Genus Glycaspis
White Lerp Insect
White Fibrous Lerp Insect
Genus Spondyliaspis
Shell Lerp Insect
Genus Hyalinaspis
Clam Lerp Insect
Clam Fibrous Lerp Insect
Brown Clam Lerp Insect
Genus Acizzia
Wattle Plant Lice
Other Psyllids


Bird of Paradise Flies - Violet Phoenix - Callipappus australis

Family Margarodidae

This page contains pictures and information about Bird of Paradise Flies - Violet Phoenix that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
Body length winged male 10mm, wingless female 40mm
As a member in the Mealy Bugs family, Bird of Paradise Fly is unbelievable large. Females grow up to 40mm, the largest in Soft Bug suborder. Bird of Paradise Fly is an incredible insect. It Adult males have only one pair of wings. When we first it we thought it could be a fly in order Diptera. After we saw the female and we were confused. We cannot tell even the order of this insect.  
By checking the reference information we found that they are the Bird of Paradise Flies, belong to the Large Mealy Bugs family Margarodidae. Their common name came from the looks of the males - the purplish body and the long glassy white tail.
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Last week (May 2003) we went for bush-walking in the conservation area near Alexander Hill in Brisbane (where is a Eucalypt forest with sandy soil), we found some insects which were very interesting. They were violet in colour. The males body length was 10mm with bright white hair at the abdomen tip. When they were flying, they just look like some cotton floating in the air. The males were flying around the gum trees. On the gum tree trunk there were the large wingless females, 30-40mm body length, also in violet colour. The females were either hiding under the bark or climbing up on the tree trunk. There were males trying to mate with them. 
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The male has a small head and two black eyes, antenna are about the same length as it body. The male has only one pair of wings. We cannot see any sign of the second pair of wings. The wing veins are simple. They do not put down their wings when rest. We cannot see their mouth parts.
The female is much larger than the male and is wingless. She has the flat and scout body with small eyes. She has the antenna about the same length as the male's. She has three pairs of strong legs for climbing up the gum tree trunk. We believe they are going to lay eggs on the tree top.
We brought some of them home to see if there are any further development. We put them inside a wooden box with one glass windows. We found that the males dead soon after mating.  The females climbed to the root of the box. Then on the wood surface they lay a white powder waxy substance of about the area of 10mm X 40mm. Each female take 3 to 4 days to do that and dead soon after. The females' body reduced from 40mm to 10mm after laying those substance.
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About four weeks later, we found some small fellows came out from those white substance. There were hundreds of them, less than 1mm in length, oval in shape. They looked like tiny aphids. As their parents, they were violet in colour, crawling slowly on the wood surface. We did not know how to feed them so we put them back to the bush.
From reference information the nymph develop underground attached to the roots of host plants. Adults emerge from soil for mating and laying eggs within a short period in autumn.  

After visiting this web page, Margaret Owen in Western Australia sent us emails and photos, telling us that there is the similar interesting insect in Western Australia. Details please visit the Silver Phoenix page.
Margaret shown us that the Silver Phoenix has eggs developed in female's body. However, we found that the Violet Phoenix lays eggs and eggs develop externally. We think that actually it is not too difficult to relate the different 'incubation' process between the Violet Phoenix and the Silver Phoenix. Initially, very long time ago, all species of Bird of Paradise flies lay eggs and young hatched like the Violet Phoenix. Female found a suitable place, such as under bark, to lay her eggs. Later some species evolved so that female did not have enough time to lay their eggs but the eggs develop inside their body. It was an advantage for those species since the female will die anyway, and this give the eggs more protection.  

1. Insects of Australia - CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, p 459.
2. Species Callipappus australis (Maskell, 1890) - Australian Biological Resources Study, Australian Faunal Directory.
3. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus & Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p173, pl 6-10. 
4. Giant females and bird-of-paradise flies: notes on the biology of Callipappus Guérin-Méneville (Hemiptera: Margarodidae) - Gullan, P.J.; Brookes, H.M. 1998, Australian journal of entomology, 37: 2-7. 

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Last updated: October 10, 2010.