect—they hatch into a soft-bodied form we call “larva.”

Now you may know that one form of insect larva is a caterpillar. There are different shapes and sizes of caterpillars. Some are small and wormlike, others are bigger and fat. Then there are grubs and maggots—all of these caterpillars, grubs, and maggots are larvae and each kind of larva just has certain things that it eats. Many larvae are harmful to us, our crops, and livestock.

So now, I’ve mentioned three different stages in the life cycle of this type of insect, the adult stage, the egg, and the larva.

Then there’s yet another stage—it’s called the “pupa.” Again, the pupa looks different from the other stages. It’s a resting stage—it doesn’t eat anything. It can’t move around like the adult or the larva—it just rests.

Finally, after a while in this stage, out of the pupa comes the adult beetle, fly, or moth—and that’s where we started this insect life cycle. From this adult stage then, the life cycle starts all over again.

So now I’ve told you about four stages in the life cycle of these insect pests—first the adult, then the egg—after that, the larva, then the pupa, and finally from the pupa comes the adult.

Insects generally are not a problem for us in two of those stages—as eggs and pupa, because they don’t eat anything in those stages. It’s when they’re in their other two stages, as adults and larvae, that some of them may be harmful to us, our animals or our crops.

That’s an interesting story, isn’t it? And it’s really good for us to know. It’s especially useful to know when we think about controlling the pests that bother us so much —the pests that spoil our crops, that eat our food, and that spread bad disease germs.

The reason I say this is that these pests may be easier to control in one stage of their life cycle than in another.

I’ll give you an example. We all know that common house flies spread bad germs. Well, what’s the best and cheapest way to control them? Is it at the stage of their life cycle when there are thousands of them flying around?—or might it be better at the stage of their life cycle when the adult flies are laying their eggs?

We know that houseflies lay their eggs mainly in human or animal feces or manure and in rotting meat or vegetable material, including all kinds of rotting garbage. We know too that the larvae that come from the eggs these house flies lay, will live and grow where the eggs were laid.

Thinking about the best stage in the house flies’ life cycle to control them, the easiest and cheapest thing to do is to prevent the flies from laying their eggs in that rotting manure and garbage. So how do we do that?

Well, the best way is not to leave that stuff lying around. Cover it or bury it so flies can’t get into it to lay their eggs in it. Keep your house, yard, garden, and poultry and livestock area clean, dry, and tidy. If you and your neighbours all do that, you’ll be preventing flies from finding a place to lay their eggs. By doing this, you’ll be preventing new flies from developing. You’ll be doing it at that stage of their life cycle when it’s easiest and cheapest to stop them.

Now, finally, today, think once again of all the pests that bother us—the grubs and caterpillars that destroy our vegetables and crops, the insects that attack so much of what we produce—all those pests have life cycles. While there are some that have only three main stages instead of four, it’s often easier and cheaper to control them at one stage than it is at another. As we just heard, the house fly bothers us most when it’s an adult, but the stage in the life cycle to stop it is at the egg stage. We do this by not providing any places for flies to lay their eggs. This way there’ll be no maggots, no pupa, and no more adult flies.

So now you can see why I said that it’s useful to know about the life cycles of insects. By knowing about the life cycles of the main insect pests that bother you, you can deal with them at the stage in their life cycle when it can be most effective with the least effort and expense.

Serving Agriculture, the Basic Industry, this is George Atkins.

Information Sources

Many people are not aware that caterpillars, grubs, and maggots are actually insects, in an early stage of their life cycle. Many do not know there is any connection between them and their adult stage. Because of this, they do not know that dealing with pests at a stage when they are not bothersome may sometimes be easier and cheaper than dealing with them at the stage when they are the most troublesome.

This item (Item 8) contains an explanation of the different stages in the life cycle (metamorphosis) of insect pests that plague the farmer. It is information that all farmers should know. After they know and understand it, they will be better able to deal with many of their pest problems.

This is an item that you could easily break up into two shorter ones. The first would deal with the basic information about life cycles. The second gives an example and why it’s important to know about life cycles. If the item is broken into two shorter ones like this and presented in different instalments, an introduction to the second instalment should include a short review/summary of the first one.

About the key

A matrix key designed to allow maximum diagnostic inference from male or female specimens of Ips DeGeer, 1775, including damaged specimens.

