In my blog post Did I have company? – posting 6 of 9 I showed photos of blue and red insects which, I now know, are not beetles but bugs.
I have been reliably informed by Tony of Insects of Tasmania that what I saw and photographed are Shield-backed Jewel Bugs, from the Scutelleridae family. More information and photos of family members can be see here.
I am still curious about the terminology. When is a beetle not a beetle? What is a bug? The Australian Museum in Sydney came to my rescue. I now know their mouth parts, wings, diet and lifestyle are quite different. However the information is insufficient for me to identify future bugs and beetles by sight. I would need to handle one and look very closely. But since I don’t like to invade the space of native animals etc, I will be most cautious now before jumping to conclusions. Another site informed me that ‘insects are divided into 25 orders and one order, Hemiptera, classifies bugs. The largest order, Coleoptera, classifies beetles’. So, on the basis there are more beetles than bugs, making a judgement that an insect is a beetle could be correct more than often than determining an insect is a bug.
On both sides of the Bowen Bridge lots of dry tall yellow grasses and other scrubby undergrowth grew next to the path. I was the only person around and the track appeared to be used rarely. The area was isolated; the closest residential area was over one kilometre away and I suspect that locals would seldom walk here. With the heat of the day and the nearness of the river, I was alert for the slither of snakes heading down for a desperate drink. However, I feel sure they would be deranged if they drank salty water – the Derwent is tidal at this point. Nevertheless I did not want to step on or corner one – all Tasmanian snakes are venomous.
Strangely, not only did I not see a snake but I also did not see a water bird. Thankfully there were a few chattering birds in the casuarina and eucalypt trees to keep me company.
Earlier in the day when I was walking around the Technopark fence line downhill nearest the Derwent River, I had watched dozens of brightly blue and red coloured beetles- I haven’t seen these before, and a website for identifying Tasmanian beetles does not include this one. Anybody any ideas?
The experience was very pleasant and I would be very happy to wander this way again.
Word of caution for others who might follow in my footsteps: the seedpods of the casuarina were liberally sprinkled along the pathway and in the light dappled by the trees, full concentration was required so that I didn’t roll on them – a sprained ankle or a fall down the slope were just two possible consequences if I did not watch where I was going.