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Tales from the woodpile #3

September 13, 2013

In the list of the ‘cellar-dwellers’ of public opinion would have to be spiders, used- car salesmen and politicians. In most cases these group reputations have resulted from the actions of a few. My uncle was a used-car salesman and he was one of the nicest, funniest people you could ever hope to meet. I have never met a ‘real’ politician but after watching ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ on ABC1 it appears that politicians are ordinary people who find it hard to cook a decent meal without the help of friends and family…just like me. And as for spiders, a previous post (click HERE to view, if you dare) showed them to be not the ugly, horrible hairy creatures people make out but rather, in close-up, cute, almost comical hairy creatures, what with their hairy lips and googly eyes.

Bark Cockroach

Bark Cockroach

An addition to the ‘cellar-dweller’ list would have to be cockroaches. Their reputation for spreading dirt and disease has been unfairly garnered from the few imported species that have sneaked onto our shores. Australian bush cockroaches are nature’s garbage collectors and are themselves an important (and crunchy) food source for a lot of other Australian fauna.

Anyone who stacks wood in preparation for the following winter will know that after a period of time logs gradually split, the bark starts to come loose and eventually falls off. This process creates lots of nooks and crannies for insects to hide in and the cockroach is ideally suited to live in these spaces. During my recent visit to the woodpile I disturbed two species of cockroach. Pictured left is the Bark (or Flat or Trilobite) Cockroach (Laxta granicollis). They are communal insects that live in small colonies and communicate using smell. Pictured left is a female. The male is narrower and is winged. Their flat, almost two-dimensional bodies make them ideally suited to live in splitting logs.

Black Woodland Cockroach

Black Woodland Cockroach

Slightly more robust in form is the Black Woodland Cockroach (Platyzosteria melanaria), pictured right. Their glossy black colour distinguishes them from the dark reddish-brown Oval Woodland Cockroach.

These woodpile residents are not as sexy as other woodpile co-habitants like the Brush-tailed Phascogale, for example, but none the less are just as valuable a contributor to the ecosystem. Don’t squash them.

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