eastern Australia is
in the tropics
which means our
insects are generally larger than the insects of southern Australia.
We have Australia's largest
and butterflies, we have the large praying mantis and
colourful bugs, nasty mosquitoes, and mound building termites (you can
see their mounds everywhere in Cape York).
I don't aim to cover
every single insect or even insect group on this
page - only the ones that are more interesting for travellers.
have thicker bodies and hold their wings spread-out while damselflies
have more delicate bodies and hold their wings together above their
They are beautiful insects and in tropical north Queensland, we
have many species of both, most
often seen flying around rainforest creeks and waterholes.
We don't have kitchen cockroaches as much as they do down south (at
I used to have in my rented Sydney
We have some larger ones, such as the 4cm Australian cockroach,
4.5cm wood cockroach, 2.3cm bush cockroach and banded cockroach; and
the 7-8cm giant burrowing cockroach.
are obviously also termites in southern Australia, but as southern
Australia is cooler, termites don't need to build mounds (their purpose
In northern Australia, we have mound
rainforest, spinifex and giant termites.
have some beautiful, large praying mantids. They are some of my
favourite insects, you can look right into their large eyes. We have at
least four different species - the 4cm garden mantis, the 8.5cm giant
mantis, the 2.5cm leaf mantis, and the whopping 11cm stick mantis.
and stick insects can be even larger. They can be confused with the
mantids, but they lack the large front legs as they are herbivores (and
don't need them to catch the prey). We have the 16cm spiny leaf insect,
the 10cm peppermint stick, and at least one species of stick insect.
Crickets and Katydids (Orthoptera)
are not my favourites as they jump and they can bite. But my cat used
to love them! In tropical north Queensland, we have the 3.2cm monkey
grasshopper, the 3.5cm spotted and litter grasshopper, the 4.5cm
matchstick and dead leaf grasshopper, and the 8.5cm hedge grasshopper.
are related to grasshoppers, but they have longer antennaes and they
hold their back legs more spread-out. In tropical north Queensland, we
have the 1.2cm tree trunk crickets, the 2.8cm burrowing crickets, the
3cm northern field crickets, the 3.3cm mole crickets and the 8cm white
kneed king crickets.
also belong to the grasshopper family. The most
common to see in the tropical rainforest areas is the green
6.5cm leafy katydid (and it bites!). The other green one is the 4.2cm
predatory katydid. And then there are the brown, 9.5cm, prickly katydid, and
black-and-white, 2.7cm daytime katydid.
Beetles and Weevils
is the largest group of Australian insects, and in tropical north
Queensland we have too many species to list here. Some of the more
extreme looking ones are rhino
stag beetles and dung beetles. Some of the more common ones to see are
christmas beetles, particularly active around Christmas time.
are also beetles, but they look quite different with their long snout,
and their short, elbowed
antennaes. They are quite small, and they are not
very good flyers. In tropical north Queensland we have the 1.1cm
pipturus weevil, the 2.3cm cryptorhynch weevil, and the 2-3.5cm
brenthid and long nosed weevil.
and Cicadas (Hemiptera)
large group is bugs, some of which can look like beetles (most don't at
all), but they all have a triangular structure on their back (called
scutellum), you can see that in one form or another on all of them.
Again, there are too many to try to list them all here, but some of the
better looking ones are shield bugs, harlequin bugs and others.
are also a kind of bug, but they are very distinctive with their broad
heads, large eyes and long, transparent wings. But they are mostly
known for their sound - they are the ones responsible for the loud,
monotone screeching sound in rainforests. We have northern double
drummer, northern greengrocer, and green whizzer cicada.
and Mosquitoes (Diptera)
and flies belong to the same order, and like bugs, they eat by sucking
liquids. Some, like female mosquitoes and some flies suck blood. In
tropical north Queensland we have giant mosquito, common banded
mosquito, and the infamous dengue mosquito, aka tiger mosquito, that
carries dengue fever.
