New Zealand Entomology/Diptera

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
[ 40 ]

CHAPTER V

The Diptera.

The next Order which comes under review is the Diptera, which includes all the two-winged insects, and constitutes a most extensive Order in respect to the number of distinct species. When, however, the numbers of individuals of the same species are considered, it is probable that this Order includes a greater proportion of the insect-world than all the others put together. The preponderance of these insects over the rest holds good with greater force in New Zealand than in many other countries, and this fact may be almost inferred from the large number of spiders present here, which are chiefly dependent on Diptera for their support. The important function of clearing away refuse matter is almost entirely performed by the members of this Order, as the Necrophagous Coleoptera and other scavengers which exist in such large numbers in many countries are practically absent here, and their work consequently devolves upon dipterous insects.


Group Nemocera.

Family Culicidæ.

Culex iracundus (Plate IV., fig. 1, 1a larva, 1b pupa).

The mosquito is only too familiar to every one from [ 41 ]its ceaseless attacks; it occurs almost everywhere, but is most abundant in marshy situations. The larva (Fig. 1a) inhabits all stagnant waters, where it may be found very abundantly throughout the summer, and when disturbed it plunges about with great agility. Its food consists of the numerous animalculæ swarming in all still waters during the greater portion of the year. These are captured by means of two curious anterior appendages, which are fringed with long hair, and pulled through the water like a fisherman's net; they are then withdrawn into the mouth and the contents devoured, the hungry insect again extending them for a fresh supply. These larvæ are generally seen suspended from the surface of the water by the curious air-tube which takes its rise from the penultimate segment of the abdomen, which is of considerable length. Its apex is armed with a row of stiff bristles, which effectually prevent the water from entering the spiracle there situated, so that the insect is enabled to respire when hanging from the surface, independently of any muscular action. It is also worthy of note that the intestine discharges itself into this tube, an arrangement which does not exist among the British species. After several moultings the transformation to the pupa state takes place. At this stage the insect (Fig. 1b) becomes much thickened anteriorly, this being the region of the head and thorax of the future gnat; all the limbs are easily detected on a close examination, as with lepidopterous pupæ. The upper portion is provided with two short appendages, fulfilling the same function as the air-tube of the larva, and which constantly support the pupa at the surface of the water. The terminal fins enable it to dash through the water with great rapidity when pursued by enemies; at other times it remains perfectly motionless, suspended from the surface of the water. It should be mentioned that none of these aquatic pupæ take any nourishment, neither have they any limbs properly [ 42 ]so called. Their locomotion, although in some cases unquestionably rapid, is entirely effected by violent motions of the abdomen. I have been careful to point out these peculiarities as these animals have been regarded by many authors as active pupæ on a level with those of the Orthoptera and Hemiptera. This opinion, however, is manifestly erroneous; the pupæ of the nemocerous Diptera are on precisely the same footing as those of the Lepidoptera, and it would be almost as reasonable to call one of these active, because it wriggles out of its cocoon in the earth before the emergence of the moth. The perfect mosquito emerges from a rent in the thoracic shield of the pupa, drawing each pair of legs out separately, and placing them in front of it on the water; the wings and abdomen are then extracted and in a few moments it flies away.

The bites of these insects appear to distress some people much more than others, probably owing to constitutional differences. I should mention that the females alone engage in these attacks, the males being quite harmless and subsisting entirely on honey, which is doubtless the natural food of both sexes. The male and female mosquito are readily distinguished, the specimen figured belonging to the latter sex; her companion is chiefly remarkable for his plumed antennæ and beautiful palpi, which are very long and gracefully plumed. As many of the harmless insects which will be investigated are often mistaken for this species, and destroyed accordingly, I should like to advise my readers that they may at once distinguish all the venomous species of gnats by their long, lancet-like proboscis and loud humming noise during flight.

Closely allied to this insect is Culex argyropus, which might be called the coast mosquito as it is always found near the seashore, its larva living in brackish pools just above high-water mark. The perfect insect may be also seen skating along the surface of the water like a [ 43 ]gerris[1]; it may be at once distinguished by its dark colour,.


Family Tipulidæ.

Corethra antarctica, n.s.[2] (Plate IV., fig. 3, 3a larva, 3b pupa).

An elegant little gnat, frequenting the margins of ponds and ditches during the spring months. The larva (Fig. 3a) is bright green, ornamented with numerous yellow spots; it is very sluggish, living in the green slime weed which floats on the water in such large masses during that season. Not being very common it is difficult to find, as its colour so closely resembles that of the weed which it always frequents. The pupa (Fig 3b), is not very agile, and is nearly always observed suspended from the surface by its thoracic air-tubes and caudal fins, the abdomen being directed upwards and thus bringing the two pairs of organs close together. In its metamorphosis and general appearance this insect forms a convenient link between the present family and the Culicidæ.


