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.
One of the spiders and the predominant butterflies both attracted my attention because of their prominent orange colourings. The landscape they lived in was dry and remote and I wondered if the spider’s colouring was a way of distracting or attracting the butterflies onto their web (can butterflies see in colour?).
The spiders caused me considerable work with my trusty walking stick, a stout branch I picked up early in my walk. I was forever circulating the stick in front of me to relocate the spiders and their webs to the side and let me pass. The spiders spread long thick stranded web lines between bushes and tall grasses and tree branches, and then spread their long legs in the centre of a normal circular web at around my chest level. I guess the whole spider would be around the size of a 50 cent piece. Beautifully camouflaged against a vegetation backdrop coloured in browns, beiges and greys, the odd orange marking was the only way in which the spiders became visible. You cannot see any of them in the photos below, but they were there. Hundreds of them. Everywhere.
I checked the database of all Tasmanian Spiders and did not find a photo corresponding with my memory of the spider on the hills with the orange markings. I was stunned by the high number of spiders endemic and imported into Tasmania, as listed on this comprehensive website. I am not so much frightened of spiders rather I never enjoy eight legs running fast and uncontrolled over my body without permission.
An overview of Tasmania’s butterflies indicates 39 varieties are endemic. After perusing Insects of Tasmania, I believe the orange marked butterfly flying about the hills between Lake Repulse Dam and Catagunya Dam may be from the Genus Danaus and be commonly referred to as the Wanderer Monarch from the family known as the Browns (Nymphalidae). But this is only a guess and the butterfly may have been one of the other ‘browns’ shown on this page of the website.
Perhaps a blog follower, as a specialist who knows Tasmania’s spiders and butterflies, can provide more information about the possibilities.
Surprise surprise … as I type this post I ‘feel (imagine)’ things running all over me and I shudder at the horrible thought.