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Spiders

leaf-curling-spider

Leaf-Curling Spider - Phonognatha graeffei

Family Tetragnathidae ~ These spiders cleverly weave a leaf or other object into the centre of their webs as a hide-away from birds and other predators. Leaves are curled to form a funnel that the spider can hide inside. They have also been seen to use old snail shells are discarded pieces of paper.

Although you will often find them clustered in the same area, each spider has its own web. Egg sacs are protected inside a leaf or other object outside the web. Like other web-weaving spiders, their main food source is flying insects.

Interesting Facts

The females are approx. 8mm long and the males measure 5mm. The males and females look very similar with red-brown legs and body and a cream coloured pattern on their backs. Their bodies are fat and oval shaped with long legs.

It is extremely rare for these spiders to bite humans. A bite may cause a local reaction with pain and swelling, but is not considered dangerous.

Distribution

They are found throughout Australia.

cockroach2

Cockroach

Friend or Foe? The general form of cockroaches varies little, however their size can range from only a couple of millimetres in length up to 70 millimetres for the Giant Rhinoceros cockroach, which lives in Northern Queensland. There are just over 400 species in Australia out of 4000 worldwide, the best known being the introduced pests which commonly inhabit houses, restaurants and sewers.

All cockroaches have the following characteristics:

* Oval and flattened shape
* The thorax is covered by a large plate (the pronotum), which extends partly over the head
* Chewing (mandibulate) mouthparts.
* Compound eyes and 2 simple ocelli-like spots
* 2 pairs of membranous wings when present. The forewings are more sclerotised than the hind wings. Wings are folded left over right when at rest
* Prominent cerci
* Long antennae

Almost all species in the Blattidae family are flightless except for Methana species. Species in the Blattidae family range from black and brown to red in colour, but a few are even iridescent green. Some species have distinctive bands or spots, while others such as Methana marginalis have pale borders. Some species in the Blattidae family are of economic importance, such as the American cockroach Periplaneta americana which is an introduced pest species commonly found in and around human habitation. Methana marginalis is a native species found throughout Queensland. It has been introduced to Norfolk Island where it has become a pest, by invading homes and gardens.

Life Cycle

Cockroaches have incomplete metamorphosis. Most species of cockroaches lay eggs in an ootheca (egg case) that is either deposited on or under suitable substrate, or carried attached to the genital region. The egg stage lasts from a few weeks to a few months. The young are active from hatching and resemble the adults, but are usually lighter in colour and lack wings. The young cockroaches develop through a number of nymphal instars, which may range from 2 to 12 depending on the species and may take from a month or so up to 12 months to reach maturity. Some species may live for several years.

Feeding

Much of the feeding habits of native Australian cockroaches is unknown, but it is likely the majority are omnivorous. Some species are known to feed predominantly on rotting wood, while some species harbour symbiotic gut Protozoa that aid in cellulose digestion. The introduced domestic species appear to eat almost anything.

Habitat

Cockroaches in Australia are widespread and adapted to both wet and dry environments. Most species are nocturnal and ground dwelling and are usually found hiding during the day in crevices, under bark, rocks or logs and in burrows. Some species may occur on plants or in litter and some also occur solely in caves or ant nests. Others are associated with human habitation.

Geoscapheus dilatatus (Blaberidae)

Blaberidae is the second largest family of cockroaches worldwide, although Australia has few species.

Many species, such as Geoscapheus dilatatus, are adapted for burrowing in soil, having robust body shapes and short powerful legs.

Also belonging to this family is the giant rhinoceros cockroach, Macropanesthia rhinoceros, which lives in northern Queensland. This cockroach is the largest in the world and can weigh up to 30 grams. It can live for several years and is sometimes kept as a pet.

