Images of Western Australia’s unique insects

At the higher levels of classification (order and family), Western Australia’s insect fauna is no different from elsewhere in Australia or, indeed, other parts of the world. However, at the lower levels (genus and species), there are many forms that are unique to the State. A few of the more colourful examples are depicted here.

Dawson’s Burrowing Bee ( Amegilla dawsoni )

One of the largest bees occurring in W.A., Dawson’s Bee has a wingspan of up to 4.5 cm. Its range includes the North-West and parts of the Mid-West. Females (distinguished by white hair on the head and thorax) excavate nest burrows in hard bare clay from August to September. A mud turret at the entrance of each burrow serves to keep out loose excavated soil. Males are distinguished by their uniformly brown hair.

Photo: Terry Houston

Carthaeid Moth ( Carthaea saturnioides )

A relative of silk moths and emperor moths, this species from south-western Australian is placed in a family of its own (Carthaeidae). Adults have a wing-span of 7.6-10.0 cm and are in flight during October to December. The larvae feed on proteaceous shrubs such as Dryandra , Banksia and Grevillea .

Photo: Eric McCrum

Western Jewel Butterfly ( Hypochrysops halyaetus )

This brilliant little member of the family of ‘blues’ (Lycaenidae) is confined to western coastal areas from Perth to North-West Cape. In the Perth area, adults are in flight from October to December but they emerge as early as July on NW Cape. Wing span approx. 2.5 cm.

Photo: Phylis Robertson

Green burrowing bee ( Ctenocolletes smaragdinus)

This glorious metallic green species is much larger than a honeybee. It is one of 12 species of its genus and, like most of them, is confined to W.A. It is found in heathlands of the southern wheatbelt and southern goldfields and flies during the spring flowering season. It nests solitarily and its nest entrances are very inconspicuous.

Photo: Terry Houston

Spoon-winged lacewing ( Ctenocolletes sp.)

Chasmoptera, with seven species, is confined to south-western Australia. Other genera of spoon-winged lacewings occur in Africa, southern Europe and South America. The common name (spoon-wings) alludes to the stalked hindwings with subapical expansions. One species is still found in bushlands around Perth during November and December. Little is known about the behaviour and life-history of these odd insects. The hind wings of the species pictured measure up to 40 mm in length.

Photo: Terry Houston

Tanyderid Fly ( Radinoderus occidentalis)

The Tanyderidae are interesting flies, which resemble craneflies. They have boldly marked wings and are usually found near water, including cold mountain streams. They are primitive flies with an essentially Australasian distribution. R. occidentalis is the only species recorded in Western Australia, and has been found on water-soaked logs in rivers and streams in the SW (probably where the larvae live).

Photo: Jan Taylor

Sluggish snout-nosed katydid ( Mygalopsis marki)

All four species of Mygalopsis are restricted to south-western Australia where they inhabit the wetter heathlands. Males ‘sing’ at night, head down, on the lower stems of shrubs. Adults measure about 4 cm in body length and are notable for their relatively short hind legs and very short wings. Females are distinguished by a sword-like ovipositor.

Photo: Terry Houston

Western Petaltail (Petalura hesperia)

This is the largest dragonfly found in Western Australia. It is a robust species only slightly less impressive than P. ingentissima from Queensland, which is regarded as the most robust in the world. The larvae, known as nymphs, live in holes dug in swampy ground. They differ from most other nymphs in that they come out of the water, usually at night, to catch prey. The adults emerge in early summer, but are rarely seen. The species is only known from a few localities near Perth.

Photo: Jan Taylor

The ‘real’ jewel beetle (Stigmodera gratiosa)

This is just one of hundreds of species of jewel beetles occurring in WA. Bodies and legs of this species were used in pieces of jewelry in earlier times because their iridescent colour never fades. The species inhabits south-western W.A. from North-West Cape to the southern edge of the Nullarbor Plain. Adults may be found visiting various white flowers during the months of September to December. They measure 1.5 to 2.0 cm in body length.

Photo: Eric McCrum