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A SPECTACULAR NEW WESTERN AUSTRALIAN SPOON-WINGED NEMOPTERID
Notes (4 years) on the phenology & adult behavior of a Chasmoptera sp. (NEUROPTERA: NEMOPTERIDAE), in a coastal sand dune habitat, 7 mi. north of Geraldton (Drummond Cove)
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For seven years (1972 - 1978), I lived in a small beach cottage, 7 miles north of Geraldton (at Lot 68, Drummond Cove), about a two-minute walk from a thriving population of a distinctive undescribed Chasmoptera sp. (T. Houston, pers. comm.). The observations that follow are adapted from thirty pages of detailed handwritten field notes, which were recorded during the adult flight seasons of 1973 and 1974 (months of November - December only). Peak of activity was always in November, which is late spring/early summer in this locality. Heat is steadily increasing, and it becomes progressively drier and very windy at this time of year -- the typical pattern after the brief winter rains of May through August (annual average 18 inches). This could be termed a dry, subtropical Mediterranean climate (latitude close to 29° south), with well-vegetated sandhills along the coastline at Drummond Cove, a northern beach suburb of Geraldton, consisting mostly of holiday shacks and some homes; at this time, the population of Geraldton was approximately 16,000. Geraldton is a coastal port city on the Indian Ocean, approximately 315 miles north of Perth, the capital of Western Australia.
(Code-number NEM. 1 in McFarland larval collection)
These notes are taken almost verbatim from my field notebook, so as to accurately convey all of the relevant details, and not lose the original imagery. This is intentional.
All times (hours) stated are W. Australian Standard Time.
(Abbreviations used below: FW = forewing; HW = hindwing)
FIELD NOTES ON ADULT HABITS & BEHAVIOR
The first specimen of this superb insect (an adult female) was found quite by chance when I was searching for other insects, amongst clumps of Spinifex longifolius R. Br. (rolling beach-grass), along the outer margin of the beach about 1/4 mile south of our house here, on 15 November 1973, at 0945 hours; full sun and warm (in the 70's ° F), with some wind from the south. The nemopterid suddenly landed in front of me on the sand, in an opening between the grass clumps, having arrived there from a short flight, which varied between 10 to 20 inches above the ground. I was able to net it instantly. I was not able to devote more time to searching for other specimens on this date.
16 November 1973 (0600 to 1030 hours): Sunny, warm and clear with no wind until about 0915 hours (steady thereafter). During this time period, I collected a total of 15 males and 2 females (all fresh and perfect), and I saw at least 3 others that got away. The majority were collected between 0715 - 1000 hours; none were encountered earlier, between 0600 - 0715. (At 0600, the sun was up a little, but shadows were long and the air was cool, almost chilly.) It was not possible to continue hunting after 1030, as I had to go into town. However, I went out again between 1745 - 1830 hours (sunny, clear, and windy) and encountered 5 more specimens (active and quick to take flight, as in the morning), of which 3 males were successfully netted. They flew easily and readily in the wind.
17 November 1973 (0715 - 1030 hours): Sunny and warm with very thin clouds and considerable light to gusty wind after about 0800 hours. This morning, I collected a total of 10 males and 2 females, and I saw at least 4 others that were missed during the above time period. I did not search again later in the day. It is worth noting that all of the females (5) were encountered between about 0900 - 1000 hours, but not earlier. The males were much in evidence from as early as 0715 hours onward.
On November 18th, I hope to do the searching from about 1000 hours onward, and at various times later in the day. Evidence thus far indicates they are active by day and in the full sun, but they are not crepuscular (as are most ascalaphids and some nemopterids). This year, incidentally, has been late or slow to warm up (only a couple of hot days so far). Last year by this date, we had already experienced much hot weather and several days of hot east winds (from the inland). Therefore, these nemopterids may be on the wing in this locality as early as mid to late October in some years(?). Although it appears that their flight was just beginning about mid November this year, possibly a few might have been flying earlier (?).
18 November 1973 (1045 - 1245 hours): 100% sunny and very warm (high today was around 86° F.); very little wind (a few occasional gusts and breezes only). Almost as soon as I entered one of the areas of concentration, I began seeing them. It soon became obvious that mid-day is their time of peak activity, probably from about 1030 or 1100 to 1300 hours. They are very clearly sun lovers, never being found at rest in shady or semi-shady places. Many were seen actively flying about (not as a result of my disturbance), much in contrast to the situation observed earlier in the morning of November 16-17 (between 0600-1000 hours). Some of the individuals observed today were making extensive flights, well above the tops of the lower bushes, at heights of 4 to 10 feet or more. These vigorous and high-flying individuals were invariably found to be males in all cases where they were successfully netted. The males also are mostly larger than the females, although a few very small males were also taken. The females' flights, in all cases observed, were of much shorter duration and closer to the ground (within a few inches, or just enough to clear the tops of the lowest bushes). Females also appear to be harder to alarm into flight when they are at rest, and even if alarmed they will only fly a few feet at the most (sometimes only a few inches when heavy with eggs). Thirty-one specimens were collected during this time period, of which only six were females. In addition, at least another 20 were seen on the wing and missed today (mostly males).
They really must be considered locally abundant here, although whether or not this is an exceptional year for the species in this locality, I cannot say. (In November of 1972, I was concentrating on other inland habitats; if they were present then, I could have easily missed them at Drummond Cove.) Most of the flight activity was centered south of Lot 68, in the narrow (elongate) vales or "valleys," between the (mostly) north/south aligned sandhill ridges (details under habitat description). It was in these areas that I found all of the females and most of the males, although quite a few of the higher-flying males were also encountered moving up the sides of the dunes (1130-1230 hours), and even along and over the ridges which separate the vales. They were present in both higher and lower-lying vales, but mainly in the lower vales, closer to the beach (just behind the first ridge).
When flying higher above the bushes, the males always face into the wind (whenever it was constant and blowing with any strength), and they negotiate in it amazingly well, without being blown off course from their chosen flight path. These flights in the wind could almost be described as steady "hopping" through the air, and it appears that the HW's are involved in this, at least to a minor extent. However, some individuals missing one (or both) of the expanded distal part of the HW were also seen in flight, and they were doing very well. (It thus appears that most of the flight is accomplished with the FW's alone.) They literally appear to be "jumping" through the air, usually in ascending-descending arcs, over and around the bushes. When a strong wind gust comes, they seem to maintain position primarily by allowing themselves to drop lower (falling through the air); after the gust passes or weakens, they proceed again by climbing higher into the air, and moving onward in the chosen direction. Considering the frail appearance, they manage amazingly well in the wind. As strong wind is a major and almost daily feature of this habitat, this is an important consideration. As do many other flying insects (certain butterflies and Diptera, for example), these nemopterids "use" wind to their advantage when alarmed and trying to escape: They "leap" higher up into the air, and then simply allow themselves to be carried rapidly far away downwind from the source of disturbance, by "riding the wind" rather than fighting it (or attempting to maintain a position in it). Then, when well out of reach, they drop back down to bush-level again, and either land or re-align head into wind (so as not to be carried any further).