Family Tipulidæ.

Chironomus zealandicus, n.s. (Plate IV., fig. 2, 2a larva, 2b pupa).

This is the common midge of New Zealand, and is extremely abundant throughout the country. Its larva (Fig. 2a) inhabits the soft mud at the bottom of stagnant ponds and streams, and is very conspicuous, being of a brilliant crimson colour and thus much resembling the well-known "Bloodworm" of English anglers, which is the larva of a closely allied European species (C. plumosus). It may be readily kept in an aquarium, and if supplied with a little soil and green weed will rapidly cover the [ 44 ]walls of its glass prison with numerous tubular galleries. These take their rise from the mud at the bottom, and, extending upwards to a distance of three or four inches, afford the larva a convenient retreat from all enemies. These insects are occasionally seen swimming laboriously through the water with a peculiar zigzag motion. When out of their burrows they have considerable difficulty in keeping beneath the surface, and may be often observed floating helplessly with their exposed portions quite dry; in fact the whole integment of the insect appears to have a peculiar power of resisting the water. The pupa (Fig. 2b), is a most beautiful object, its anterior extremity being obtusely thickened and the limbs of the future insect quite discernible. On each side of the thorax the gills form a set of graceful plumes, a much smaller group being also situated at the extremity of its abdomen. In this state the insect remains almost entirely concealed in the burrows previously constructed by the larva, its gills imbibing sufficient air from the surrounding medium, and thus rendering ascension to the surface unnecessary. The water is periodically circulated in the tunnels by violent movements on the part of the pupa. About a day before emergence the insect assumes a peculiar silvery appearance, which is occasioned by the presence of a large quantity of air between the imago and its pupa skin. This air has been first imbibed by the gills and afterwards expelled through the spiracles of the enclosed gnat, thus inflating the skin of the pupa, and helping to buoy it up during its last and most important transformation. Leaving its tunnel the insect rises to the surface, the thorax is lifted above the water which retreats from it on all sides, the skin cracks open at the back and the insect slowly extricates itself in a similar manner to the mosquito. In about ten minutes' time the wings are sufficiently hardened for use and the insect then flies ashore, but we may occasionally notice, [ 45 ]beside their old pupa-skins, drowned individuals which have failed to effect a successful emergence. The perfect insect is extremely common in all swampy situations throughout the summer; it has a great partiality for light, and may be occasionally noticed in vast numbers round the street lamps on a hot summer's night, especially if rain is impending. It is a most graceful insect, and will amply repay a minute examination (Fig. 2).


Family Tipulidæ.

Ceratopogon antipodum, n.s. (Plate IV., fig. 4, 4a larva, 4b pupa).

Very plentiful in the forest throughout the year, often enlivening the winter sunshine by its merry gambols. The larva (Fig. 4a), is found under the bark of newly fallen trees, feeding on the sap which exudes in large quantities from the logs whilst drying. When first discovered it often has a curiously spangled appearance, owing to the minute beads of moisture retained by numerous bristles clothing the larva. When about to change, these insects assemble in large companies of thirty or forty, firmly affixing their basal segments to the wood, their heads all pointing inwards and forming a small circle. In some cases, where an unusually large gathering has occurred, a number arrange themselves into an outer row, their heads being immediately behind the extremities of the inner group, the whole thus bearing a rough likeness to the radiations of a star-fish. The pupa is very short, and is furnished with two clubbed horns on the thorax for respiration. Its abdominal portions are retained within the old larval skin, thus keeping it firmly anchored to the log. The perfect insect emerges from a rent in the thorax of the pupa, groups of exuviæ being of common occurrence under the bark. The sexes differ considerably, the individual figured [ 46 ](Fig. 4) being a male; the female is slightly larger, and much more stoutly built; her antennæ are filiform[3], and the limbs generally shorter. Both are equally common, but the male is more often noticed, owing to his greater activity.


Family Tipulidæ.

Psychoda conspicillata (Plate IV., fig. 6).

A common species, occurring plentifully on window panes during August, and bearing a great superficial resemblance to a small moth of the Tineina group, often deceiving the novice in consequence. It is a beautiful object for the microscope, the figure being a careful drawing of the insect, seen with a power of about ten diameters. I regret to say that its transformations are at present unknown.


Family Tipulidæ.

Mycetophila antarctica, n.s. (Plate IV., fig. 5, 5a larva, 5b pupa).

