The Intriguing Insect Life of the Australian High Country


Bec Crew, a Sydney-based science communicator who relishes our weird and wonderful creatures’ alien yet relatable qualities, is exploring Australia’s alpine region to uncover secrets behind a remarkable mountain katydid.

Bogong moths are iconic species in Australia’s High Country. Exceptionally prolific nocturnal migrants, they make long distance annual migrations from lowland breeding areas all the way up to the Alps and back again.

Burrowing Cockroach

Cockroaches may seem like unsightly pests that come crawling out from under the fridge for a midnight snack, but these slow-moving, wingless creatures have much more going for them than meets the eye. Australian soil-burrowing cockroaches are master recyclers of organic matter and care mothers too; some mothers even tend to their live young for up to 12 months after birth! Cockroaches may have a negative image, but biologists such as Dr Perry Beasley-Hall find fascinating insights into evolutionary processes from these unique behaviors and ecologies.

Dr Beasley-Hall is fascinated by the behaviour of Giant Burrowing Cockroaches (also known as Rhinoceros Cockroaches or Litterbugs). They’re one of the rare native Australian cockroach species without wings and they move extremely slowly. Additionally, due to their large size and specialized diet they’ve developed unique adaptations such as an unusual respiratory system which allows them to breathe sand instead of air for better survival during dry environments that would kill other insects.

Giant Burrowing Cockroaches live their entire lives underground in permanent burrows that extend up to one metre below ground. They’re adept at recycling leaves from forest floors into useful organic matter that other organisms can utilize – with some species living up to 10 years when kept as pets!

Cockroaches are hemimetabolous insects, meaning their hard exoskeleton doesn’t increase in thickness as they age. Instead, it sheds periodically; during this process cockroaches often appear completely white before finally returning to their characteristic hues.

The Giant Burrowing Cockroach can be found throughout Australia in diverse environments from dry land to tropical rainforest, often preferring eucalyptus woodland and grassland in the high country. Ovoviviparous female cockroaches give birth alive rather than laying eggs; instead they provide protection and sustenance by caring for their offspring in an alcove in underground burrows before feeding their offspring with leaves they collect overnight – this rare form of parental care once thought an evolutionary dead end; now it’s accepted as another display of insect behavior’s diversity!

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Stick Insects

Stick insects, also referred to as walking sticks, twig bugs or leaf mimics, are well known for their impressive camouflage among woody plants they inhabit. Their long, thin bodies resemble living twigs or stalks of leaves – even being decorated with lichen-like markings to further blend in their surroundings. In order to complete their camouflage some species can even imitate the movement of swaying branches by rocking back and forth their bodies back and forth!

Some stick insect species can reproduce without males through parthenogenesis. Female stick insects in captivity have produced hundreds of all-female offspring without mating; even when males are introduced into a herd there is only a 50/50 chance their offspring will be fertile. Phasmida includes over 3,000 species that are susceptible to habitat destruction and collection for the pet trade.

As with other insects, phasmids are adept at concealing themselves. They may feign death to avoid predators, secrete an unpleasant-smelling liquid to deter enemies, drop their legs to regrow later or swipe predators away with spine-covered forelimbs – the Hercules moth is one such species with an 11 inch wingspan!

Bogong moths Agrotis infusa embark on an extraordinary long-distance migration each spring from their dry plain habitats of southern Queensland, northern New South Wales, and western Victoria to alpine regions in southeastern Australia.

Once established in the mountains, these bumblebee-sized moths can be seen lingering near rocky outcrops and boulders, searching for food. A single female may consume over one thousand aphids; if their numbers become excessively large she may defecate on them to reduce them further. As she feeds exclusively on Eucalyptus leaves she can often be seen chewing its skeletonized leaves; otherwise she may come within reach and puncture your fingers with sharp spikes when handled directly. These hardy creatures generally tolerate handling although occasionally some females become cranky enough to bite hard but some females become cranky when approached directly – potentially puncturing our fingers or palm with sharp spikes!

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Leaf Insects

Australia is home to some prehistoric-looking insects. Our warm climate has enabled these beasts to expand further; and their larger sizes don’t just serve aesthetic purposes – they help them survive harsh environments more easily.

Take the Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa). Every spring, newly emerged moths embark on an amazing long-distance migration from their lowland origins in Southern Queensland, Western and North Western New South Wales and Western Victoria all the way to alpine regions within Victoria’s state inland mountains – covering over 1000 km on their journey! This may take many days or even weeks.

Bogong moths aren’t the only insect with an extraordinary migration story; however, they’re likely the best-known. These nightly migrants are one of Australia’s iconic wildlife species and an essential component of mountain environments.

As with other high country species, moths are threatened by habitat loss and climate change. The Bogong moth has been declared threatened under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for good reason: its migration patterns provide a valuable indication of Australia’s healthy mountains.

Bogong moths, as their name implies, are adept at mimicking leaves – an adaptation that helps them survive in Australia’s rugged high country environment. Although camouflage may help these insects avoid detection by predators or predators, its effectiveness isn’t foolproof – for example if an individual moth loses one leaf it was trying to mimic, the insect may simply replace it when shedding its outer cuticle (a process known as molting).

Phasmids are well known for their amazing capacity for regeneration. If they lose an appendage such as legs or antennae, for instance, they can typically regenerate it with help from other members.

Phasmids can be found throughout rainforests, woodlands and even desert environments. Some phasmids – like Phasmida goliath) feed exclusively on Eucalyptus trees while other, like Phelliidae) species feed more broadly on Acacia.

Flower Insects

Flowers serve as an important food source for insect populations that depend on them for survival, providing essential pollination services and nectar consumption opportunities for pollinating insects. Flowers also play a crucial role in feeding them! To maximize this mutually advantageous relationship, various insect groups have evolved specialized mouth parts with different shapes and sizes in order to best exploit flowering plant varieties. This book displays an astounding variety of insect-flower combinations from London Natural History Museum’s stunning collection of 34 million insects. From black stalk-eyed flies with their slim bodies and black stalk eyes to metallic golden-green weevils, these breathtaking images display an array of fascinating insects – such as the Bogong moth with eyes at its protruding antler-like stalks or mealybugs with waxy cottony bodies – including some with protrusions that look antler-like and others with protrusions that look antler-like.

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Thrips insects are one of the world’s most widespread plant pests and can cause serious crop damage in some cases. Their main methods of feeding involve scraping surface cells and sucking sap from plant tissues, damaging flower buds without opening, leaves with silvery or speckled markings appearing, as well as disfiguring fruits such as apples, peaches and cherries into irregular or stunted growth patterns. Furthermore, Thrips also frequently infest garden and houseplants; certain infestations, including roses and other cultivated species that need protection can be reduced through use of blue or yellow sticky traps made out of cardboard boards painted with petroleum jelly paint or commercial products like Tanglefoot Tangle Trap Sticky Coating.

Marked variations in body features among phasmid populations can be observed, including variations in their horns, spines, and lobes as well as colouration and relative wing size. Such differences coupled with geographical distribution suggest genetic diversity is significant.

Hercules moths, with an 11-inch wingspan and being the largest moths worldwide and in Australia respectively. Found mostly in New Guinea and northern Australia, Hercules is a polyphagous pest, feeding on various herbaceous and woody plants including edible crops like herbs. To evade predators and extreme temperatures they create thick masses of secretions that serve to cover them up, provide insulation against extreme temperatures, and prevent dehydration when conditions get hot enough.