This habitat is full of large orb-type spider webs, as made by argiopids of the genera Nephila, Araneus, Gasteracantha, and Argiope (especially a huge Nephila sp.). It is almost impossible to walk for more than a few feet between the larger bushes and not encounter these immense webs of Nephila blocking the way, primarily between the large acacias that dominate these sandhills. I was at first surprised to note that the nemopterids were almost never caught in these ubiquitous webs, although subsequent observations soon explained this. Several flying males were today closely observed when approaching the large orb webs; in every case, they were seen to move very readily up and over (or around) the webs, as if they were clearly seeing them. If it was not entirely visual, then perhaps the antennae also assist them to detect outlying web strands in the flight path(?). In these observed cases of successful web-avoidance, they were not being chased by me, or in any other way alarmed or manipulated. One was even seen to fly through the complex tangle of outer supporting lines that surrounds the sticky central orb, and all of this was very carefully negotiated in a hovering-dancing flutter that totally avoided contact with any part of the web. It was clearly "picking its way" through the web, in a meticulous fashion. In another case, one very small male was found actually stuck (by the FW's only), in a rather small web-tangle among dry grasses (later the same day at 1630 hours). It was still alive and fluttering weakly when found; no spider was present. Only one was found in any of the numerous Nephila webs that dominate this habitat, although literally dozens of these webs have been scanned in the last three days as I wandered about. The male found was thoroughly "wrapped up," obviously having been fed upon by the spider, as it was only in dry and broken fragments, with wings still identifiable (sex not discernible). The only other web-captured example was one seen yesterday, when I was chasing a male and it blundered into a web in its attempt to escape. The spider came out quickly to grab it, but I got there first (!). This, of course, was not a fair test; the web probably would have been avoided if the individual had not been retreating at high speed due to my pursuit, thus failing to use its characteristic precision or caution in flight.
19 November 1973 (1415 - 1600 hours): 100% sunny (as it had been all day); in the low 80's (°F); very windy, mostly strong and steady from the south, with some gusts and lulls. New areas of concentration were sought in the sandhills to our southeast, and thus a little more inland from the beach than yesterday. Quite a few were seen (5 males and 2 females caught), but many got away due to the great difficulty of netting them in the relentless wind. One teneral male (newly hatched, but fully expanded) was seen at rest and then in flight (weak and only a short distance) but was not taken. It had the typical high degree of shine on the clear FW's, and paleness in the black distal areas of HW; this same shine and faintness of maculation has been observed in all teneral anthion and stilbopterygid adults that I have encountered. This male probably had emerged about the middle of the day (probably between 1100 - 1300 hours). A deformed female, also relatively callow, was found lying on her side on the sand, still barely alive (FW's imperfectly expanded). She was only noticed because a male was seen in a low dancing-hovering flight just over her (2 to 6 inches above the ground). The male continued to flutter over her for more than a minute, but did not alight. Then it was netted. (Could the attraction have been scent?) A similar case occurred about noon on November 18th: I had just netted a strong and obviously gravid female, and was about to place it in a jar (holding it in my fingers by clasping its two FW's together over its back), when a male flew directly up in front of my head and began fluttering there, close to the held female. It (the male) appeared oblivious to the peculiar circumstances in which this female was involved, completely ignoring my "attached" hand. It did not attempt to alight or mate, however, but only fluttered there for many seconds, closely investigating the situation. At no other time did any male ever approach me "intentionally," or appear to be investigating me or my net or jars, etc. It is assumed, therefore, that the female was the sole attraction on this occasion. In all other cases, they (males) showed only alarm when they encountered me (or my net) in the habitat, and would quickly fly away once aware of my presence.
The total captured to date is now 87, plus many dozens more seen and lost during the past three days. A number of the females (some "thin" and others obviously heavy with eggs) have been confined, and eggs are being deposited (singly and unattached) in fine sand; a full description of this will be given below.
Once one has a search-image for these insects on the wing, they become easier to locate. But they certainly are not conspicuous or easily seen in their chosen habitat. Most of the observed flights were relatively short "hops," from one resting place to another, usually in response to disturbance as I walked through the habitat. They were quite alert, but nevertheless easy to net with due caution and maximum concentration on the part of the collector. Once alarmed, they are quick to take off again, at the least movement or snapping of twigs, etc. Any single flight, however, is rarely more than 10-15 feet in extent, and often far less (sometimes only 2 - 3 feet from the previous location, if not greatly alarmed). As to height above ground, flights rarely exceed 4 to 6 feet, and are typically much lower (more often in the range of 1-3 feet), or up to whatever height may be necessary just to clear the bushes. Their flight is made visible primarily by the dark spatulate (greatly expanded) distal portion of the very narrow-elongate HW.; a vague fluttering is seen, involving the dark ends of the HW. This is not easy to follow with the eyes but can be done with practice, as they do not fly very fast (although neither could the flight be termed "slow"). Flights are relatively direct, not overly erratic or wandering. On longer flights, considerable undulation or "dancing" is seen in the flight path. The appearance is rather like that of two dark flies hovering closely together!
Upon landing, a veliform resting posture is immediately assumed, with the FW's held straight up over the thorax, in typical butterfly fashion, but not pressed tightly together (usually about 1 to 3 mm. apart). The abdomen and HW's are held straight out behind, the HW's usually 7 to 14 mm. apart distally, thus at a slight angle to the body axis (variable). Antennae are held more-or-less upward and forward-directed when at rest, and fairly close together but not in contact. The head is held in a hypognathous position (mandibles downward-directed), and legs are outspread if at rest on the ground. [See McFarland, 1988: 235-243, for a detailed discussion of adult (moth) resting postures, and a proposed terminology for all positions.]
After landing, both sexes invariably move the HW's (only) in unison, in a most distinctive up-down rhythmic movement. This is relatively rapid but "smooth" (not jerky) for the first few seconds, but the interval between movements is gradually increased until, finally, all movement has stopped and the insect is then at total rest. While this HW movement is occurring, the FW's and antennae are kept still; only the HW's move. They will sometimes (rarely) land upon the ground (legs more-or-less outspread), but far more often they land on dry grass stems, dry weeds, or among the twigs of low bushes, etc., to which they cling in various and occasionally "awkward" positions (i.e., sometimes up-side-down or at odd angles, etc.), but always the veliform FW position is maintained and the HW's remain backward-directed and slightly apart. If landing in an awkward position, they soon take off again, to resettle elsewhere... the more so if being pursued by a collector! None were ever seen flying together, chasing each other, or otherwise interacting; all were solitary, although often not far apart in the habitat. They seem to be very much restricted to certain favored areas within these extensive sandhills. (A detailed description of these areas of maximum concentration will be given below.) Some of the females are being kept alive; it appears that they remain completely inactive at night, although more observations are needed. It is hoped that at least one of them might be induced to oviposit in captivity. Special jars have been set up for them, containing fine-sifted sand and a few dry stems from the habitat.
