Day 3 - True Bugs

“Our team name is True Bugs and you guys can be False Bugs.”

Saturday, 1st December 2018

I must start with an admission. I had no idea what a ‘true bug’ was until today. I just thought that any sort of critter was a ‘bug’, but this is very incorrect.

It took Ryan and Nik quite some time to explain to me what a 'true bug' is, so I will now do my best to pass this information on to you...

True bugs belong to the sub-order Heteroptera.They have two pairs of wings. The top pair are half hard/leathery and half membranous (the end tip is membranous). THe back pair are completely membranous. They also have just one sucking mouth part (a rostrum) which they use like a straw. Most feed on plant fluids, but some feed on pollen, some on insects, and some even feed on the blood of mammals and birds.

After catching up on some sleep, post frogging adventures, Jane and I joined the invertebrate team in the afternoon and we headed to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The team today consisted of Ryan Shofner (UNSW), Nik Tatarnic (WAM), Olivia Evangelista (ANIC) and Luisa Teasdale (ANIC). We were in two separate cars (Ryan, Jane and I in one, and Nik, Olivia and Luisa in the other), and as we left Birrigai a call came over the radio from Nik: “We should have team names.” Ryan’s response was “our team name is True Bugs and you guys can be False Bugs.”

 Nik

Nik

 Olivia

Olivia

 Ryan

Ryan (note the aspirator in his left hand)

 Luisa

Luisa

The team showed me how to collect true bugs – with a ‘beating sheet’ and a ‘beating stick’. The idea is to hold the beating sheet under the vegetation, and use the stick to tap the vegetation, causing the critters in the vegetation to fall into the beating sheet. Then, you have a look in your beating sheet to see if any true bugs are in there. If there are, you use an aspirator (see above) to suck the bug into a vial. I was assured that the aspirator can only go ‘one way’ and I wouldn’t be sucking insects into my mouth.

 bug plan

Ryan and Nik discussing the plan

 demo

Ryan giving a demonstration of true bug collecting

I collected four specimens – three of the same type of true bug, and one of a different type. There were a lot of spiders, beetles, nymphs and caterpillars in my beating sheet, but they were not what I was looking for! I did also collect two different stink flies – these were collected directly into a vial, as Ryan warned me not to suck them up with the aspirator. I’ve smelled stink flies before, but I have zero desire to taste one! I have always called them ‘stink bugs’, but today I learned that they are not the same as stink bugs. I was, however, shown real stink bugs as Ryan found a pair on a tree. They were shooting him (rather accurately) with their stink! I could actually see it shooting out of them. And I could smell it. Wow! WHAT A STINK!

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Having a go at collecting.

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Stink fly!

Olivia located and showed me some spittle bugs – the nymph (the babies) live on trees in a big ball of ‘spit’. The sticky white substance protects them from predators.

 spittlebug

Spittle bug!

 spittlebug2

Look how sticky it is!

In addition to the true bugs that we were after, we also collected some specimens for other teams, including a large funnel web spider!

And… the cherry on top was seeing a platypus! We took a short break from searching for true bugs to admire it swimming in the pond – they are such amazing animals!

 platypus2

Platypus! This isn't an award-winning shot, but it is a photo of a (bit of a) swimming platypus nonetheless!

Tomorrow we will be heading in to Canberra for the Bush Blitz community day at the National Botanic Gardens. Stay tuned!