Miridae? What are they?

Mirid on mango blossom
Mirid, Helopeltis sp.: the spike protruding from the back of the thorax is distinctive

After two years of wandering around my garden with a camera I don’t expect to find too many new species but last week I came across my first member of a whole new family: Miridae.

What are they? Hemiptera, or ‘True Bugs’, which are mostly sap-suckers. Shield bugs and the gorgeously-coloured Harlequin Hibiscus Bugs may be the most familiar members of the extended family.

Miridae is a very large family, with over 10, 000 known species; most are under 12 mm long and they often camouflage themselves in drab colours or, like the one I noticed, try to look like wasps so that predators leave them alone. Mine is one of the Helopeltis species, or Mosquito bugs, and would only be 4 – 5 mm long without its antennae.

I put the same photo up on Flickr and the spike surprised some Field Guide to Insects of Australia group members. See comments here, with links to photos of more spike-adorned Helopeltis.

(Apologies for a longer-than-usual gap in posting. A technical problem popped up last week and I didn’t have enough time to fix it until today.)

Ross River parklands

View of Ross River meanders at dusk
Ross River at dusk

In the past week I have found several opportunities to wander along the Ross River parklands near home in the late afternoon or early evening. Much of the stretch between Aplin’s Weir and the Bowen Road bridge is similar to what you see in the photograph above: a relatively narrow channel meandering between grassy mounds which are often under water in the Wet season, with a high bank on the Mundingburra side.

I wrote about the Sea Eagles and other birds not long ago, but there are insects to be seen as well. This afternoon’s haul was fairly typical for the time of year and time of day: one skinny green-brown sap-sucker (Hemiptera) on a shrub, one beautiful Glasswing perched head-high on a grass head, lots of tiny blue-brown Lycaenid butterflies ankle-high amongst the grass, and one orb-weaving spider hoping (no doubt) to catch some of them.

Glasswing butterfly
Lycaenid butterfly
Family: Lycaenidae