HABITAT: The whole sandhill area directly to the south and southwest of Lot 68 (which is at the southwest corner of the Drummond Cove settlement) could be considered the center of this population; I have now encountered them in many places within this general area. But they clearly have a preference for specific microhabitats; individuals encountered outside these favored areas were few in number, and all of these were the more active males. It is probable that females do not disperse far from where they emerged (and thus where their larvae were). The males are mostly seen in these same places as well. However, they do stray farther away during the mid-day peak of activity, when some high-flying is taking place (around 1100 - 1300 hours, if entirely sunny).
All "preferred" areas have thus far proven to be the bottoms of the narrow vales between the (mostly) north-south aligned sandhills and ridges. These locations exhibit a distinctive community of numerous dense and low , clump-forming bushes (or dead bush tangles), interspersed amongst other larger (but not densely-spaced) bushes, such as the dominant Acacia ligulata Benth, the largest plant of this habitat. A feature of the (dry) annual grass and weedy cover is also important: In these preferred areas it is always rather low -- not much over 15 inches tall at the most, usually lower (usually in the 6 to 12 inch range), and it is much trampled down and partially-flattened by now (early summer), due to the abundance of bush kangaroos (euros) in this locality. Only where the dry annual grass is protected by being closer to the shrubs is it still remaining mostly upright. The dry grass seeds are perhaps 50% fallen by now, but many still remain attached and are a great annoyance when getting caught in the net! The annual (winter-growing) grass has been dead and brown in this locality for about 5 to 6 weeks now, the last major rains of late winter/early spring having tapered off by early September, about 9 weeks ago (the usual cycle here). This year, however, after the grass was already dead, there were 2 or 3 late and fairly heavy rains (very unusual) -- and it has been cooler than normal for the late October - mid November period this year.
The soil of these dunes is all fine-sandy, with only minor amounts of organic debris accumulated, mostly in the low-lying vales. The sand is thus darker (gray-brown and dusty) in these vales, becoming more nearly clean and white as one climbs up the wind-blown slopes and onto the ridges. Throughout the area, the sand is soft, and never forms a crust when dry; also, there are no rocks in evidence anywhere close to the surface here (except 1-2 miles further inland, where limestone is exposed or barely sub-surface). The presence of Templetonia retusa (Fabaceae) throughout the area is another limestone indicator. These dunes are mostly stabilized by an abundance of plant-cover, both perennial and annual; there is no bare or shifting white sand in the areas preferred by the nemopterids -- also, no rock and thus no ledges or small caves, etc.
On November 19th, I also investigated some sandhill vales that had been burned out recently, in March, 1973. In these areas, the dry annual grass was much taller and more luxuriant (about knee to waist-high). Not a single Chasmoptera was found in any of these tall grass situations. If they had been here before, the larvae might have been fire-killed(?)....
The most productive vales for Chasmoptera adults (including females) were characterized by the following dominant plants: Acacia ligulata Benth. (widely-spaced, not growing in close or dense formations); clumps or "bowers" of Tetragonia amplexicoma (Miq.) Hook. (Aizoaceae), dense and tangle-forming; Ptilotus divaricatus (clumps); Acanthocarpus preissii (scattered throughout, in solitary clumps and groups); Zygophyllum (tangle-forming); Clematis (dense tangles, scrambling over other low shrubs and also climbing up into the acacias); Threlkeldia diffusa (dwarf chenopod shrub); Rhagodia baccata (mostly separate bushes); Boerhavia chinensis (L.) Aschers. & Schw. (spreading, open "clumps"); and occasional tangles of Cassytha (?)pubescens, binding and parasitizing various bushes. There are, of course, numerous other plants in these dunes, but the above-listed spp. stand out as dominants in all the areas of maximum Chasmoptera concentration observed to date.
I believe the condition of the dry grassy cover (as above-described) is of some importance. This could be another "indicator" of the best locations for this insect. Very little bare sand was present in any of the favored locations. Nearly all of these lower areas are well-covered by dried annual grasses, except for small patches of bare sand here and there. Up on the sides and ridges of the sandhills, there is much more open space and bare whitish sand.
Good phenological indicators for the correct time are as follows: The annual grasses are all dried up and dead now, but the seeds are only about 50-60% fallen; the Tetragonia is abundantly covered with its small and soft blackish-purple ripe fruits, and a few of the small yellow flowers are still visible; the Ptilotus is at peak-of-bloom and attracting numerous wasps and bombyliids; the Clematis is in full fruit, but not yet blown away (nearly dry); the Zygophyllum is full of dry, pale brown fruits nearly ready to fall (often rattling in the wind); the Boerhavia is both in flower and fruit (some of the sticky fruits beginning to come off now when contacted, but mostly still green); the Rhagodia is just past peak of flowering and a few with their small, bright red (ripe) fruits are in evidence. The whole habitat (and the soil) looks very dry, with most of the woody perennials now going into dormancy.
As well as the above-noted abundance of large spiders and their orb webs everywhere throughout these vales, the most conspicuous insects flying here at present are a couple of large black wasps, and 2 or 3 spp. of smaller, black-and-orange sand wasps (Ammophila?). These latter are sometimes distracting as they trail (down below their bodies) their conspicuous hind legs in flight. However, their flight is stronger and more direct than that of the nemopterids. Mutillids (flying males) are also common (2 black spp.). Bushflies are numerous and annoying: It is a great help to use a spray-on fly repellent around one's eyes and face, because even the least distraction (like a fly buzzing before the eyes) makes it almost impossible to focus and keep up the absolute concentration required, both to spot these nemopterids and then to visually follow them until they resettle and can be netted. It could be said that the fly-spray was my most important aid in the successful netting of the 87 adult nemopterids collected to date! [David Gray's "SCRAM" was the brand I most often used; an application would last about 2 to 3 hours. Most of the spray was applied to the underside of the hat rim, not on the face.]
On November 19th, between 1230 - 1345 hours, my wife (Dienie) came along to visit Coronation Beach, a locality similar to Drummond Cove, about 8 miles north up the coast from here: 100% sunny, warm (high 70's or low 80's °F), and windy. We first searched along the beach Spinifex belts for about 10 minutes, and then for about 20 minutes further back from beach (behind the first ridge), in a habitat fairly similar to Drummond Cove (much Clematis, Acanthocarpus, Ptilotus, and dry annual grasses, etc.): But no sign of any Chasmoptera here. There was a major soil difference here, however: it was more compacted (less soft sand), and the limestone was close to the surface in some places.
COLOR-DESCRIPTION OF LIVING ADULTS: As with most adult Neuroptera, it is worthwhile to record a living color description of the head, eye color, thorax, abdomen, and legs; these often discolor to some degree after death, usually becoming darker and/or greasy, once the specimens have been pinned and dried.
