Public asked for help tracking crusaders

DISCOVERY: QVMAG entomologist Simon Fearn examining the crusader bug, which has been recently found in Tasmania. Pictures: Piia WirsuIt’s not the middle ages and we’re not in Europe but there may be a crusade happening in Tasmania right now.

The crusader bug, or mictis profana, has recently been observed in the state for the first time and it’s something of a mystery.

“What is really odd about it is that it’s such a large and conspicuous a bug, they are quite big animals and they’ve got this distinctive cross on their back,” Queen Victoria Museum entomologist Simon Fearn said.

“The questionis, how can such a large, conspicuous insect that’s been recorded all over Australia stay unnoticed here for 200-odd years?”

The museum is calling on the public to help solve the “curious mystery”.

“We can’t be everywhere and to do a proper survey of the coastline is just beyond our resourcesso we’re asking for the public to help us,” Mr Fearn said.

The public is asked to keep an eye out for the crusader bug and let the QVMAG know of any sightings.

The bugs, which are widespread on mainland Australia,occur in coastal areasandanyone living or holidaying near the beach is asked to keep their eyes peeled for the bug.

“They live in the … low scrub that’s directly behind the dunes above the high tide mark, and they live on the coast wattle or boobyallah,” Mr Fearn said.

Mr Fearn found the crusader bug at Beechford on the North Coast in December, 2016, which is intriguing in itself.

“We had a family shack there for many years in the 70’s and 80’s and as a bug-mad kid Icollected insects extensively there … and never saw them,” he said.

He has not found the species in any other coastal locations.

It is unknown if the bug has recently arrived in Tasmaniaor has just been rare and gone unnoticed in localised pockets, which is contrary to its behaviour everywhere else it occurs.

“It’s really important to know whether or not due to global warming maybe these things have recently arrived, maybe they came in on a camper van or something –we just dont know,” Mr Fearn said.

“If it turns out there’s just pockets of them right around the coastline then it just means that for whatever reason they’ve been completely overlooked, but if it turns out they’re only in that area [Beechford] then it looks more and more like they may have accidentally got here.”

Mr Fearn thinks it unlikelythe bug will have a big impact on coastal ecology.

“They don’t appear to be a pest, on the mainland they sometimes get into citrus crops but they’re never a major pest so their impact is probably going to be very small, but it’s just areally curious storywhy they have suddenly popped up allof a sudden,” he said.

For anyone who sights the bug;it is not dangerous but be warned, it does produce a stinky liquid when handled. Mr Fearn suggests the use of a jar, into which they will drop easily, to collect any specimens.

Any specimens found can be taken into the museum, or anyone who has sighted the bug can contact [email protected]论坛.

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