Morphologically similar genera of Ipini, Orthotomicus and Pseudips, are included at genus level to help distinguish Ips from these other genera.

Numbers in parentheses in natural language descriptions indicate outlier values observed in only a few specimens.

Key accompanies an article in the Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification (Douglas et al. in press). This article includes a dichotomous key, and illustrated diagnostic fact sheets for all Ips species and subspecies.

Douglas HB, Cognato AI, Grebennikov, V, Savard K. In Press. Dichotomous and matrix-based keys to the Ips bark beetles of the World (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae). Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification 38: 234pp. doi:10.3752/cjai.2019.38.

The key is intended to meet the needs of naturalists, biologists and taxonomists who wish to identify Australian jumping spiders. The character set has high redundancy (99 characters, 293 character states) allowing users to begin with whatever observable characters are available to them when using photographs, a high-powered hand lens or a microscope.

An information sheet attached to each genus provides a list of known species and information on evolutionary relationships, distribution, habits, a simplified diagnosis, and some key references. A series of diagrams and photographs (of living specimens and of aspects of the morphology, including palps and epigynes) is provided for each genus.

Further information and instructions for using the key can be found in the document attached to &lsquoSalticidae&rsquo in the top right hand quadrant of the key.

Please send comments, or suggestions for improving the key, and requests for assistance, to [email protected]

The key can be cited as Richardson, B.J., Whyte, R. and Żabka, M. (2019). A key to the genera of Australian jumping spiders (Aranaea: Salticidae).

This key is illustrated with more than 2000 images of willow species and hybrids that are either wild or in cultivation in New Zealand, and the features that are used to identify them. Most illustrations are of willow clones grown in the national willow collection in Palmerston North maintained by Plant and Food NZ.

The key is designed for those with some experience in plant identification, and some features will need at least a strong hand lens (10x or better) to see features such as stamen filament hairs. It will be of use to bee-keepers, farmers with an interest in growing willows as bee food, and conservation estate managers who need to identify willows in the wild.

Writing of this key was funded by the Sustainable Farming Fund, Trees for Bees NZ, the Willow and Poplar Trust, Plant and Food NZ, and Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research.

Temperature dependence of metabolic rate in tropical and temperate aquatic insects: Support for the Climate Variability Hypothesis in mayflies but not stoneflies

Alisha A. Shah, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA.

Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA

Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales COCIBA, Instituto BÍOSFERA-USFQ, Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, Quito, Ecuador

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales COCIBA, Instituto BÍOSFERA-USFQ, Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, Quito, Ecuador

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Department of Biology, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA

Alisha A. Shah, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA.

Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA

Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA

Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales COCIBA, Instituto BÍOSFERA-USFQ, Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, Quito, Ecuador

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales COCIBA, Instituto BÍOSFERA-USFQ, Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, Quito, Ecuador

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Department of Biology, Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway


A fundamental gap in climate change vulnerability research is an understanding of the relative thermal sensitivity of ectotherms. Aquatic insects are vital to stream ecosystem function and biodiversity but insufficiently studied with respect to their thermal physiology. With global temperatures rising at an unprecedented rate, it is imperative that we know how aquatic insects respond to increasing temperature and whether these responses vary among taxa, latitudes, and elevations. We evaluated the thermal sensitivity of standard metabolic rate in stream-dwelling baetid mayflies and perlid stoneflies across a

2,000 m elevation gradient in the temperate Rocky Mountains in Colorado, USA, and the tropical Andes in Napo, Ecuador. We used temperature-controlled water baths and microrespirometry to estimate changes in oxygen consumption. Tropical mayflies generally exhibited greater thermal sensitivity in metabolism compared to temperate mayflies tropical mayfly metabolic rates increased more rapidly with temperature and the insects more frequently exhibited behavioral signs of thermal stress. By contrast, temperate and tropical stoneflies did not clearly differ. Varied responses to temperature among baetid mayflies and perlid stoneflies may reflect differences in evolutionary history or ecological roles as herbivores and predators, respectively. Our results show that there is physiological variation across elevations and species and that low-elevation tropical mayflies may be especially imperiled by climate warming. Given such variation among species, broad generalizations about the vulnerability of tropical ectotherms should be made more cautiously.

Australia's battle with the bunny

They may look cute and cuddly but rabbits have been a persistent pest in Australia for 150 years. So are we any closer to eradicating this ecological nightmare?