Living female: head -- yellow-cream; dark areas black. Eyes translucent pale gray (changing to light gray-brown when dead). Antennae black. Thorax/abdomen: All pale regions are pale cream and all have a fairly strong (but narrow and slightly broken) undulate medium-brown line running from about A2 to A6 in the subdorsal or upper lateral zone. This is strongest on A3-4-5 or 5-6 (usually). Dorsum all dull black, but for narrow dark brown cross-bands between or caudally edging some segments (esp. A6-7-8). Variable and small paler spots in mid-dorsal region are pale cream like the sides. A pair of black subventral lines run from A1-A6, diverging and narrowing slightly toward their caudal ends. All abdominal setae short and jet black. Some of the lateral and ventral prothoracic setae colorless or pale. Legs mostly medium ash-gray to light sooty-gray; pale cream basally; setae black.
The wings were not described, because they do not change color much after death, except for one point worth noting: In most neuropterous adults I have collected (over the past 45 years), I have noticed that black maculation on the wings almost invariably fades to some shade of brown over time. This is a very slow and subtle (easily overlooked) change, but comparisons of fresh and old pinned specimens of the same sp. will demonstrate this point, more often than not. (Confusion of interpretation could arise in a few cases where the maculation was originally dark or pale brown in the fresh material, rather than black...) The dark areas of the expanded distal end of the Chasmoptera HW., are a pale or translucent black; in some specimens, almost a translucent blackish-brown; the veins in this area are jet black and stand out in contrast with the less intense blackish ground color. Translucent whitish at base of expanded area and on the apical projection. Shaft of HW. (all the narrow, basal two-thirds of HW) mostly sooty or pale blackish, with black setae; on the apical projection setae are pure white to colorless. These wing colors apply to both sexes. FW. stigma translucent sooty and inconspicuous in both sexes. Living Male: All body colors as above described for female, except that the brown upper lateral line is thinner and less noticeable (very weak in some); lateral area of the neck-like prothoracic extension tends toward pale yellowish in some, or yellowish cream. Legs as in female.
20 November 1973 (1230 - 1315 hours): 100% sunny and very warm; also windy. Checked two other nearby localities far to the SE. and SSE. of Lot 68, Drummond Cove -- one being Lot 132 on Beatie Road, and the other being the eastern inland edge of the coastal sandhills (up on top), opposite or west of Hagan Road and the main highway (Glenfield district), about 1 mile SSE. of Drummond Cove. No sign of any adults flying at all, in either of these places, although the weather and conditions were ideal; if they were present, I would have seen at least one or two. The first-named place is a typical Banksia prionotes + Acacia spp. association, on fine yellowish sand. The surface here was now baked hard, unlike the soft Drummond Cove sandhills, and most of the plants here are different, although the short to medium height dry grass and scattered low, dense shrub cover is comparable physically. The Glenfield sandhill area is very similar to that just south of Lot 68 (where they are common), but it is at least half a mile inland from the ocean, whereas the area(s) of maximum nemopterid concentration all seem to be quite close to the beach. The best area is, in fact, only about 200 feet in from the water's edge, behind (east of) the first low sandhills bordering the beach, these hills being only about 5 to 15 feet in height.
21 November 1973 (1355 - 1445 hours): 100% sunny and hot (well into the 90's°F), with strong and gusty hot east winds. This was the first really hot day of the summer season this year (unusually late in arriving), and was also the first day having an intense drying effect in the hot east wind. Days like this occur frequently throughout the summer (November through March). Within seconds of entering the sandhills, I caught one male flying in the wind up near the top of a ridge. I then descended to the "best" area (as above-defined). Here they were flying in fair numbers, still mostly very fresh and perfect specimens. Within 40 minutes, I had taken 5 females and 7 males and saw about 5 more that evaded capture. Most were resting in the sun on low vegetation and were quick to fly up when approached. A few were seen flying about. The proportion of females taken today was nearly double that of any previous date. I also found one fresh male that had been recently trapped in a spider web (Nephila sp.), with one of the small attendant-male spiders feeding on it. It had only just been killed a few minutes before I got there.
My amazement continues over the sight of these seemingly frail, soft-bodied insects flying about in the almost furnace-like heat of this very dry and windy habitat, at the height of the midday heat! And always in the full sun! One would imagine, to look at them, that they might be nocturnal, or at least crepuscular. They are apparently 100% diurnal, however. (Observations on captive specimens at night have also strengthened this conclusion.) I doubt that individuals live for more than a few days (at most); the abundance of fresh and perfect specimens every day is no doubt due to an extended or continuing emergence. Also, on nearly every hunt (today included), I keep encountering more teneral specimens.
OVIPOSITION (in captivity): Eight females have been confined for eggs since about November 17th, onward. As could be expected, the "slender" ones have deposited only a few eggs (usually under 10), while plump looking and obviously gravid individuals have deposited (up to) as many as 46 eggs. I now have more than 100 eggs, mostly from only 3 females. Each female was placed (alone) in a 4'' x 4'' x 5'' glass jar, having in the bottom about 1/2 inch of very finely sifted dusty-dry sand from the favored habitat. The fine sifting assures that the eggs are easily discovered and retrieved when checking the sand periodically. It greatly helps to use dark sand (containing powdery organic matter from beneath shrubs), as the eggs are pure white and hard to see in the paler (clean) sand. It was at first thought necessary to provide dry grass stems for the females to rest upon, but this only increases the chance of breaking off one (or both) HW. tips, as the captive flutters about in the jar. She is quite happy resting solely on the fine sand, in an otherwise entirely empty jar. This assures oviposition plus a perfect specimen in the end. It was also thought that perhaps the female might need to oviposit onto dry stems or other detritus -- that dry sand alone would fail to provide the correct stimulus. This theory was quickly proven wrong. The eggs have been deposited singly, at varying depths in the sand (mostly not very deep, but just subsurface). A few were even dropped on the surface. There is no evidence whatsoever of any adhesive or "glue" on the egg surface, and it appears that they are just quickly and easily dropped.
I am guessing that the females may drop their eggs over the fine sand and litter beneath the low, dense shrubs upon which they are often seen resting. But for the first female encountered, which landed fortuitously before me on open ground, all others have been seen either fluttering close to the ground and low plants, or at rest upon stems of low shrubs or grasses, or landing upon these after short flights. The same also applies to males seen thus far, with the exception that males are often inclined to fly much higher up in the air for short distances, and thus are often seen "dancing" in the wind during their peak of mid-day activity.
As the chorion of the eggs is rather soft (easily dented or broken), they would almost certainly be killed if dropped on, or deposited too shallowly in, sun-exposed hot sand. As there are no potholes or rock ledges (in fact, no rocks of any sort) in this purely sandhill habitat, it seems likely that the oviposition sites would have to be in deep shade beneath the dense (but well-ventilated) tangles of low woody plants. I would guess they are using the Tetragonia clumps ("bowers," in fact), or the Zygophyllum clumps and the Clematis tangles; the latter often scramble over the woody lattice-work of various dead or dying low shrubs, binding them together. Whether the females actually penetrate these bowers to oviposit into the sand, or simply land on top and drop the eggs down through the tangles, remains to be learned... The fine, dry sand under the bowers always remains cool, or receives only small passing spots of broken sunlight, and the wind has little or no effect inside these chambers, due to the density of surrounding and overhead cover.