Tolerably common in the vicinity of forest during the major part of the year. The larva (Fig. 5a), is a small elongate maggot of a pinkish colour; it is a social insect, inhabiting rotten pine logs, which it perforates with numerous cylindrical burrows. These larvæ, entirely confine their attention to damp wood of a "pappy" consistency, leaving the harder logs for the wood-boring Coleoptera, which are provided with much stronger jaws. They consequently do not injure the rafters and boards of houses, or other valuable timbers. The pupa (Fig. 5b) is very elongate, reposing in one of the burrows, previously constructed by the larva. It probably breathes by means of its spiracles, as no special organs of respiration are visible. The perfect insect appears in a short time, flying sluggishly in the sunshine, the female possessing an enormous abdomen, which [ 47 ]almost incapacitates her for aerial locomotion; in other respects she resembles the male, which is the sex figured (Fig. 5).


Family Tipulidæ.

Tipula holochlora (Plate V., fig. 1, 1a larva, 1b pupa).

This beautiful insect is very common in the forest throughout New Zealand. Its larva (Fig. 1a) inhabits various kinds of decaying wood, frequently occurring in vegetable refuse at the roots of trees. It is a large, sluggish-looking grub, and the anterior segments are very retractile. Its colour appears to vary according to its surroundings, those specimens found in red pine being of the dull reddish hue characteristic of that wood, while those taken from pukatea and henau are dark brown larvæ, resembling the illustration. These insects are very voracious, but their growth is gradual, each larva probably occupying at least six months to reach maturity. They mostly feed during the winter, but may be often taken at other times. The pupa (Fig. 1b) is enclosed in a small oval cell, previously excavated by the larva, which also constructs a ready means of escape for the future insect in the form of a small tunnel leading out of one end of its prison to the open air. Through this the pupa wriggles, assisted by the spines, which arm the edges of all the segments; the coronet of hooks at its extremity retaining the insect firmly at the mouth of its burrow while undergoing its final transformation. After numerous twistings and contortions on the part of the pupa, a rent is formed in the thoracic plates, and the imago draws itself out, standing on the log until its wings are sufficiently hardened for flight. In many old houses numbers of these exuviæ may be seen projecting from holes in the boards—a relic of the destruction that has taken place within. These insects naturally inhabit dead trees, but as they will devour unsound timber in any [ 48 ]form they are very injurious to old wooden buildings. The perfect insect chiefly frequents forest, where it is difficult to detect owing to its green colour harmonizing so closely with the leaves. The specimen figured (Fig. 1) is a male, the female being considerably smaller with a much stouter body and shorter legs.


Family Tipulidæ.

Tipula fumipennis, n.s. (Plate V., fig. 2, 2a larva, 2b pupa).

Another fine species, occurring in similar situations to the last, but not quite so commonly. The larva (Fig. 2a) may be found throughout the year under the bark of very rotten henau and pukatea, feeding on the moist decaying wood. It constructs in this material numerous burrows, which are lined with a viscous fluid constantly emitted from the mouth. Its movements in these are very rapid, frequently eluding the most careful searches. When divested of its slimy covering, it is anything but an offensive-looking larva, the great air-tubes, which run the whole length of the insect, being very conspicuous, and many of the other internal organs are easily detected owing to its partial transparency. The pupa (Fig. 2b) is enclosed in a small cocoon, having ready access to the air; it is chiefly remarkable for its very large thoracic horns, which are curiously toothed. The air-tubes connected with these are distinctly visible in the abdomen of the insect, where they may be seen branching in all directions. When about to emerge this pupa works its way to the surface of the log, the head and thorax are thrust outside, and the perfect insect escapes in the ordinary way. The illustration (Fig. 2) is taken from a female; the male differs in being less robust, and in being provided with longer legs.


[ 49 ]

Family Tipulidæ.

The Glow-worm. Bolitophila luminosa, Skuse.

(Frontispiece, fig. 1).

Every one who has walked in the forest at night has no doubt noticed, in many damp and precipitous situations, numerous brilliant points of greenish white light shining out from amongst the dense undergrowth. The animal which causes this light may be seen at Fig. 1a on the Frontispiece, and is probably one of the most interesting insects we have in New Zealand. It inhabits irregular cavities, mostly situated in the banks of streams, where it hangs suspended in a glutinous web which is stretched across the cavity and supported by several smaller threads running right and left, and attached to the sides and ends of the niche. On this the larva invariably rests, but when disturbed immediately glides back along the main thread and retreats into a hole which it has provided at the end of it. From the lower side of this central thread numerous smaller threads hang down, and are always covered with little globules of water, constituting a conspicuous, though apparently unimportant, portion of the insect's web. It should be mentioned that all these threads are constructed by the larva from a sticky mucus exuded from the mouth.

