Thursday, 25 September 2008

Lots of undescribed species!!!

This August, a seminal paper was published by the Entomological Society of New Zealand's news bulletin The Weta. I am of course, talking about the note entitled "Insects associated with the mature seedheads of Buddleja davidii Franchet (Scrophulariaceae)" written by yours truly. It is my first entomological paper of sorts, and as such I am relatively pleased with it.

It came about when doing some work to finish off my undergrad degree and I ended up seiving some buddleja seedheads to get the seeds. I was surprised to see lots of insects in the seedheads and so I decided to keep them and identify them for my own interest. What interested me most was the diversity of insects, particularly ones which are considered to be native to New Zealand. You tend not to expect such high numbers of indigenous species on introduced weeds. At least I didn't.

The other things which really interested me was finding three undescribed wasp species. This really brought home to me how much we don't know about the world around us. It also gave me an interesting story to tell people who express surprise when I tell them that there are still lots of insects to describe.

For a paper that was somewhat of an afterthought, it's not too bad I reckon. Let me know what you think though....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Featured Insect: Oryctes rhinoceros Linnaeus, 1758 (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is one of the quintessential plants of the South Pacific and its prominence in the lifes and history of the islanders cannot be overestimated. Coconut palms and their products, while not quite as all-encompassing as they used to be, remain a vital food source and cash crop for a large number of people around the world.

Coconuts have many enemies, one of the most serious being Oryctes rhinoceros, a large dynastine scarab beetle. Originating in South Asia, it has spread across the Pacific with the accidental assitance of man. It was first recorded from Upolu, Samoa in 1909, spread to Tonga in 1921, and was discovered on Wallis Island in 1931. World War II was instrumental to the spread of the insect to Papua New Guinea, and Fiji was invaded in 1953. Larvae grow well in a variety of organic matter including decaying vegetation, sawdust and cattle dung. The adult insects causes damage to the leaves, particularly new, actively growing axils. This damage weakens the plants and causes a loss in productivity.

Several methods have been investigated for their utility to control O. rhinoceros. Among these are the use of pathogenic fungi, and and pheromones. One of the most effective however, involves the use of a virus to infect and kill the insects. In 1963, larvae infected with a virus were discovered in Malaysia. Further investigation showed that this virus was effective for control of the beetle, and was able to be cultured in the laboratory. In 1964, the virus was released experimentally in Samoa. The virus spread quicker than expected and caused a major decline in the population of O. rhinoceros. The virus was then introduced to other countries, which also experienced the same decline. Unfortunately, it appears that the virulence of the virus has decreased. Populations are starting to increase, which is sparking further research into the virus and other control methods of the beetle.

C.C. Okaraonye and J.C. Ikewuchi have got an idea for a different biological control agent - humans. The larvae of O. rhinoceros are apparently highly nutritious and full of protein. They don't give any recipes unfortunately, but do say that they can be eaten raw, boiled, smoked or fried...

Bedford, GO. (1976.)
Observations on the biology and ecology of Oryctes rhinoceros and Scapanes australis: pests of coconut palms in Melanesia.
Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 15:241-251

Bedford, GO. (1980.)
Biology, ecology, and control of palm rhinoceros beetles.
Annual Review of Entomology 25:309-339

Huger, AM (2005.)
The Oryctes virus: Its detection, identification, and implementation in biological control of the coconut palm rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)
Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 89(1):78-84

Jackson TA, Crawford AM, Glare, TR. (2005.)
Oryctes virus—Time for a new look at a useful biocontrol agent
Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 89(1): 91-94

Okaraonye CC, Ikewuchi JC (2009.)
Nutritional potential of Oryctes rhinoceros larva
Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 8(1): 35-38

Photo courtesy of Huger (2005)

Friday, 19 September 2008

Use these to make your life easier...

I have just started to use the styles function in MS Word, and I'm starting to get rather excited about it... I anticipate that it will make the writing up process just that much easier. Like all things, it takes a little time to learn how to operate, but once you get the hang of it, it's great!

I found this tutorial on Understanding Styles to be immensely useful, and am intending on using this guide to writing books with MS Word further.

Give it a go, you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Featured insect: Gymnopholus weiskei Heller 1901 (Coleoptera: Curculionidae)

Today is the first of what I hope will become a relatively regular thing - a feature on various South Pacific insects. The lucky candidate, by virtue of being able to source a cool picture, and having found a paper on the genus Gynmopholus....

Gymnopholus weiskei is a large beetle, around 3cm long. It is found in the Morobe province of Papua New Guinea, and feeds on a range of host plants including yams (Dioscorea spp.), brambles (Rubus archboldianus) and chinaberry (Melia azedarach)

Gymnopholus weiskei was first described by Dr K. M. Heller in 1901 and is the type species for the genus. This means that for a weevil to be named in the genus Gymnopholus, it must have several key similarities with G. weiskei.

There is another very cool photo of G. weiskei here.

Marshall, GAK. (1959). Curculionid genus Gymnopholus (Coleoptera).

Szent-Ivany, JJH. (1970).
Ethological and ecological observations on Gymnopholus spp. mainly G. (S.) lichenifer Gress. (March-April 1967).

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

This site needs a photo...

A beautiful day at Lake Wakatipu, Otago, New Zealand

Friday, 12 September 2008

Top 10 New Species of 2007

In May, a committee appointed by the International Institute for Species Exploration released a list of the top 10 new species of 2007. This was quite a fun list, the members of which were granted a place on it due to its unusual name/discovery/appearence.

Check out the ray Electrolux addisoni (Rajiformes:Narkidae), the shocking pink dragon millipede Desmoxytes purpurosea (Diplopoda: Paradoxostomatidae), the handsome-looking Mindoro stripe-faced fruit bat Styloctenium mindorensis (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) and the bolete mushroom Xerocomus silwoodensis that was discovered in the grounds of London's Silwood Park - one of the renowed tertiary training centres for biologists.

We know very little about the creature that we share this world with....