blood suckers here are horse flies and march flies. The rest in
tropical north Queensland includes house flies, bush flies, bristle
flies, blow flies, soldier
flies, robber flies,
flies, stalk eyed flies, and
to name some.
and Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
also have a lot of butterflies, and in far north Queensland we are
lucky to have Australia's largest butterflies - Cairns birdwing and
Ulysses. You can see them with some luck, but a good spot happens to be
Kuranda (also the home forAustralian
also have Australia's largest moth - hercules moth with a wingspan of
22.5cm! Others include splendid ghost moth, giant wood moth, north
Queensland day moth, Australian privet hawk moth, bag shelter moth,
fruit piercing moth, Joseph's coat moth and granny's cloak moth.
Wasps, Bees and Ants
bees and wasps are far less aggressive than European ones. In tropical
north Queensland we have flower wasps, cuckoo wasps, paper wasps,
digger wasps, potter wasps and ichneumon wasps; blue banded bees,
carpenter bees, and introduced as well as native honey bees.
Ants are related to wasps and bees (and not
termites that are incorrectly called 'white ants'). In tropical north
Queensland we have jumper ants, trap jaw ants, two species of meat
ants, and the beautiful green
that you can see almost everywhere.
some beautiful butterflies in Cape York.
only have the
variety, we also have the largest Australian butterflies in Cape York
and tropical north Queensland.
The most famous is the electric blue Ulysses butterfly, the largest is
the female Cairns Birdwing, and the most impressive is the monarch
butterfly - known as the master of world insect migration.
There are about 240 species of butterflies in this part of Australia,
and not all are on this page.
Browns and Nymphs
From this group we have Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus,
orange bushbrown Mycalesis
Cairns hamadryad Tellervo
common crow Euploea core,
tailed emperor Polyura
red lacewing Cethosia
and glasswing Acraea
We have copper jewel Hypochrysops
apelles, apollo jewel Hypochrysops
apollo, moth butterfly Liphyra brassolis,
common tit butterfly Hypolycaena
phorbas, small green banded blue Psychonotis caelius,
and blue banded eggfly Hypolimnas
Yellows and Whites
From the group of jezabel, yellow and white Australian butterflies, in
tropical north Queensland we have common jezabel Delias nigrina,
butterfly Delias mysis,
common grass yellow butterfy Eurema
hecabe, and lemon migrant butterfly Catopsilia pomona.
From this group of impressive Australian butterflies we have Cairns birdwing Ornithoptera priamus,
red bodied swallotail Atrophaneura
polydorus, green spooted triangle Graphium agamemnon
triangle butterfly Graphium
belong to the family Hesperiidae.
In tropical north Queensland we have regent skipper butterflyEuschemon
rafflesia, orange dart butterflySuniana
sunias, yellow palmdart butterflyCephrenes
trichopepla, and common red eye butterfly Chaetocneme beata.
you will come across in Cape York is green ants.
beautiful ants that
are green in colour, which works as perfect camouflage because they
live in trees.
They are found everywhere
in northern Australia and also other tropical
regions in the world such as south east Asia and central Africa.
In Australia, they are known to have been used as bush tucker and bush
medicine by Aboriginal people. They eat
including tree parasites, so they
are known to
be good for trees. They are very territorial and can be
aggressive to defend their territory.
And they can
also be aggressive to you. Their bite is not very painful
but can still
be annoying particularly if many of them drop onto you as you walk
Their nests are up in
the trees and easy to recognise so where you see
them expect the tree to be full of ants.
They build their nests by pulling living leaves together and cementing
them with silk produced by their larvae. If you happen to
building it's quite a sight as they co-operate to pull the leaves
some more green ant facts:
* World-wide they are more commonly called weaver ants, thanks
to the way they build their nests.
* They are 100% tree
dwellers and they aggressively defend their territory.
* As many as 100 nests
can make up a colony which can span several trees.
* Like many other ants they prey on other smaller insects.
* Like mentioned above, apart from Australia they are also found in
south east Asia and central Africa.