All evidence in captivity indicates strictly diurnal oviposition by the females -- and furthermore, only after a period of warming up in the morning sun. Most eggs were deposited between 1100 - 1600 hours (indoors, in the strong light of an east window, after a period of early morning sun exposure). Actual oviposition was never observed, but the time was easily learned by frequently checking the sand for new eggs. All confined females had deposited most of their eggs within one day; two carried on into the second day, producing only a few more eggs. No attempt was made to keep most of these adults alive any longer than two days, as they were desired for specimens. By the second day the abdomens were greatly shrunken; desiccation and weakness were already evident. One early attempt was made to induce the first confined female to feed on a honey-water solution soaked into cottonwool. She appeared to do so, "working" persistently at the cotton ball with her mouthparts, and making considerable head movement. However, she died the next day nevertheless, so the fluid (if even taken ?), had little lasting effect, or may not have been a suitable food.... I think they probably die within a day or two after completing oviposition, although I have no clear evidence that they may not be feeding on something in the habitat whilst in the adult stage. However, everything out there is incredibly dry, and they were never seen visiting flowers.
EGG: 1.25-1.20-1.15 x 0.80-0.75 mm.
These eggs are relatively large for the size of the insect. There are only two clear cut dimensions: maximum length x maximum width.
They are elongate (elliptical), but slightly rounded; that is, the sides are not parallel. Shape and proportions vary, some being more elongate than others. The first 3 measurements given above (1.25 - 1.15 mm.) represent the extremes of variation in maximum length seen, with 1.20 being the most common maximum length. Chorion rather soft and easily broken (a few were damaged during handling). Surface showing no obvious sculpturing (lines, ridges, pits, granulations, or grooves, etc.) at low-power magnification, but I was only using a hand lens. Surface smooth, but with no gloss or shine. Color whitish or slightly cream-white and faintly translucent, but not transparent. No pattern or markings of any type, and no variation in shading or color intensity from one end to the other.
Late November - mid December: The eggs have gradually darkened as incubation continues. The relatively minor color changes were as follows: at first whitish → then to cream-tan → then developing pale brownish markings that show through from the inside; ground color pale tan. By December 14th, all were showing faint (internal) maculation, with a pale to medium-tan ground color, and many were partially collapsed or dented (but still viable). Prior to hatching, a darkish gray-brown coloration could be seen through the semi-translucent shell. As in the eggs of many lycaenids, just prior to hatching (or perhaps for the last several few hours?), the chorion again becomes all white and opaque, as the last moisture on the surface of the larva inside "dries away," and close contact with the shell is then lost or withdrawn. Many of these empty shells were preserved as dry specimens.
FIELD NOTES (continued)
On the night of 21 November 1973, a thunderstorm developed about 21-2300 hours (temperature still warm) -- most unusual for this time of year. It rained heavily, on and off, for about an hour. Next morning, it was warm and sunny again. I was unable to visit the habitat this morning (Nov. 22nd). By midday, heavy thunder clouds were again forming. A heavy, but brief (5-10 minutes) downpour developed between 15-1600 hours. By 1630 hrs., the clouds were breaking up. I visited the best Chasmoptera location at 1700 hours. The sun was shining strongly through the clouds, temperature low 80's (°F), with considerable gusty wind from the east. By 1710, clouds were again blocking the sun, and this continued for about 20 minutes. All during this cloudy spell, I continued to search among the rain-washed (but now nearly dry) low bushes and dead grass: No nemopterids were seen. Then the sun broke through (for about 10 minutes) around 1730 hours, and almost immediately I began to see them flying around, low to the ground and over bushes, or hovering/fluttering, etc., or flying up in response to my approach. Six were seen in this ten-minute sunny period, of which I caught 3 males, all very fresh and perfect. After clouds again obscured the sun, I continued searching for another 15-20 minutes, but could find no more in flight, and so returned to the house. [Sunset was close to 1900 hours on this date.]
23 November 1973 (1035 - 1150 hours): Sunny, warm (high 70's °F); the air noticeably more humid than usual. Also unusual has been some low and patchy coastal fog, rolling in from time-to-time during the morning (only about 100 feet up in the air); also scattered higher clouds, with some thunderheads forming to the east (inland). Most evidence of yesterday's short but heavy cloudburst is now essentially gone. (Everything is extremely dry, as before.) During this time period, most of the nemopterids seen were either at rest on dry grasses or twigs of low shrubs, or making short, dancing flights from one resting location to another. They were much in evidence in the "best" spot. I was able to catch 5 females and 7 males, and saw about 8 or 9 more that got away (at least two of which were females). They became entirely quiet whenever clouds obscured the sun, but immediately resumed activity during each sunny spell. Again, as on all previous days, nearly all were perfect and apparently "fresh" individuals, but no tenerals were seen today.
This phenomenon (almost never any worn or battered specimens encountered) seems to me an indication of a short adult life-span of only a few days. They seem rarely to reach sufficient age to evolve into a tattered or worn condition. This may also indicate survival only on stored reserves, with little or possibly no feeding; maybe a little drinking, if dew is available in the early morning hours (?). Never has one been seen doing anything that looked even remotely like drinking or feeding, however. (I have observed over 120 individuals in the habitat to date, and at all hours between sunrise and sunset.) No pairs have been found in copulation, but this would probably be a remote chance; it is likely that they do not fly up when mating, even if closely approached.
27 November 1973 (1505 - 1550 hours): Temperature reached the 90's (°F) earlier today, and was noticeably humid (for here). Patchy low clouds came in at about 1300 hours off the ocean (really a high fog, but it remained very warm). In this 45-minute period, I netted 8 specimens (only one was a female), and saw about 2 or 3 others that got away. Again, all were fresh and perfect and one male was teneral. Since November 23rd, a couple of days have reached (or surpassed) 100 °F. I was unable to visit the habitat on either of those days. But from today's catch, it appears that the flight is still going strong.
2 December 1973 (1125-1210 hours): Temperature in high 70's (°F) with a strong but gusty east wind; air very clear and dry. We have had several cool days and unusually chilly nights (for this time of year) since November 27th. I was not able to check the habitat since that date. Today I revisited all of the best areas, and the weather conditions were "ideal," but only one male (again fresh and perfect) was caught, and one other was seen flying, but missed. No others were even seen during the entire search.
12 December 1973 (1100 - 1205 hours): Temperature in low 80's (°F); wind from SW (not strong in protected areas ); patchy clouds, but mostly sunny. I spent a full hour searching intensely for adults in the best areas, but found none whatsoever. The flight is apparently over! Will check again during January and February, however, to see if there might be any later emergences through the summer (which I doubt). Today the habitat was "tinder dry," and the wasps and bombyliids mentioned earlier were also less common, but some were still present. Other phenological clues: The Tetragonia shrubs are now losing their fruits; those still clinging are black and shriveled or wrinkled (no more soft, smooth, plump ones); leaves now pinkish or purplish-tinged. The Zygophyllum fruits are now totally dry and mostly fallen from the shrubs; those still remaining attached rattle conspicuously in the wind. Ptilotus flowers are all dead and dried up.