The organ which emits the light can easily be seen by referring to Fig. 1a. It is situated at the posterior extremity of the larva, and is a gelatinous and semi-transparent structure capable of a great diversity of form. It can be extended or withdrawn at the will of the larva, which, however, can shut off the light independently of this latter action. Larvæ cease to shine on very cold nights, in the daytime, and in a room which is artificially lighted. They gleam most brilliantly on dark, damp nights, with a light north-west wind. These larvæ appear to suffer great mortality in a state of nature, as the [ 50 ]young ones will always be found greatly in excess of those that are approaching maturity.

When full-grown this insect is transformed into the curious pupa shown at Fig. 1b. It is furnished with a large process on the back of the thorax which is attached to the web and holds the pupa suspended in the middle of the niche previously inhabited by the larva. The light is emitted from the posterior segment of the pupa, but is much fainter than in the larva, and a distinct organ is not apparent. It is frequently suppressed for days together.

The perfect insect is drawn at Fig. 1. It emits a strong light from the posterior segment of the abdomen, about half as bright as that emanating from a full grown larva. It has been recently described by Mr. Skuse, of Sydney, as Bolitophila luminosa.

During the whole course of my observations[4] on this insect, extending over five years, I have only succeeded in bringing two specimens to maturity, and both of these were females.

The uses of the light and the web to the larva are at present quite unknown to me, as well as its food, which, however, possibly consists of fungi. It should also be mentioned that the larvæ are found in the greatest abundance in mining tunnels, many feet below the surface of the earth, as well as in caves.


Family Tipulidæ.

Cloniophora subfasciata (Plate V., fig. 3, 3a larva).

Tolerably common in damp gullies during summer and autumn. The larva (Fig. 3a) inhabits decayed henau logs, [ 51 ]drilling deep into the wood, where its burrows are seldom noticed, as they are filled up with refuse almost as soon as they are made. The pupa resembles that of Tipula holochlora, but is rather more attenuated in the body, and the thoracic horns are slightly thicker. It is not enclosed in any cocoon, but lies amongst the powdery wood, wriggling to the surface when about to emerge. The illustration represents the male insect, the female having a much stouter body, with short thick legs; she also differs in her antennæ, which are much less branched than those of the male.


Family Tipulidæ.

Rhyphus neozealandicus (Plate V., fig. 4, 4a larva, 4b pupa).

A most abundant species occurring in most damp situations throughout the year. Its larva (Fig. 4a) closely resembles a small worm, being of an elongate form attenuated at each end. The skin is very hard and of a dull yellow colour, with black markings. The food of this insect consists of decaying vegetable matter, which it procures by means of two small appendages, situated on each side of the mouth, and which it is continually moving about in search of suitable materials. The pupa is a curious object (Fig. 4b), the two little respiratory horns having a singular resemblance to a pair of ears. It is enclosed in a small oval cell about one inch below the surface of the earth, the insect working its way to the air before emergence. The perfect Rhyphus may be almost regarded as one of our domestic insects, and is seldom found in the open country, but frequents cowhouses and other farm buildings in great numbers, the larvæ feeding on the manure in these situations. It is often mistaken by ignorant people for the mosquito and at once destroyed, but quite unfairly, as the species is in reality perfectly harmless, frequently [ 52 ]benefiting mankind by the removal of considerable quantities of effete matter, which if allowed to remain could not fail to be injurious.


Family Tipulidæ.

Bibio nigrostigma (Plate V., fig. 5, 5a larva, 5b pupa).

This insect is very abundant during the spring months, but rapidly disappears, and few specimens are noticed after Christmas. Its larva (Fig. 5a) inhabits the woody powder often found under logs, which frequently consists of the accumulated excrement of wood-boring insects. It is gregarious in its habits, being found in large companies of fifty or a hundred individuals. When first disturbed these appear as a wriggling mass, but very shortly become so still that they can only be distinguished with the greatest difficulty from morsels of bark. A considerable portion of the powdered wood is also retained on the body of the insect by a row of short spines situated in the middle of each segment, which helps to render the larva still more inconspicuous. In this condition it remains for at least eight months, during which time growth takes place very slowly. About September the larvæ separate, each being afterwards transformed into a small yellowish pupa (5b), whose abdominal extremity is usually retained within the old skin, thus closely resembling that of the genus Ceratopogon. I have figured this pupa entirely naked, in order to show its characteristics, some of which are rather remarkable, more completely, the agglutination of nearly all the anterior portions of the body being especially noteworthy. The perfect insects may be found everywhere, the males sucking honey from the flowers and performing many antics in the air, often clinging hold of one another and whirling about together. The female seldom flies, but is usually observed crawling about fences or the trunks of trees. She may be at once recognized by her heavy body [ 53 ]which is very large when distended with eggs. Her general colour is dull red, thus differing widely from the male insect represented in the illustration (Fig. 5).


Family Tipulidæ.

Simulia australiensis (Plate VI., fig. 1, 1a larva, 1b pupa).