* There are two species
of the so-called weaver ants: the one found in central Africa is called
and the one found in Australia and south east Asia is called Oecophylla smaragdina.
* The longinoda
is yellowish to reddish brown, while the smaragdina is green
- which explains why in
Australia we call them green and not weaver ants.
* The Australian species is found in northern Australia,
between Broome in the west and Rockhampton in the east.
* World-wide, there are also 15
species of extinct weaver ants.
fossil species have been found, from as long as 56 million years ago.
* Like all other ants, and wasps - their close relatives, green ants
live in large colonies
with a Queen and workers. In the green ants colony there
are major and minor workers completing different tasks from defence to
* Like many other species of ants, they communicate using chemicals as
well as body language.
* The building of the
nests is a major effort involving hunderds of workers,
which was described by Joseph Banks, the botanist of Captain James Cook
during their visit to Australia (and very possibly during their stay at
today's Cooktown, which was their longest stay in one place).
beetles are some of the most impressive Australian insects, and the the
largest of all beetles on the Earth.
said, the species we
have in Australia are not among the world's largest, or even the
largest Australian insects.
world's largest rhino beetles can be up to 16cm long, the species found
in Australia only reach 7cm.
still impressive, with their Rhinocero looking horns that in fact only
the males have. The horns
are used for
fighting with other males and not for harming
you - their horns are
harmless to humans.
Neither can these insects sting or bite, and the only thing that you
should avoid are their sticky legs and the small claws in the end of
They are not aggressive
they do if you threaten or harm them, is a hissing noise produced by rubbing their abdomens against
very thick exoskeletons, they
despite their bulkiness, and they are known to be very
carrying objects many, many times their own weight.
The size of their horns can vary between individuals and is known to
indicate health and nutrition.
There are more than 300
species of rhino beetles in the world, and many species even within
Australia, but the
common one we see in Queensland is Xylotrupes
In southern Queensland it is seen during the summer months, while in
the tropical north, including Cape York, you can see them all year
They are not always very easy to see since they are nocturnal and hide
during the day. During the night they are attracted to lights.
You can increase your
looking in two of their favourite places - Poinciana trees,
tree in Ayton, south of Cooktown.
... and the nest mounds
They are attracted to rotten wood and mulch that they eat. Adults don't
eat nearly as much as larvaes, that are huge in size.
Like in many other insects,
larvae stage lasts longer than the
adult stage. In southern Queensland it takes the larvae up to two years
to become an adult, although that takes less in the tropical north.
The adult insects only live up to about four months.
certainly is full of termite mounds.
from overseas, it's
just one of the new things to you, if you are from southern parts of
Australia, it is unusual for you too.
Termite mounds are also found in tropical
climates in Africa and South America.
They are not found in
southern parts of Australia.
are termites there!
live in nests
that are under ground.
Even the mound building termites have a nest under ground, under the
The mound is built on the top of the nest for ventilation, so it makes
sense that the mounds
are built by termites that live in hot, tropical climates.
Inside the mounds, there is an extensive system of tunnels
that, together with the shafts that go down to the nest, create ventilation to the
The mounds come in different colours
depending on the soil,
which is used in construction.
They also come in different shapes
and that depends on the species
of termites (it sometimes also happens that a different mob of termites
may take over an abandoned nest and it may in fact be a different
You can observe them on your trip through Cape York. Some are tall,
some are thin,
others are short
and/or thick. Some are large,
are distinctive are Magnetic Termites.
They are also found
northern Western Australia, and Northern
Territory, where Litchfield
Park is well known for them.
They build nests that are thin in one way - to avoid sun exposure
during the hottest time of the day.
So their mounds are all lined in the same way, usually in the
You can see them in many
places in Cape York - along the Peninsula Developmental
National Park, along and near the turnoff into the
Lockhart River and Iron
Range National Park, and in many other places.
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This complete 300 pages
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background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my partner Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old Telegraph Track). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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