FIRST INSTAR LARVAE
16 December 1973: The first egg hatched sometime today. This was one from the first-confined female (eggs of 18 November 1973); thus it took 28 days to hatch at natural temperatures of the habitat. The rather soft and easily-collapsed empty chorion remains notably whitish (semi-opaque). The end was pushed open, but had a ragged or "torn" appearance (no indication of any preformed ring-of-weakness or operculum).
17 December 1973: Numerous larvae hatching today (all from eggs deposited on 18 November 1973, which were from the first two females); thus the majority took 29 days to hatch. Slight humidification seems to help during the last few hours, to enhance successful eclosion. Some eggs left in open tubes had shriveled up and died before hatching. All eggs from the 3rd and 4th females hatched on 18-19 December 1973. No count was made. On December 19th, we had to leave for a two-week trip to Adelaide, over the Christmas/New Year period. During this time, all the new larvae were simply left inside small tubes and vials (some separated as singles and others together, several per tube), in a cool and dimly-lit room (no food or moisture offered). Upon return on January 9th, all were found to be still "going strong," and with no evidence of any cannibalism amongst those which had been confined together.
I was unable to find anything they would accept as food, nor would they settle down on either sand, or smooth, rough, or firm twig and dry leaf surfaces! They didn't show any interest whatsoever in burrowing into (or even just under) the fine dune sand from the habitat, which was provided in each tube. However, in those tubes where litter (bits of dry grass or leaves, etc.) was present on top of the sand surface, they eventually settled under or adjacent to these and sat quietly for short periods. On the whole, however, something important appeared to be missing, and they were obviously not "pleased" with any of the offered substrates. Even in the litter-filled tubes, they regularly kept wandering again (trying to get out), or would wedge themselves awkwardly down into crevices, trying to force their way through them, etc. By late January - early February, all were dead. Unfortunately, due to other obligations, I had little time to devote to them during this critical starting period. I am certain that the problems could be overcome, if this rearing were to be attempted again, and if a suitable food source could be obtained at the outset. (Psocids and tiny spiderlings were tried; no aphids were available at the time.) One larva did clamp its mandibles onto a slightly-crushed small spiderling, and did suck some of it (the abdomen swelled noticeably). Then it died later, nevertheless ....
Locomotion was rather clumsy on dry sand ("tottering" or "stumbling"); they were more steady on litter. They were never seen to move backward like myrmeleontids; forward only, and fairly fast. The (semi-adhesive?) tip of the abdomen was used in a way reminiscent of chrysopid or coccinellid larvae (or this was attempted where the substrate would permit). But they showed no inclination to climb up amongst the provided leaves or twigs. This use of the abdominal tip did not seem to relate logically to living in dry sand; perhaps they live in or on the surface-litter, which is exceedingly abundant and varied on top of the sand in their habitat. It may be that some very specific type of "litter-niche" is preferred (or even vital?) during the first instar.... The densely hairy covering (especially of the abdomen) on these newly-hatched larvae is very striking (and, again, would not appear to enhance life in the sand). The hairs are pale cream to colorless, straight and erect, shiny, soft and dense; varying in length (not equal or felt-like).
From the appearance of the head and cervical region of these first instars, I am inclined to believe that the "presumed larva" of C. hutti, as illustrated by W.H. Matthews (1947), was indeed a (final instar?) Chasmoptera larva. (He never succeeded in rearing to maturity the ones he found, and so was guessing.) There is no evidence of any forebody or cervical elongation in my larvae, and the head shape compares favorably, in its proportions and the rather massive mandibles, with the Matthews photo (which is not very sharp). Sometime in February, I hope to be able to devote some time to sand sifting in the "favored" locations within the general habitat (where adults were concentrated and many females were seen). This might produce some larvae ....
The HABITAT (January - February 1974): On several ideal mornings, in both January and February (this being February 26th), I have revisited the favored areas and searched carefully for more adults, but no more have been seen since the first week of December, 1973. We are now into mid summer. Today is sunny and warm, with faint winds. Very few insects are on the wing now, aside from one fast and low-flying blackish bombyliid with broad, all-black wings (no pattern), and a white line on either side of thorax just above the wing bases, and conspicuous, dense white tufts behind (and in front of) the halteres. The behavior of this fly is quite unlike any other beefly in this habitat: The almost continuous low and rapid flight, right through low bush tangles rather than over them, makes it difficult to net. (This meandering flight is reminiscent of male mutilids on the wing; it rarely lands.) Another conspicuous phenological "indicator" now present in the habitat is a huge mid-summer asilid fly (Phellus sp.), conspicuous at a time when little else of large size is on the wing (other than a few dragonflies). Phellus is wary and extremely hard to approach; it typically lands amongst tangles of snags (dead branches) on Acacia ligulata, usually rendering an accurate net swing impossible.
Summary of the 1973 catch of Chasmoptera (NEM. 1) adults: A total of 92 males and 22 females (pinned) and a few (4-5) males papered. Of the pinned series, dates were as follows: 11/15 (1 female); 11/16 (16 males, 1 female); 11/17 (9 males, 2 females); 11/18 (38 males, 7 females); 11/19 (5 males, 1 female); 11/21 (6 males, 4 females); 11/22 (3 females); 11/23 (7 males, 5 females); 11/27 (7 males, 1 female); and 12/2 (1 male). Of these, I kept 40 males and 10 females (many of which were later given away). The rest were dispersed to various individuals or museums (see page 24).
A note re. the hours recorded: The State of Western Australia initiated Daylight Savings Time in October, 1974 (clocks set ahead one hour). As we were not yet on DST in 1973, those hours were recorded in W.A. Standard Time; for the sake of exact comparison, I have translated all of the 1974 hours recorded below to Standard Time as well --( i.e. , one hour back from the actual 1974 clock readings, in order to compare exactly with the above 1973 notes).... Future researchers should add one hour to all of my readings here recorded, if desiring to translate them to Daylight Savings Time.
NOTES on the 1974 season (adults):
Prior to November 21st, I was occupied with other jobs (at Howatharra Hill Reserve), and did not get around to searching for Chasmoptera as early as I had hoped to do this year, in order to establish the beginnings of the flight season (presumed to be between late October and early November, and probably varying somewhat from year to year).... On November 21st, I walked briefly through the habitat at 1600 hours (W.A.S.T.), and saw only two males (sunny-windy).
22 November 1974 (0930 - 1130 hours, W.A.S.T.): Warm and sunny; a strong and constant wind blowing from the south, with varying gusts. Caught 16 males and 4 females and saw at least another 15 which evaded the net (with the help of the wind). One of the females was conspicuously plump (gravid). Within 18 hours, she had deposited 23 eggs in fine sand inside a glass jar.
