A Sheoak mystery and a lifelong impression from the “How & Why Wonder Book of Insects”

We were very curious about what appeared to be some strange looking seed pods on a Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) on our place at Strangways.

These don’t look like the usual seed cases on a Sheoak.

Closer inspection revealed something that certainly looked like some type of fruit, but not from a Sheoak.

The plot thickens.

We decided to explore this mystery in the most effective way we know for dealing with any botanical question. We asked Frances Cincotta of course. She said it’s an insect gall made by a scale bug called Cylindrococcus spiniferus and pointed us to a Wikipedia page on it. The wingless female of this species stimulates the Sheoak to grow the gall around her and it seems her eggs are fertilised by the male through the gall. There is a photo of the inside of the gall by John Tann at https://www.flickr.com/photos/31031835@N08/15965777418/ I decided not to pull apart a gall for a photo as I don’t want to unnecessarily kill the insect.

On a different tack, I was very pleased to get some photos of an adult Ant Lion (genus Myrmeleon) hanging onto an old grass flower stalk in our front yard the other night.

Adult Ant Lion
Ant Lion

Ant Lions are related to Lacewings and belong to the same order Neuroptera (neuro – veined, ptera – wing). As a child in the mid 1960s, I was handed down my brother’s copy of the “How and Why Wonder Book of Insects” and was fascinated to read about Ant Lions. The book explained the tiny cones sunk into the dust in the bush around our places as being made by Ant Lion larvae which use them to trap ants, which they then grab with their large pincers and devour. I would gently blow away the cone and see the tiny predator exposed. And as a curious and somewhat un-empathetic child, I’d encourage an ant to fall in and watch the Ant Lion flick the dust over the struggling ant so it would slide to the bottom of the pit. Then the Ant Lion would seize it and drag it under the dust.

Ant Lion trap, March 2019
Ant Lion larva Nov 2014

I have rarely seen adults, so I was very pleased that this specimen was not in a hurry to leave and would even hang around for some close ups.

Up close
An intimate portrait.

5 responses to “A Sheoak mystery and a lifelong impression from the “How & Why Wonder Book of Insects”

  1. Margaret McDonald

    Magnificent photos. thank you.

  2. kristinmundaygmailcom

    Wonderful photos and intriguing information. Thank you.

  3. Wow! Great photos and information.
    Thank you Patrick

  4. Hi Patrick, thanks very much for your fascinating blogs and photos. I too had the How and Why Book of Insects (like you, growing up in the 60’s) and I was particularly intrigued by the ant lion. I hadn’t realised what the adult looked like, so fantastic to have these close ups. Thanks again!

  5. johnalexcarruthers

    Many blessings to you both @Geoff and @Frances!

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