European rabbits have been a pest in Australia for 150 years. (Source: iStockphoto)

Related Stories

Gardeners and growers everywhere, watch your lettuce patches! Australia is being hit by a bunny invasion and these marauders aren't the chocolate kind.

After years of battling this pest, Australia is now facing a fresh increase in rabbit numbers. Rabbits have been spotted in rising numbers in the Atherton tablelands in far north Queensland, and the Northern Rivers region in New South Wales.

The latest battlefront is Macquarie Island, a subantarctic island halfway between Australia and Antarctica. Here, rabbit numbers have swelled from under 20,000 to 130,000 in only six years, and have eaten much of the native bushland.

"You could compare [the island] to a golf course," says Dr Arko Lucieer from the University of Tasmania, co-author of a recent paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology analysing the effect of the growing rabbit population on the island.

Faced with a bunny explosion across the country, scientists are urgently looking for solutions to eradicate this ecological nightmare.

Why are they here?

European rabbits first arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, but they only became a pest after 24 wild rabbits were released for hunting near Geelong in Victoria 150 years ago.

"Rabbits were introduced as part of a broad attempt by early colonists to make Australia as much like Europe as they possibly could," says Greg Mutze, research officer at the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation in South Australia.

"It was hoped that they would flourish so that the owners could hunt them."

Flourish they did. Rabbits spread throughout Victoria and by 1880 had crossed into New South Wales. In 1886 rabbits were spotted in South Australia and Queensland, and by 1890 were hopping across eastern Western Australia.

To prevent the rabbits' westward spread, the WA government finished building three rabbit-proof fences across the state in 1907. Unfortunately the fences were a flop because rabbits had already moved into the areas being fenced off.

By the 1920s, Australia's rabbit population had swelled to 10 billion.

Currently, rabbits inhabit around 4 million square kilometres of Australia, stretching from southeast NSW to the WA wheatbelt.

They have adapted to Australia's diverse environments, establishing themselves in farmland, deserts, grasslands and wet coastal plains, and causing havoc to native flora and fauna.

"Rabbits are very good at finding the seedlings of shrubs when they are very small and grazing them out to the extent where the native shrubs are completely unable to regenerate," says Mutze.

Rabbits also threaten some of our native burrowing animals, such as the bilby and the burrowing bettong, by moving into their existing burrows and competing for food.

While increased rabbit sightings tell us that numbers are on the rise, accurate estimates of Australia's rabbit population today are difficult to make because there is no national reporting and mapping system.

The rate at which bunnies breed doesn't help either a single female rabbit is able to produce between 18 and 30 young per year.

Getting rid of the bunny

Myxomatosis didn't stop Australia's rabbit problem as this photo taken near Adelaide in 1961 shows. (Source: RabbitScan/IACRC)

Conventional and biological controls have been used in Australia to eradicate rabbits.

Conventional controls include destroying rabbit burrows with poison and fire.

"Using poison, deep ploughing and then fuming burrows was highly cost effective [in] reducing rabbit numbers," says Mutze.

However, conventional controls are labour intensive and time consuming and, faced with the rate at which rabbits breed, cannot hold down numbers on their own.

So in 1950 the biological control agent, Myxoma virus, was introduced to Australia's mainland.

Myxomatosis, the disease caused by the Myxoma virus, occurs naturally in South American cottontail rabbits.

Once infected, the rabbits develop lesions filled with mucus. The mucus accumulates under the rabbit's skin, leading to internal swelling. Most rabbits die of haemorrhage and seizures within 10 days.

Initially, myxomatosis caused enormous reductions in rabbit numbers. In some areas 99 per cent of the rabbits were killed.

However, with the virus spread by mosquitoes, fatality rates varied across the country. In arid areas, where mosquitoes cannot survive, myxomatosis did not spread well.

The virus' toxicity has also reduced over time.

"Most of the strains circulating now kill about 40 per cent of rabbits that are infected," says Mutze.

This is partly because rabbits are developing genetic resistance to the virus, and the virus itself has changed and is not as virulent as the original strain.

To combat the reduced effectiveness of myxoma virus, calicivirus, or rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), was released in Australia in 1995.

"RHD was first detected in China in 1984 and it spread through wild and domestic rabbits in Europe," says Mutze.