Go to this page to read about cockroaches:

www.ento.csiro.au

stick insect

Stick Insects

Phasmids (Leaf or Stick Insects) ~ Phasmids (say faz-mid) are insects that look like sticks or leaves. These insects have developed many unusual shapes so that their predators find it very difficult to find them.
Included in this group of insects are the longest insects in the world. There about 150 different phasmids in Australia.

Camouflage

Stick and leaf insects have developed the shape and colouring of the leaves and twigs of plants they live on. They can change colour to match changed surroundings. If disturbed, they may sway gently like leaves or twigs in the breeze. They may drop to the ground, pull their legs to their body and remain very still, perfectly camouflaged as a stick. If grabbed by a predator, they can drop a leg, and later grow a replacement.

Body

Phasmids have a long body, either a cylinder shape or flattened. They are often quite large and can reach a length of over 20cm. A few kinds of phasmid are wingless, but most kinds have two pairs of wings. The front wings are short and hard and form a protection over the larger and more delicate back wings. They have antennae which may be long or short. Phasmids are usually green or brown, but some have bright colours on the underside of their wings. These colours are only seen when the insect flies.

There about 150 different phasmids in Australia.
Phasmids are generally nocturnal
Phasmids can change colour to match changed surroundings.
In Australia, stick insects are found in most places, but leaf insects are only found in north Queensland.

Reproduction

Male phasmids are usually smaller than the females and have larger wings. Depending on the species, females lay 100 - 1,000 eggs, flicking them one at a time onto the ground below. How soon the eggs hatch depends on conditions.
The young, called nymphs, look like adults but do not have wings. They climb up into a tree when they hatch. They shed their skin several times as they grow. Underneath is a new, bigger, skin. This is called moulting. They do this because their skin does not grow like a mammal's skin does. It can take weeks or months for nymphs to reach adulthood, depending on the species of phasmid.
A phasmid nymph shedding its skin.

Food

Phasmids are generally nocturnal, that is, active at night. They feed on the leaves of trees and shrubs. A few species eat grass. The nymphs eat the soft young leaves but the adults are able to eat the tougher leaves.

Habitats

Phasmids can be found in warm places all over the world. In Australia, they are often found in gum trees but sometimes in rose bushes or fruit trees. In Australia, stick insects are found in most places, but leaf insects are only found in north Queensland. The biggest phasmid found in Australia is the Titan Stick Insect, which grows to about 25 cm in length.

orb-spider

Garden Orb Weaving Spider - Eriophora biapicata

These spiders received their name from the wheel-web snares they make. The females build these snares relatively high to minimise damage. The male does not help with building the snares and spends most of its time on the outside of the web.

Orb Spiders do not abandon their webs but instead continuously rebuild and fix them when needed. They eat insects that mistakenly fly into the web. They have even been seen eating small birds and microbats that get trapped in their webs.

Interesting Facts

The females are approx. 30mm long, whereas the males can measure a tiny 6mm, sometimes having the appearance of a meal stuck in the web or a baby spider rather than the females mate.

These spiders are not harmful to humans. Their fangs are not designed for biting large mammals and would need to be handled roughly before biting.

They like to keep to themselves with their webs high.

Sometimes their webs can be 2 metres or more across.

Distribution

They are found throughout Australia. At AWWP these spiders can be seen high above head height on our guided tours.

wolf-spider

Garden Wolf Spider - Lycosa godeffroyi

If ever there was a pretty spider, this guy is it! This large spider is patterned in shades of orange/brown, grey and black with bands on its carapace. The male is larger than the female at 35mm and the female at 20mm long. They are found throughout New South Wales.

Interesting Facts

This spider is not aggressive, but if threatened it can give a painful bite sometimes causing infection. However, no human deaths have been recorded from this beautiful spider.

This spider lives in a burrow without a lid. It makes a fence-like web around the entrance. It is an active hunter, leaving the web and seeking out its prey.

It prefers a habitat of woodland with sandy soil so that making a burrow is easy.

It is nocturnal, relying on its strength, speed and good eyesight to capture its prey of crickets, spiders and other insects.

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