Every one knows the sandfly, the little black insect that so persistently perches on our hands and faces and inflicts its painful punctures, which in many cases are followed by large swellings, often lasting for several days and causing much irritation. Its larva (Fig. 1a) inhabits clear running water, climbing about in strong currents by means of a pair of suckers situated at each end of the body, two being placed on the prothoracic segment just behind the head and two others close to the anal extremity. These the insect employs rather curiously, the anterior pair being first affixed and the others drawn up close behind them, its elongate body consequently forming a loop. Clinging by the posterior suckers for a moment the larva then reaches forward, re-affixes the anterior ones, and draws up the posterior as before. Breathing is performed by two spiracles situated on the last abdominal segments near the hind pair of suckers. Two large air-tubes originate from these and run forwards, giving off branches to all parts of the body; they terminate in a number of air-sacs in the thorax. The food of this larva consists of animalculæ, which are no doubt obtained by drawing the two ciliated appendages rapidly through the water several times in succession, their contents being afterwards gathered up by the smaller organs and passed into the mouth. When about to assume the pupa state the insect covers itself with a glutinous envelope, which is firmly joined to the under side of a leaf, the transformation taking place within a few days. The pupa can hardly be distinguished from a small moth chrysalis except for a pair of branching [ 54 ]filaments, which arise from the top of the thorax and serve the purpose of gills (Fig. 1b). Before emergence the anterior segments are projected nearly out of the cocoon from which the perfect sandfly makes its escape, and floating to the surface of the water ascends the stem of an aquatic plant to expand its wings. I should here remark that as with the mosquitoes, the bloodthirsty propensities of the present species have no doubt been acquired since the arrival of man and other warm-blooded animals.


Group Brachocera.

Family Tabanidæ.

Tabanus impar (Plate VI., fig. 6).

I have figured this fine species as a representative of a most important family of Dipterous insects, but am at present quite unacquainted with its life-history. It occurs plentifully on the margins of the forest throughout the summer.


Family Bombylidæ.

Comptosia bicolor (Plate VI., fig. 2).

This conspicuous species is very abundant in glades throughout the summer, flying with great rapidity, and delighting to suck honey from the numerous shrubs which are in blossom at that time of year. It is a social species, and is usually found in companies of fifteen or twenty individuals, which engage in endless dances, two insects often seizing one another on the wing and then revolving together like a wheel in rapid motion. Their manœuvres in avoiding the strong gusty wind, so often prevalent in early summer, are also interesting; the insects play upon the wing whilst the air is quiet, but if a breeze springs up they instantly settle on the nearest bush, rising to renew their sports when it is again calm. These flies are rather variable in colour, some specimens being dark brown, [ 55 ]whilst others are more or less covered with greyish-white hairs; individuals are also often met with quite black and shining, their hirsute covering having been completely rubbed off. The female may be at once recognized by her solid, fleshy abdomen, that of the male being inflated by two great air-bladders, which cause that portion of the body to appear semi-transparent when the insect is held up to the light. The figure (2) is taken from a specimen of the latter sex.

Closely allied to the present insect is Comptosia virida, n.s. (Fig. 3), which can be at once distinguished by its brilliant green eyes and pale grey clothing. The larva of this species is a large white maggot, rather robust, and possessing a small head. It inhabits the dense moss growing on the trunks of trees in the forest, feeding on the roots of these plants, and finally forming an oval cocoon, in which it changes into the pupa shown at Fig. 3b. The perfect insect appears in a few weeks' time, when it may be taken in similar situations to C. bicolor, but in much fewer numbers.


Family Asilidæ.

Sarapogon viduus (Plate VI., fig. 4, 4a larva, 4b pupa).

A voracious insect, frequenting all dry sand-banks and pathways throughout the summer, and destroying the numerous minute diptera found in those situations. These unfortunate victims are drilled through the thorax by their destroyer, which sucks them completely dry with its long beak-like proboscis. The larva (Fig. 4a) inhabits rotten wood, chiefly feeding upon the moist, powdery portions. It is usually somewhat sluggish, but when disturbed hops about with electrical rapidity. The head is very minute, and the elongate body consists of twenty segments, a number very unusual among larvæ, the normal number being twelve exclusive of the head. It lives for a [ 56 ]considerable time and is finally transformed into the blunt-looking pupa, drawn at Fig. 4b, without having previously constructed any cocoon. From this the perfect insect emerges in a month or six weeks' time, commencing its work of destruction as soon as its wings are hardened, which takes place within a few hours.


Family Stratiomidæ.

Exaireta spiniger (Plate VI., fig. 5).

Abundant during November, when it may be taken in great numbers in the vicinity of water. The larva is probably aquatic, but I have not yet observed it, although its habits would, no doubt, be very interesting. The perfect insects frequent flowers, and are generally very sluggish in their movements.