25 November 1974 (0915 - 1115 hours, W.A.S.T.): Warm (low 70's °F), full sun, and extremely windy from the E. and SE., with variable and violent gusts. Netted 5 males and 6 females, and saw close to 10 others that escaped by "riding" on the wind. Of the females, three were apparently plump with eggs and were kept alive; I also photographed two of these and one living male, in order to document the typical resting positions seen when they are clinging to stems.
Phenological notes on the habitat: Prominent plants in bloom (in fact, about the only ones) on November 25th were Ptilotus divaricatus (in full bloom); Boerhavia (well under way, but past peak); Rhagodia baccata and Tetragonia both still in bloom, but past peak The latter is now covered mostly with fruits in all stages of ripeness, but unripe fruits predominate; also quite a few fruits are already fully ripe, at which stage they are nearly black and soft-fleshy, producing a dark reddish-purple juice when crushed. The common name of this plant is well chosen: "Bower Tetragonia" (see Blackall and Grieve, 1974). The Zygophyllum fruits are now mostly tan and dry, but have not yet fallen; some are still green. As in 1973, the early summer habitat is already very dry, with all annual grasses completely brown and dead. Most of the small shrubs are approaching dormancy, or are already dormant. This spring has been unusually cool, with numerous very chilly nights right up to the present date.
27 November 1974 (0830 - 1050 hours W.A.S.T.): Very warm (80's °F), with gusty warm winds from the east and north. Netted 8 females and 11 males during this hunt, and about 6-8 others were seen but not captured. They were not so much in evidence during the first hour of searching, but were encountered with far greater frequency during the last hour, by which time it was getting quite hot, and the wind had died down to just an occasional gust. At about 1030 hours, a teneral female fluttered weakly out of a Tetragonia "bower" and landed clumsily in some nearby grass. She was easily captured by hand. The wings were fully expanded and perfect, but still had the typical shiny-glassy appearance of all Neurop. wings when newly emerged. Also, the dark (distal) expansions of the HW's. were still pale (a smoky gray, by no means as dark as they would be in an older individual). The wings also had the usual softness typical of tenerals, and the venation was still pale in color. The abdomen was exceedingly plump -- more so than in most of the active females seen to date. After capture, I released her, and she flew (weakly) back to the nearest Tetragonia clump, on which she landed clumsily and fell down into it, disappearing from sight. Beyond all doubt, this was clear proof of a diurnal emergence time, most probably between 0830 - 0930 hours in the case of the this female.
This also gives more support to my theory that oviposition probably occurs over (or into) the shaded (cool) sand beneath the small shrubby "bowers" so typical of this habitat. These are most often formed by the large Tetragonia clumps (less often by other bushes, but sometimes by the Clematis tangles). These "bowers" are, in fact, miniature "rooms" or caves," in an otherwise hot, dry and windy habitat, lacking any rocks or ledges (or other sources of overhead shade). Although sand sifting has been undertaken for several hours, at three different locations beneath these Tetragonia bowers, no larvae have been discovered to date. This was tried in April - May 1974, and once again in early October 1974, but the total time involved in sifting has not been much more than three hours, so this is hardly a fair test, considering the extent of suitable habitat in this location.....
29 November 1974 (0910 - 1025 hours, W.A.S.T.): Warm (high 70's °F), with a steady and cool wind from the south; full sun. During this search, I netted 4 males and 5 females; also saw about 4 - 5 others that got away. And two males were found in spider webs (the large Nephila webs so common in this habitat during the summer). In both cases, they had been silk-wrapped and drained by the spiders. These were two separate webs, far apart, and both were at a height of 3 to 4 feet above the ground. As noted in 1973, spider webs are exceedingly abundant in this habitat, and yet the nemopterids are almost never found caught in them. I am constantly scanning these orb-webs as I move through the habitat. The Chasmoptera are easily spotted when in the webs, because their HW's (with expanded tips) are intact and project outside of the silk wrapping, even though the FW's and body have been wrapped up by the spider prior to feeding; the body is, of course, usually mangled by the spider's feeding activities. This year still more flying adults have been closely observed while carefully "negotiating" their way around or through these large and complicated webs, never even contacting the web or any of its many supporting strands or "tangles" in the process. It appears to be an entirely visual avoidance on the part of the nemopterid.
30 November 1974 (1020 - 1145, W.A.S.T.): Warm and sunny, with a cool and steady wind from the south, very strong at times. Only netted four females and one male in this search, and saw three or four others that got away, but I was not hunting very intensively for them today. It remains apparent that they only occur locally within this general sandhill habitat. The best indicator of the preferred niche appears to be the presence of Bower Tetragonia. In places where clumps of that dwarf shrub are common (especially in the small "valley" bottoms, or along the lower parts of the sandy hillsides), Chasmoptera is usually present, if not in fact locally abundant. Further indicators are the presence of other tangles or dense clumps (Clematis, Cassytha, etc.), and also the open areas between the bowers are usually well covered with short dried annual grasses. Where the vegetation is either too dense or too sparse, they are rarely present. Areas of recent disturbance, which have been bulldozed or burned, and have grown back thickly with rank weeds and taller grasses, are no good. They seem to concentrate in areas that have remained long undisturbed, with many well-formed and extensive shrubby "bowers" present. These dwarf shrubs, although small, are slow growers.
2 December 1974 (1010-1215 hours): Warm and sunny, but with a cool ocean breeze from the south (the typical weather pattern on most November days here). Eleven males and two females were netted, and about 6 or 7 others were seen flying. Of those that escaped, one was a teneral female encountered about 1145 hours, carefully approached and observed at very close range. I tried to take her by hand, but she flew off when I was about to grasp her two erect FW's. between thumb and finger. (This was stupid; I should have used the net!) A long search after this failed to relocate her. She was seen to be very pale brown in both body and HW tips, and the clear FW's were shiny to a notable degree. The abdomen was heavy with eggs and hung down during flight. It would be interesting to capture a fresh (teneral) female, and cage it in the habitat, to see if males would be attracted (possibly by scent?).... As this is one of the relatively few completely diurnal larger Neuroptera, detailed observations of the courtship and mating behavior should not be too difficult to undertake.
2 December 1974 (1255 - 1350 hours): Windy. Returned to search again for that "lost" teneral female, but no luck. However, very close to the same spot, I netted one semi-teneral male, at about 1305 hours. During the rest of this period, I netted two other males and saw several others that got away (too windy to chase them). One male was found stuck (by its FW's) to one of the sticky green ripe fruits of Boerhavia (a common plant here); the wings were so badly "gummed up" that they tore when I attempted to pull it free.
