Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Black beauty - no, not the horse.

I've posted a few times about my stick-insects - Macleay's Spectres (Extatosoma tiaratum) and can report I now have a lot (like, a pint!) of eggs. They were certainly fecund. I'm not currently raising these however, as I have a different species after a friend sent me a batch of eggs of Black Beauty stick-insects (Peruphasma schultei).

Whereas E. tiaratum are fairly common, P. schultei are not, at least not in the wild. They come from northern Peru and are known only from a 5-hectare area at 1200 - 1800 m altitude in the Cordillera del Condor, a mountainous area known as one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. There they feed on pepper-trees (Schinus spp.) but in captivity, are happy with privet, lilac and honeysuckle (and probably some other small shrubby trees too). They prefer drier conditions (40-60% humidity or thereabouts) than species from more humid areas of the tropics and should be fairly straightforward to keep without expensive equipment. They were only discovered and described in 2002 (Conle & Hennemann, 2005) and relatively little is known about them, although tyhey are popular and are cultured and shared around the world without being collected from the wild. 

This means that although there are plenty of care-sheets on the web, they tend to say exactly the same thing based on not-that-much hard evidence - so, amendments and new info is always useful. For example, I have since found out that they are remarkably good at dying. As the hatchlings tend to hide during daylight, they sometimes crawl beneath things, get stuck and starve. So, no more newspaper in the bottom of the hatchery. Some simply failed to thrive, while others were eaten by a larger specimen that turned cannibal despite having plenty of leaves. They are now segregated more carefully and I'm raising a second batch of eggs alongside the original cannibal. Problems aside, they are rather splendid - velvety black except for reddish mouthparts (and when mature, wing-flaps) and yellowish eyes - they are sometimes called golden-eyes stick-insects. Here they are:

New hatchling. Note the white bands near the tips of the antennae.
Side view of about a 3rd instar nymph looking for something to climb onto. The kinked antennae are due to a problem during the most recent moult.

Good view of the reddish mouthparts and yellow eyes.
In 'scorpion' posture. Note the wing-buds.


Conle, O. V. & Hennemann, F. H. (2005). Studies on neotropical Phasmatodea I: A remarkable new species of Peruphasma Conle & Hennemann, 2002 from Northern Peru (Phasmatodea: Pseudophasmatidae: Pseudophasmatinae). Zootaxa 1068: 59-68.

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