Family Acroceridæ.

Acrocera longirostris, n.s. (Plate VII., fig. 4).

An extraordinary and very rare species, occurring amongst white rata[5] blossoms in February. At present I have only taken three specimens, viz., two in Wellington and one in Nelson. The transformations of all the Acroceridæ are as yet unknown.


Family Syrphidæ.

Syrphus ortas (Plate VII., fig. 3, 3a larva, 3b pupa).

Very common everywhere from September till May, or even later, when specimens may be often seen basking in the winter sunshine. The larva (3a) is a most useful insect to gardeners as it destroys an immense number of aphides, those noxious little insects that commit such fearful ravages on many valuable plants (see Hemiptera, page [ 57 ]120). In general appearance this larva resembles a small green slug, with the skin much wrinkled, and bearing at its extremity a short thick tube, which is probably the respiratory apparatus, the four lunate holes situated at its apex being no doubt the spiracles. These insects grow very slowly, occupying several weeks to attain maturity. Their mode of capturing the aphides is very curious, and is, briefly, as follows:—The larva lies in the midst of a number of aphides, and it occasionally happens that some of them crawl over it. On feeling an aphis touch its back the larva instantly darts out its long, pointed head and strikes its prey with the apex, which is enveloped in a quantity of very sticky mucus constantly ejected from the mouth. On the aphis being thus captured the larva withdraws its head into the hinder segments of its body and devours all the juicy portions of the aphis, whose dry skin is afterwards thrown aside. When full-grown it slowly shrinks up and changes into the pupa shown at Fig. 3b. In this state it is not protected by any kind of cocoon, but lies amongst the refuse of the aphides, near the stem of the plant. The fly emerges in a fortnight or three weeks' time, and is very fond of hovering over and sucking honey from the flowers, but the females may be often noticed running about plants, probably in search of a suitable place to oviposit.[6] For an account of Scolobates varipes, a species parasitic on the present insect, I refer to page 39.


Family Syrphidæ.

Eristalis cingulatus (Plate VII., fig. 2).

This conspicuous insect occurs occasionally in glades in the forest about January, but is by no means common. It is very fond of the white rata flowers, where it may be [ 58 ]taken, if anywhere. Its life-history is at present unknown, but no doubt resembles that of the following insect.


Family Syrphidæ.

Helophilus trilineatus (Plate VII., fig. 1, 1a larva, 1b pupa).

This fine species occurs abundantly in all damp situations throughout the summer. Its larva may be found in stagnant pools and is often met with in the mud at the bottom of ditches. Its posterior segments are enormously elongated, forming a telescopic breathing apparatus, composed of two tubes, the smaller of which is capable of being more or less extended at the will of the larva, which is thus enabled to adjust the length of its breathing tube, according to the depth of water or mud in which it happens to reside. This peculiarity has given all these larvæ the name of rat-tailed maggots. The other segments are very stout, each being furnished with a pair of minute feet, and the head is also provided with two small appendages which are supposed to be the outlets through which the exhausted air is discharged by the larva. When mature this insect leaves the water, forming a small oval cell in the neighbouring moist earth, in which it lies with its long tail folded along the breast. The skin then gradually hardens, and it is finally transformed into the pupa shown at Fig. 1b, the conical pair of breathing-tubes on the thorax being slowly protruded from two hardly perceptible warts, whilst the telescopic apparatus shrinks up, its functions being at an end. A variable time, dependent upon the season, elapses before the perfect insect makes its appearance, but prior to this occurring, a large circular plate, forming the thorax of the pupa, is thrust off, thus assisting the escape of the fly, which immediately ascends a plant, or other convenient object, to dry and expand its wings (Fig. 1). In the perfect [ 59 ]state it delights to hover in the air, darting away with great rapidity on the approach of any enemies. It also frequently enters houses, where its presence is at once betrayed by a peculiarly shrill noise made while flying. The sexes of this insect differ chiefly in size, the female (Fig. 1) being about twice as large as her companion.

Closely allied to this species are Helophilus ineptus, and H. hochstetteri. The former is slightly smaller than H. trilineatus and may be at once distinguished by its tessellated orange-yellow and black abdomen. It is rather local, but extremely abundant wherever found. The latter has a superficial resemblance to some of the smaller blowflies (Musca), but may be readily known by its large brownish-red scutellum.[7] It is the commonest of the genus and may be found in great numbers throughout the summer amongst veronica and other flowers.


Family Muscidæ.

Miltogramma mestor (?) (Plate VII, fig. 5).

A conspicuous species, found occasionally on forest-clad hills round Wellington. The life-history is at present unknown, but its larva is very possibly parasitic in some large Lepidoptera.


Family Muscidæ.