During the constant strong wind, a large male was seen vigorously flitting, just a few inches above ground, while facing into the wind. This was on a white, sandy firebreak, in the brilliant sunlight. It was able to proceed forward (in "dancing flits"), making steady progress in this manner, not being blown off course by the strong wind gusts. It still seems amazing to note how easily these frail insects are able to fly and maintain position in a strong wind. This one on the open firebreak was flying in the full blast of the wind, with no sheltering effect from any nearby bushes; being entirely out in the open, it was easily seen against the glaring white sand. The feature that most renders them observable is the black expanded distal portion of the HW, which is easily noticed during flight. If it were not for these black HW tips, they would be almost impossible to see. Then, upon landing, the rhythmic up-down HW. movement further draws attention to the expanded tips and, in fact, to the entire insect. They can even fly strongly and well if one of the HW. tips is broken off and the other remains intact, although surprisingly few in that condition were encountered (averaging perhaps one in ten to fifteen individuals). They are otherwise almost invariably fresh and perfect, not having even small tears or defects in the wing margins. This probably indicates a very short adult life span. And it still appears that they never feed as adults.
7 December 1974 (1235 - 1310 hours, W.A.S.T.): Cloudy and warm all morning (low clouds); clearing about noon, with a cooling wind from the south, but still warm (high 70's °F). Netted one female and three males; saw one other that got away. Their condition was perfect in every case, and the female was about half full of eggs. However, their overall abundance in the habitat is now clearly declining. Today (0700 hours) I took out a female that had been kept refrigerated since her date of capture, 29 November 1974 (inside a small, clean glass jar with no holes in the lid). She was strong and vigorous and showed normal behavior, flight, and resting posture, after being warmed up to room temperature; returned to the refrigerator again at 1700 hours.
10 December 1974 (1010 - 1055 hours, W.A.S.T.): Weather was sunny and warm with a cool wind from the south. Netted one female and one male and saw one other that got away. They are becoming quite scarce now. A fresh female of the common (large) local ascalaphid was also netted in the Chasmoptera habitat today. It was at rest in a low bush and flew up as I approached. It is being confined for eggs.
13 December 1974: The female nemopterid kept in the refrigerator (as noted above) died today or yesterday; thus it lived under refrigeration for about 9 or 10 days.
14 December 1974 (1245 - 1315 hours): Weather sunny and warm, with a cool wind from the south. During an intensive and careful search no more Chasmoptera could be located. The adult emergence season is now apparently ended for the year. Another fresh female of the large common ascalaphid was seen twice (at close range), but each time I was unable to net it, as it was so alert and quick to take off. It was at rest on a dry grass stem when first seen. When it flew up, it cruised around rather like a dragonfly, but soon landed again on another grass stem.
15 December 1974 (1130 - 1205 hours, S.T.): Weather as yesterday. During fully 40 minutes of searching no Chasmoptera could be found. But two more of the large ascalaphids were seen, and one (a male) was netted. It flew up from a low bush. On December 19-20, an intense (but short) hot spell occurred -- the first really hot weather of this early summer season; both days reached a maximum close to 108° F. In years when the first hot weather comes earlier, it is probable that the adult Chasmoptera flight also begins and terminates earlier.
Their peak of flight seems to be in that transitional period between late spring and the first few days of intense early summer heat, which essentially involves the whole month of November, in a typical year.
The various components of this investigation (pinned Chasmoptera adults, living adult photographs, first instar larvae, dry egg shells, and notebook pages) bear the "rearing code-number" of NEM. 1, and will be found in the South Australian Museum, Adelaide (c/-Jan Forrest), or the W. Australian Department of Agriculture, South Perth (c/-Kevin Richards). Adult specimens (128) have been gifted as follows: To -- (the late) Dr. Phillip Adams of California (9 males, 5 females); The Australian Museum, Sydney(10 males, 2 females); Bishop Museum, Honolulu (3 males, 1 female); British Museum (Nat. Hist.), London (4 males, 2 females); J. Cicero of Florida (3 males, 3 females); Los Angeles County Museum (Nat. Hist.), California (7 males, 1 female); National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne (10 males, 3 females); San Diego Nat. Hist. Mus., California (5 males, 5 females); South Australian Museum, Adelaide (10 males, 2 females); recently to Texas A. & M. Univ., Dept. of Entomology, c/-.D. Oswald (11 males, 2 females ); Univ. of Calif. (Ent. Dept. Museum), Riverside, CA , c/-Dr. Saul Frommer (10 males, 2 females); W. Australian Museum, Perth (15 males, 3 females).
I am indebted to Lou Koch and Terry Houston (W.A. Museum, Perth) for helpful discussions regarding the probable identity of this Chasmoptera. And I must thank Julie Klein (of Hereford, Arizona) for her expert handling of this rather trying manuscript, from "raw notes" to finished copy.
BEARD, J.S. (1970) -- A Descriptive Catalogue of West Australian Plants (2nd ed.). Sydney. Soc. for Growing Australian Plants (142pp.).
--------- (1990) -- Plant Life of Western Australia. Kenhurst, N.S.W.: Kangaroo Press (319 pp). ISBN 0 86417 2796.
BLACKALL, W.E. and GRIEVE, B.J. (1974) -- How to Know Western Australian Wildflowers, Parts I - III. Perth: Univ. of W.A. Press.
C.S.I.R.O. (1970) -- The Insects of Australia (see Ch. 29, pp. 472 - 494). Melbourne Univ. Press (1029 pp.).
GRIEVE, B.J. & BLACKALL, W.E. (1976) -- How to Know W.A. Wildflowers, Part 4. Perth: Univ. of W.A. Press
KOCH, L.E. (1967) -- The genus Chasmoptera (Neuroptera: Nemopteridae), with the description of a new species from W. Australia. Proc. Roy. Ent. Soc. Lond. (B) 36 (9-10): 137-146.
MATTHEWS, W.H. (1947) -- The Western Australian Naturalist 1: 43.
McFARLAND, N. (1972) -- Notes on describing, measuring, preserving, and photographing the eggs of Lepidoptera, J. Res. Lepid. 10 (3): 203-214.
--------- (1977) -- Introduction to Howatharra Hill Reserve near Geraldton, Western Australia, Geraldton Newspapers (booklet - 32 pp.).
--------- (1988) -- Portraits of South Australian Geometrid Moths. Lawrence, Kansas: Allen Press (400 pp.). ISBN 935868-32-1. [see pp. 235 - 243]
TILLYARD, R. J. (1926) -- The Insects of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney: Angus & Robertson (560 pp.).
Moth Study (CARTHAEA)
Sidetracked by Stapeliads!
HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE
The EARLY HISTORY of HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE near GERALDTON, WESTERN AUSTRALIA (1968-1988)
The Concept of So-Called "DEVELOPMENT"
HOWATHARRA: INTERPRETATION of the SPREADSHEET COLUMNS
HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE: ABOUT the "ZONES" CREATED FOR DOCUMENTING LOCATIONS on the Reserve
HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE: FLOWER COLOURS CODED
HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE: Comments on the PHOTOS in the GALLERY
MORE PLANT DOCUMENTATION NEEDED at HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE!
HOWATHARRA HILL RESERVE: BOTANICAL PHOTO GALLERY
FINAL COMMENT: The Fruits of "Progress"