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Strike up the band…

January 1, 2019

…the fiddlers are in town. Fiddler Beetles (Eupoecila australasiae), pictured left, are so-called because of the violin-styled motif on the hard outer wing cases, and are also known as the Rose Chafers. They are members of the Scarab family of beetles of which there are over 2000 species in Australia. Scarabs are probably better known as one of the sacred symbols in Ancient Egypt.

Flower Chafers, of which the Fiddler Beetle is one species, are a sub-group of the scarab family. The word chafer comes from the Old High German word chevar meaning gnawer and beetles such as cockchafers are notorious for eating the roots of grasses, thus destroying lawns.

Most scarabs are nocturnal insects but the flower chafer group are daytime nectar feeders particularly on the flowers of Eucalyptus and Angophora and therefore are important pollinating species. They are also distinguished by flying with their outer wing-cases closed (most beetles open their outer wing-cases when flying). The pupae feed on decayed wood and emerge as adults in early summer.

At this time of the year a number of flower chafers are active including Punctate or Spotted Flower Chafer (Neorrhina punctatum), pictured right, and the Grey-furrowed Rose Chafer (Trichaulax philipsii), pictured below left, most notable because the grey furrows are actually densely packed hairs on the wing-case.

And this time of year would not be complete without a mention of the Christmas Scarab (Anoplognathus sp.) pictured below. Not a flower chafer, it is a nocturnal feeder causing the characteristic shredding of Eucalyptus leaves, a serious problem when beetle numbers get out of control.

It is so representative of my Christmases as a kid, it should wear a red cap with a white pom-pom.

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