Nemorea nyctemerianus (Plate VII., fig. 6).

This little fly is seldom met with in the perfect state. Its larva is parasitic on the caterpillar of Nyctemera annulata[8], the eggs being deposited on the moth larva at an early age. The caterpillar grows and eats in the ordinary way, until it has assumed the chrysalis state, when the [ 60 ]maggot eats its way out and changes into a dark-brown pupa. In this condition the parasite is protected by the web which was previously constructed by the unfortunate caterpillar for its own use. The perfect fly appears in about six weeks' time, its great agility and large white scales rendering it very conspicuous.


Family Muscidæ.

Eurigaster marginatus (Plate VII., fig. 7).

Another parasitic species, its larva inhabiting the caterpillars of various noctuæ which it destroys just before they change into the chrysalis state. The pupa of the parasite lies in a small oval cell constructed in the earth by its larva. A variable number of these maggots are found associated in one host, the smaller caterpillars only harbouring a single individual, while a large larva will frequently contain three or four. This species has been bred from the following Lepidoptera: Mamestra composita, M. ustistriga and M. mutans. It also occurs in the curious Œceticus omnivorus, being found in the cocoons of that moth in numbers varying from two to eleven, or even more, and it is especially interesting, as it is in turn destroyed by a small species of Pteromalus already noticed among the Hymenoptera (page 37). The perfect insect occurs occasionally on flowers throughout the summer.


Family Muscidæ.

Calliphora quadrimaculata (Plate VII., fig. 9).

This is the large blue-bottle fly of New Zealand and is found everywhere in great abundance. Its larva feeds on decaying flesh and is of a dirty yellow colour, measuring, when full-grown, about seven lines in length. The pupa is buried at a considerable depth in the ground, the [ 61 ]larva having descended before changing. The duration of this, and in fact of all the stages of the insect, depends entirely upon the temperature, but the females invariably deposit eggs, even during the hottest weather, and are never ovo-viviparous like the next species, and several others of the genus.


Family Muscidæ.

Sarcophaga læmica (Plate VII., fig. 10).

Another extremely abundant species having a similar history to the last, but its powers of development are very much accelerated owing to the larva being positively born alive. The females hover over meat and other suitable substances, depositing a number of minute wriggling maggots thereon, not infrequently to the great disgust of some hungry individual, who perhaps is making his dinner off a mutton chop which the fly has selected as a home for her offspring. These larvæ are all produced from distinct ova, which hatch before being laid, as I have often proved, by removing them from the insect's abdomen, and watching the young larva emerge from a minute elliptical white egg, covered with a thin leathery skin. Every one who has travelled in New Zealand must have noticed that, in the wildest spots, these insects assemble in large numbers as soon as any meat is uncovered, thus not only showing their universal distribution throughout the country, but also that they possess a very keen sense of smell.

Two British species at least, allied to this genus, have been introduced into New Zealand, viz., Musca domestica and Musca cæsar. The former is probably a world-wide insect, every ship teeming with it, but the latter is at present rather scarce and is usually found in the neighbourhood of farm-yards, where the larva feeds on [ 62 ]cow-dung. The perfect insect may be at once known by its brilliant green colour.


Family Muscidæ.

Cylindria sigma (Plate VII., fig. 14).

A curious species, occurring occasionally in damp situations in the forest where it may be noticed leisurely walking over the leaves of various shrubs. It is very sluggish and may often be captured between the fingers without the aid of a net. Its life-history is at present unknown, but the larva probably feeds on fungi. The pretty little insect depicted at Fig. 11 may be found in similar situations but is not so common.


Family Muscidæ.

Phora omnivora, n.s. (Plate VII., fig. 15, 15a pupa).

This minute species may be found in large numbers nearly all the year round. Its larva is parasitic on a great variety of insects and is also not infrequently met with among decaying vegetable matter. Its habits are, therefore, very varied. When parasitic in the Lepidoptera it usually selects the noctuæ, destroying a great number of many of the commoner species[9]. The infected caterpillars usually turn into chrysalides some time before the little maggots emerge, but this is not invariably the case, the parasite often destroying the larva at a comparatively early stage. The pupæ are buried in the earth, near the remains of their host, and are light brown in colour, with the segments much more distinct than is usual (Fig. 15a). From these the perfect flies proceed in about a month's time. The occurrence of this insect as a parasite in Coleoptera is not common, but I know of one instance [ 63 ]in which a number of these little flies were produced from a pupa of Uloma tenebrionides (Plate II., Figs. 2, 2a, 2b), which I was rearing at the time (page 29). In this case it is difficult to understand how the female contrives to deposit her eggs in a horny beetle larva which lies safely hidden in its narrow tunnel in the middle of a large log of wood. Among bees this is a most destructive insect, its larva being parasitic in their grubs, and thus greatly reducing the population of the hive, which is finally ruined by the wholesale destruction of its honey when the flies emerge. Driving the bees into a fresh box would, no doubt, be frequently beneficial in these cases, but it is to be feared that bee-keepers will have much difficulty in contending with this insect. Its sexes are readily distinguished by their size, the female being considerably the larger.