RHD causes blood clots to develop in the rabbit's lungs, heart and kidneys. The clots block blood vessels and death from heart and respiratory failure quickly ensues.

The virus reduced rabbit populations by 90 per cent in arid zones and held them down for around 10 years, says Mutze. However, like myxomatosis, its efficacy varied throughout Australia.

As it is spread by flies, the virus had very little impact in cooler, high rainfall regions in coastal south eastern Australia where flies are less abundant.

Also, two years ago Dr Tanja Strive from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) discovered that Australian rabbits carry a native calicivirus that may confer some immunity to the disease.

"[The native calcivirus is] non-pathological so it doesn't kill them, but it's very similar to calicivirus. We suspect it is acting as a natural vaccine," says Strive.

The rabbits are also developing resistance to the introduced calicivirus.

"There will always be a coevolution between the virus and the host, so biological controls will never be enough on their own," says Strive.

Macquarie Island

This has certainly been the case on Macquarie Island. Rabbits were brought to the island in the late 1800s to provide food for shipwrecked sailors.

In the 1900s the rabbit population exploded, and in 1968 the myxomatosis virus was released. Initially, this project was successful and rabbit numbers reduced from 130,000 to 20,000 in the 1980s.

But after a cat eradication program began in 1985, rabbit numbers have risen to 130,000 again.

"The combination of the [reduced efficacy of the] myxomatosis virus and the absence of cats meant that the rabbit population started to expand after 2000," says University of Tasmania researcher Lucieer.

The increased rabbit population has also had a devastating impact on the island's native vegetation.

"In a lot of cases, the vegetation community had completely changed to what are essentially grazing lawns," says Lucieer.

Recording rabbit numbers

While increased rabbit sighting tells us that rabbit numbers are on the rise, scientists don't know the precise numbers.

"We don't have a reasonable rabbit map in Australia," says Professor Tony Peacock, chief executive officer of the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre (IACRC).

Currently recording systems rely solely on individual reporting.

"Local authorities will get together and report: yes we've got rabbits, no we don't," says Peacock.

But the reporting grid varies between states.

"In some states these reports are documented on a five kilometre grid, while in other states it is a 50 kilometre grid," says Peacock.

To tackle this, the IACRC is making this coming May RabbitScan month.

Volunteers are being asked to scan their landscape and mark areas where they have seen rabbits on an online map. Scientists from the IACRC will then use this data to assess rabbit activity across Australia.

Knowing where rabbits are across Australia will assist in better implementation of rabbit eradication strategies.

"In some cases it's possible that we will find that calicivirus is not circulating in the population, so we can reinfect rabbits," explains Peacock.

The future of rabbit eradication

Any future rabbit removal strategy should take heed of the Macquarie Island experience and consider the wider implications on the environment, says Lucieer. Namely, whether another pest could take the place of the rabbits once they are gone.

"Rather than focusing on the one species we should research the whole ecosystem," says Lucieer.

In terms of specific approaches going forward, we need to practice 'integrated rabbit management' and use several different methods, says CSIRO researcher Strive.

Where they can, farmers should continue using conventional methods to remove rabbits from their land.

"This means ripping out the warrens and baiting if the land is accessible. But for the more remote areas we will always have to rely on biological control," says Strive.

Researchers are looking into new biological control agents, which could come from new viruses or more virulent strains of myxomatosis and calicivirus.

In 2000, researchers in Italy reported the discovery of a new and virulent strain of the calicivirus. It has since spread across Europe, the United States, Cuba and Uruguay.

The suitability of this strain as a new agent depends on whether it infects native fauna, and the ease with which it spreads across rabbit populations.

While identifying new suitable diseases is expensive (calcivirus research cost more than $20 million), the benefits are enormous: calicivirus has saved Australian agriculture over $1 billion in the past 13 years.

And the sooner we introduce a new rabbit-killing virus, the better.

"It is much easier to hold rabbit numbers down than to get them down again after rabbits have been re-established," says Mutze.

Can you help with insect identification? (Outback Australia) - Biology

Of all the insects that bite human’s sand flies are probably the most widespread and definitely one of the most irritating.

Known over the world by a host of names including sandflies, noseeums, no-see-ums, nicnics, nic nics, hop-a-long, biting midge, punkie, punky, sandfly, sand flea, sand fly, black flies, black gnats, manta blanca, palomilla, asa branca, quemadores and pringadores these are the colloquial names for the small insects that bite and irritate and are capable of discomfort hugely disproportionate to their size.


