Michael Patrikeev has been working on the identification of species he found at REGUA during his stay and has more news for us.
“I have identified another species for the reserve this time it is a giant black-blue spider-hunting wasp, which has very likely been seen when it was busily looking for its prey in the forest understorey. The size is impressive, 50-55 mm, and its sting is very painful, apparently scoring 4.0 on the Schmidt sting pain index, next to the bullet-ant (4.0+).
The species is Pepsis inclyta Lepeletier, 1845. It is “commonest in southern Brazil to central Argentina, but ranges over most of South America” (Vardy 2005).
Walking the 50km of trails at REGUA is fascinating for birders and naturalists alike. Altitudinal range spans 30 – 2000m and there is a richness of invertebrates and plants to match the diversity of birds that draws the majority of visitors to REGUA. All classes of arthropod are present in abundance and there are many interesting patterns of distribution waiting to be identified and investigated.
REGUA’s lodge garden has a roofed, whitewashed wall complete with mercury vapour lamp generating many new records of moths for the Reserve and for Rio State. The wall often reveals a wealth of other interesting invertebrates such as this Dobsonfly (Corydalidae). Many of these creatures are difficult to see in the forest probably because they are residents of the tree canopy.
In the forest there are chance encounters with exciting species such as the White Witch Moth (Thysania agripina) Noctuidae with a huge wingspan.
December to Febuary is the Brazilian summer and usually a hot rainy season and time of maximum plant growth. This is, of course, an excellent time for all insects and amphibians. Whilst August to November is the Brazilian Spring and busy for birdwatching, it is also good for insects. Only March to July are a little quieter.
There is a profusion of wonderful butterflies. Some, like the 88, (Diaethria clymena) are very common. The most famous neotropical butterflies belong to the Genus Heliconia, with their distinctive strap-shaped wings and bright colours. These insects were shown to have co-evolved with their food plant, the different species of passion-vine (Passiflora). The vines put out new shoots irregularly and the butterflies must live a long time to be able to search out new growth and lay a full complement of eggs.
Another spectacular group of insect are the various species of huge Morpho butterflies which flit through the forest under-storey.
Diptera are interesting and diverse. There are three common sources of food that can provide for a profusion of flies: dung, carrion and some species of freshly emerged fungus. Parasitoid ichneumonids and tachinids search out the larvae of butterflies and moths whose living tissues they will feed on until they finally cause their death.
Ants are predators, roaming leaf and shoot for opportunities or different species will farm leaves with the help of fungus.
Spiders must guard against predatory wasps and some of these are very large indeed.
Beneath the placid exterior of the forest, termites work to undo the conversion of CO2 to sugar; every now and then a crash is heard acr
oss the forest as another giant tree succumbs to their tiny jaws.
There is much work to do to find out how many species of arthropod exist in these rich habitats. We are only in the earliest of stages investigating how all these myriad species interact in Mata Atlântica.
REGUA received a visit by the eminent biologists Dr. David Redei and his colleague, Dr. Qiang Xie from Nankai University last December. Working in partnership with Brazil’s Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) and invited by Dr. Felipe and Dr.Elcio, they spent a day looking at REGUA’s insect life.
David and Qiang are working on phylogeny using morphological and molecular characters used in establishing taxonomic differences. David is classifying insects according to tribe, family and genus. Their interest in South America is evident once one knows that the continent has its own endemic and specialized insects. David’s specialty is Hemiptera or Stink bugs, but he became very excited to learn that REGUA has its fair share of Phloeidae, a family existing only in the Neotropics of the Atlantic rainforest. These are barnacle like insects that can be found mainly lurking on tree trunks in quality forest.
Now we will keep our eyes peeled to photograph and send images to these fascinating visitors. Thank you both for visiting and sharing your interests with us!
Tiger beetles are always exciting to watch as they prowl about searching for food before flying off like a jet fighter to disappear out of view.
They have characteristically large bulging eyes and large mandibles for crunching up their food.
Tiger Beetles come from the Cicindelinae family, originating from the Latin word of Glow worm since most are brightly coloured. Whilst this example looks similar to a Limestone Tiger Beetle, it is one of many different Cicindela sp.
Stick insects are enigmatic creatures, blending into the forest which often makes them hard to see but then surprisingly obliging in the hand. Their Portuguese name is bicho pau or branch bug, from its mimicry of brown twigs. They often waver from side to side, again mimicking the movement of the twigs around them.
The 3,000 species, found mainly in the tropics, are from the Phasmatodea order (they do look a little phantasmagoric) and the Phylliidae family (leaf insects) feeding mainly on leaves. They play an important role in the breakdown of organic matter.
They are not easily noticeable, but our nurseryman, Jailson, has a keen eye for something out of the ordinary and brought this example, which he found in the nursery, into the REGUA Conservation Centre. This particular species is referred to locally as ‘guava stick insect’, named after it’s preference for these fruit. As you can imagine this one foot long insect caused quite a stir with the students present on a course, and after climbing on a few human hands and being subjected to a number of photos, we returned it to a safe place, tucked away back in the nursery.
I’ve been inspired to write about a sighting just seven metres away from the REGUA office. What seemed to be a huge ant, never spotted here before, was photographed on a leaf. We currently have an inventory of ants being carried out by Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ) researchers. To my surprise, close examination of the antennae and feeding apparatus from the photograph revealed this ‘odd’ ant to actually be hemipteran bug – an incredible ant mimic!
It has been identified as the nymph (juvenile stage) of the Neotropical Soybean Bug Neomegalotomus parvus (Westwood, 1842) (HEMIPTERA: Alydidae), or Percevejo Formigão in Portuguese.
According to Costa Lima’s Insetos do Brasil, only the immature stages are ant mimics. Alydidae bugs, or other primitive coreoids, are closely related to Leguminosae. They are not species-specific to any Leguminosae and feed on different leguminous plants (Schaefer 1980, Schaefer & Mitchell 1983), including soy beans, with potential to reach pest status.
In the field, adults were found on carrion and faeces of animals. In a soybean field in Bela Vista do Paraíso, PR, N. Parvus were found aggregating (30 to 40 individuals) in dog faeces at the time of soybean harvest. Alydidae may feed on faeces or carrion under extreme conditions when their primary food source (legumes) is not available.
The ecological reason for why the nymphs are perfect mimics of ants is still unknown. So here is an interesting theme for research.
LIMA, COSTA. 1940. Insetos do Brasil. 2 Tomo, Hemípteros, ESCOLA NACIONAL DE AGRONOMIA, SÉRIE DIDÁTICA N.º 3, figs. + 351 pp.
VENTURA, MAURÍCIO U., JOVENIL J. SILVA & ANTÔNIO R. PANIZZI. 2000. Scientific Note: Phytophagous Neomegalotomus parvus (Westwood) (Hemiptera: Alydidae) Feeding on Carrion and Feces. An. Soc. Entomol. Brasil 29: 839-841.