Family Muscidæ.

Coelopa littoralis (Plate VII., fig. 13).

Extremely abundant on the sea-beach. Its larva feeds on decaying seaweed, burying itself in the sand before changing. The perfect insects often congregate in such vast numbers on some of the rocks that it is necessary to run past them in order to avoid being positively suffocated by the countless multitudes which fly up into one's face. This insect must be regarded as the New Zealand representative of the well-known dungfly of England (S. stercoraria), which many of my readers will recollect has a similar habit of assembling in great numbers.


Family Œstridæ.

Œstrus perplexus, n.s. (Plate VII., fig. 12).

This species is mentioned here as it is the only New Zealand exponent of a very important and well-known [ 64 ]family of Dipterous insects. I am at present quite ignorant as to its life-history which would, no doubt, be very interesting. The only two specimens I possess were taken at Nelson, some four years back, so that it appears to be very rare.

The two remaining groups of the Diptera are of very limited extent. The Pupipara include a few anomalous species, in which the young are not deposited until they become pupæ, thus undergoing all their transformations within the body of the parent, while the Pulicina comprise the well-known fleas, which are probably identical with the European species. They are placed by many authors in a distinct order termed the Aphaniptera.

Frontispiece.
Fig. 1.—Bolitophila luminosa.
" 1a.—Larva.
" 1b.—Pupa.
Plate IV.

PLATE IV.
Diptera.
Fig. 1.—Culex iracundus ♀.
" 1a.—Larva.
" 1b.—Pupa.
" 2.—Chironomus zealandicus, n.s.
" 2a.—Larva.
" 2b.—Pupa.
" 3.—Corethra antarctica, n.s.
" 3a.—Larva.
" 3b.—Pupa.
" 4.—Ceratopogon antipodum, n.s.
" 4a.—Larva.
" 4b.—Pupa.
" 5.—Mycetophila antarctica, n.s.
" 5a.—Larva.
" 5b.—Pupa.
" 6.—Psychoda conspicillata.
Plate IV.


PLATE V.
Diptera (continued).
Fig. 1.—Tipula holochlora.
" 1a.—Larva.
" 1b.—Pupa.
" 2.—Tipula fumipennis, n.s.
" 2a.—Larva.
" 2b.—Pupa.
" 3.—Cloniophora subfasciata.
" 3a.—Larva.
" 4.—Rhyphus neozealandicus.
" 4a.—Larva.
" 4b.—Pupa.
" 5.—Bibio nigrostigma ♂.
" 5a.—Larva.
" 5b.—Pupa.
Plate V.


PLATE VI.
Diptera (continued).
Fig. 1.—Simulia australiensis.
" 1a.—Larva.
" 1b.—Pupa.
" 2.—Comptosia bicolor.
" 3.—Comptosia virida, n.s.
" 3b.—Pupa.
" 4.—Sarapogon viduus.
" 4a.—Larva.
" 4b.—Pupa.
" 5.—Exaireta spiniger.
" 6.—Tabanus impar.
Plate VI.


PLATE VII.
Diptera (concluded).
Fig. 1.—Helophilus trilineatus.
" 1a.—Larva.
" 1b.—Pupa.
" 2.—Eristalis cingulatus.
" 3.—Syrphus ortas.
" 3a.—Larva.
" 3b.—Pupa.
" 4.—Acrocera longirostris, n.s.
" 5.—Miltogramma mestor?
" 6.—Nemorea nyctemerianus, n.s.
" 7.—Eurigaster marginatus.
" 9.—Calliphora quadrimaculata.
" 10.—Sarcophaga læmica.
" 12.—Œstrus perplexus, n.s.
" 13.—Cœlopa littoralis.
" 14.—Cylindria sigma.
" 15.—Phora omnivora, n.s.
" 15a.—Pupa.
Plate VII.

  1. A genus of Hemipterous insects commonly seen skipping over ponds in England.
  2. "n.s." is the accepted abbreviation for new species.
  3. Thread-like.
  4. For an extended account of these observations see "Transactions of the New Zealand Institute," vol. xxiii. (1890).
  5. Metrosideros scandens.
  6. Or lay eggs.
  7. Scutellum: A horny plate situated on the mesonotum, usually somewhat triangular in form.
  8. For life-history of this insect see page 73.
  9. Mamestra composita, M. mutans, M. ustistriga, Erana graminosa, &c.