There are a thousands of variations of small biting insects but we are interested in the 1.5 - 4.0mm family of Ceratopogonidae who have piercing and sucking mouthparts although only the female feeds on blood.

People in Australia are most likely to encounter sand flies in problem numbers around tidal zones, lagoons, estuaries and mangrove swamps.

Sand fly bites often occur before the victim even realizes a potential risk. Small and hard to see (no-see-ums) it may take hours or until the following day until an irritated, itching local reaction occurs.

One old wives tale or myth suggests that sand flies create the annoying welts and lesions seen on humans by urinating on them. Sand flies may well urinate on people but it does not cause the common reaction seen on human skin. This is caused by the BITE.


The female sand fly bites humans in order to get protein from the blood - necessary for egg laying and reproductive cycles. The bite involves the injection of saliva containing an anti-coagulant, making it easier for the flea to draw blood from its host. The saliva contains allergens that trigger the body’s immune system and red welts and lesions develop. In Australia sand flies are unlikely to transmit disease although they are problematic in more northern countries like the Philippines.

Sand fly activity is heaviest at sunrise and sunset (normal feeding times for most things) and reputedly virulent nearing and on the full moon, although there is no evidence to prove this. You are probably better off concentrating on other mythological phenomena like werewolves and vampires around the full moon and just developing an overall strategy for sand flies.

Affects Some More than Others

Sand flies seem to affect some people more than others. Often one or two people will react to the bites extremely badly while others in a group will only present with mild irritation. It may be that humans are capable of developing a natural tolerance and resistance with repeated exposure or it may be simply that one persons immune system reacts differently than the next.

Many compounds are reported to be both repellent and cure for the bite of the sand fly and many of the things on the list below have slipped into popular culture and bush mythology.

List of Repellents
  • Eucalyptus Oil
  • 90% to 100% concentration of DEET.
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil mixed with Dettol
  • Chinese Herbal Oil
  • Orange Peel
  • Listerine
  • Tiger Balm
  • Eucalipto
  • Viks Vapor Rub
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lime juice
  • Any Citrus Juice
  • The inside of Banana Peel – applied by rubbing
  • Vinegar.
  • Essential Lavender Oil
  • 1 part Methylated Spirits, 1 part Baby Oil, 1 part Dettol
  • Tee Tree Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Vitamin B
  • Marmite, Promite, Vegemite - anything with high Vitamin B content
  • Vitaman B1
  • Vitaman B6
  • Garlic - taken orally and applied locally
  • Berocca
  • Crushed leaves from the Ngaio Tree
List of Remedies
  • Soap
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Rub with Garlic
  • Baking Soda and Water - make a paste and spread it over bites
  • Topical Anaesthetic
  • Application of Urine (?)
  • Ibuprofen Gel
  • Hydrocortisone Cream 1%
  • Xylocaine Gel 2%
  • Vinegar
  • Steroid Cream
  • Essential Lavender Oil
  • Antihistamine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide & Betadine – equal parts to dissolve scabs
  • Tea Tree Oil – dab on bites
  • Avon ‘Skin So Soft’
  • Aloe Vera
  • Toothpaste
  • Onion - rub bites 30 mins before having a shower
  • Hydrocortisone Cream
  • Salty Water – allowed to air dry and form a crust
  • Moist Aspro Tablet – rub affected areas
  • Turmeric Root – apply by rubbing

The Department of Medical Entomology at Sydney University states that - “There are no known efficient methods of controlling biting midges” (sandflies) and “irritation associated with bites may be alleviated with anti-pruritic preparations, but severe reactions may require medical treatment with antihistamines.”

The Byron Bay Council states that –“no effective treatment process exists to prevent these insects breeding and travelling to the nearest “blood meal”…the best remedies for such pests appear to be to keep residences from being located close to breeding sites. Only topical repellents and screening of buildings can provide a measure of protection to humans.”

What to Do

So it seems that the best cure is prevention. Sand Flies cluster down low on the outward branches and limbs of vegetation waiting for passing prey. Consequently the first areas of attack are exposed legs and ankles followed by other extremities like the hands and arms and neck and face.

Covering these areas can help reduce biting although sand flies are, of course, found in hot coastal environs where the wearing of light summer clothing is preferable.

