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The Ugly Duckling (Australian style)

November 15, 2014


We can probably all remember the Hans Christian Andersen tale of The Ugly Duckling – the story of a cygnet that thought it was ugly but grew up to be a graceful swan. (If it is any consolation, I think that cygnets look kind of cute). I am about to rewrite this tale to suit Australian conditions. The main role will be filled by a Spitfire, left.









Spitfires are the larvae of Sawflies. This name is misleading as a Sawfly is a type of wasp. The term is derives from the saw-shaped ovipositor that the female uses to cut into plants to lay eggs.



There are many different species of Sawfly, many of which lay eggs only on specific tree types but they all discharge a strong smelling liquid when disturbed. Pictured above right is a group of Small Brown Sawfly (Pseudoperga guerinii) larvae. They feed on the leaves of young eucalypts. In early summer the larvae will dig into the ground and pupate. This phase could take several years, depending on species, until the adult sawfly appears.

When these spitfires grow up they turn into adult Small Brown Sawflies, pictured left – not as beautiful as a swan but definitely an improvement in appearance.

Even so I suspect a fairy tale called The Ugly Spitfire, as Aussie as it is, will not catch on.

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