Weevil or beetle?

Let me begin by admitting that my title question is misleading: weevils are different from most beetles in a very recognisable way but they are in fact still beetles, a family within the order Coleoptera which includes longicorns, elephant beetles and all the others.

Wikipedia informs us that Curculionidae, “the “true” weevils (or “snout beetles”) … are one of the largest animal families, with 6,800 genera and 83,000 species described worldwide.” It’s not surprising, then, that, “with so many species, a spirited debate exists about the relationships between subfamilies and genera,” (Wikipedia’s polite way of saying that the experts are still arguing).

CSIRO’s invaluable site says that weevils are, “Highly variable in form, but usually moderately to strongly convex, robust, heavily sclerotised and often clothed with scales or bristles. Head always more or less produced [i.e. extended] in front of eyes to form a rostrum, which is usually much longer than broad; antennae always geniculate [elbowed] with long scape and more or less compact club.” Many of those features can be seen in my photos of an individual I found in my garden recently:

weevil
Weevil on a frangipani branch

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Butterflies on display in Ayr

Ayr is a pleasant town in the canefields on the Townsville side of the Burdekin River. Townsville people generally know it only as a place on the way to somewhere further South, but every town has its attractions and the Ayr Nature Display is one which I should have found much sooner.

It is a family affair, created by Allan and Jess Ey in the 1960s and cared for by their daughter to this day.  As such, it’s a time capsule as well as a wildlife display, since both the “what” and the “how” of the display reflect attitudes towards collecting (and laws about collecting) which are very different from those of today.

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Sleepy midwinter butterflies

sleeping butterfly
Common Albatross, sleeping

The short days and cool weather of our winter don’t stop our butterflies completely but do slow them down. Numbers drop off, and their hours of activity shrink.  As I noted years ago, most of them find quiet spots by about 3.30 each afternoon where they can rest safely until the temperature climbs again on the following morning. The one in my photo is doing just that, but I only spotted it because I saw it land.

Do butterflies really sleep?

As this site says, it “depends on your definition of sleep. If you want to define sleep as an inactive, low metabolic state: yes.  This low metabolic state is often driven by the temperature in the air.” Butterflies are ectothermic (“cold-blooded”, except that they don’t really have blood) so they need external warmth for their activity.

An extension of their overnight “sleep” is the over-winter hibernation which carries adults of some species through a long period of low temperatures and limited food supplies, even here in the tropics.

Do butterflies dream?

Probably not – but how could we know?