Try whatever natural remedy works the best for you from the list above. If it seems to work for you while others get bitten then well and good, although it is more likely that you have a better natural resistance. If you are one of the unlucky people who get devoured and react badly then you can really only hope your resistance will develop and in the meantime avoid being bitten and quickly clean and disinfect any bite sites.

Sand flies seem to dislike windy areas, so keep yourself moving and congregate in the breeze. It has been reported that these insects have a preference for darker colours which contain and radiate more heat and help sand flies track victims through infrared detection. Plausible but unproven. Wearing light coloured clothing is a reasonable defence against mosquito bites and being cooler in hot weather - there is nothing to lose.

Be aware that dawn and dusk are the high risk times. By taking cover for an hour at twilight you may avoid days of irritation.

The consumption of vitamin B has never been proven to help repel sand flies or mosquito’s but if you are enjoying a holiday in an infested region then your lifestyle may benefit from a few additional vitamins anyway.

DEET seems to be the chemical that continually raises its head as the best defence against fly type biting insects. It was developed in 1946 following the experience of American soldiers involved in jungle warfare and was again used in Vietnam.

It’s an entirely personal decision whether you want to cover your body in a chemical developed by the U.S. Military, nearly 70 years ago, with the scientific name N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide.

Update: Warren from the Broome Hospital sent us in an interesting note about their treatment for sandfly bites (Broome and the Pilbara and Kimberley regions in general have a widespread health issue with sand flies).

Warren writes - "1. You mention the myth of the moon - it's actually correct! Sand flies are much more common on spring tides and not neap tides. The extra movement in the tides stirs them into action and as we know, tides are affected by the moon.

2. One of the best treatments that we use in Broome Hospital (where I work) is heat… usually from a very hot shower, as hot as you can take it for about 5 minutes will neutralise the toxin causing the histamine response. If you get it early, you may only need one application of heat, but if not a couple of times a day may be necessary!

Blow fly

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Blow fly, (family Calliphoridae), also spelled blowfly, any member in a family of insects in the fly order, Diptera, that are metallic blue, green, or black in colour and are noisy in flight. With an average size of 8–10 mm (0.3–0.4 inch), they are slightly larger than houseflies but resemble them in habits. Among the important members of this group are the screwworm, bluebottle fly, greenbottle fly, and cluster fly.

Adult blow flies feed on a variety of materials, but the larvae of most species are scavengers that live on carrion or dung. The adults lay their eggs on the carcasses of dead animals, and the larvae ( maggots) feed on the decaying flesh. The larvae of some species (e.g., Calliphora, Cochliomyia) also sometimes infest open wounds of living animals. Although these larvae may assist in preventing infection by cleaning away dead flesh and by producing allantoin, some species may also destroy healthy tissue. There are numerous reports of the use during times of war of sterile blow fly larvae in open wounds to remove decaying tissue and to prevent bacterial growth.

Screwworm is the name for the larvae of several North and South American blow fly species, so called because of the screwlike appearance of the body, which is ringed with small spines. These larvae attack livestock and other animals, including humans. The true screwworm ( Cochliomyia hominivorax formerly, Callitroga americana) and the secondary screwworm ( Callitroga macellaria) develop in decaying flesh in surface wounds of domestic animals and occasionally of humans, and the larvae may attack living tissue as well. Each female deposits about 200 to 400 eggs near an open wound. The larvae burrow into the tissue, drop to the ground when mature, and pupate before emerging as adults. Severe infestations (myiasis) may lead to the death of the animal affected. The sterilization of male flies has been successfully used in attempts to control screwworms.

Greenbottle ( Lucilia) and bluebottle (Calliphora) flies are distinguished by their distinctive coloration and loud buzzing flight. These flies commonly infest carrion or excrement, and the larvae of some species infest and may even kill sheep. The black blow fly (Phormia regina) is another widely distributed species with similar habits. Chrysomyia megacephala, which breeds in excrement and decaying material in Pacific and East Asian regions, is an important carrier not only of dysentery but also possibly of jaundice and anthrax. Protocalliphora sucks blood from nestling birds.

The adult cluster fly (Pollenia rudis) of Europe and North America is sluggish and dark in colour. The larvae of this species are parasites of earthworms. In autumn, huge buzzing clusters of the adults gather in attics or other sheltered places to hibernate they return outdoors in the spring.