Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Mystery White Insect - ID: Ortalia / Amida (Ortaliini, Ortaliinae, Coccinellidae)

As of the time of writing, no one has been able to accurately identify this insect. It is believed to be the larvae of some kind of beetle. It has always been confused with similar looking white furry insects such as the larvae of Flatidae. The size of of this white larvae ranges from a couple mm to 1 cm.

Some people said it looks like the larvae of ladybird beetles (they were right). No one was sure because close up photos has shown that it has elongated larval antennomeres, which is unlike a typical coccinellid larva.

In its natural living habitat in the forest, they live in harmony with other insects such as ants, planthoppers and treehoppers. So far, they were found to live in shrub or bush well shaded by tall trees. A heavy rain would wipe them away, some may survive if they are hiding under leaves though.

A couple of interesting ventral photographs.

Ventral details such as the hairy lobes on the sides of the abdominal segments suggest that it is perhaps an endomychid, of course, the diagnosis was without the knowledge of how the adult would look like. Nonetheless, this is an interesting features for a coccinellid.

The living habitat of the insect:

As curious as a cat, I decided to collect some live specimens and observed the life cycle. I was quite lucky to witness its molting process. The whole process happened in a matter of minutes. It molted a few times before turning into pupa.

One of the larvae turned into pupa inside a ventilated plastic bottle on the same day it was collected. After three days, it turned from light colour to darker colour. A pupa carcass is shown below.

Another larva turned into pupa under a leaf after about 8 more days.

The beetle emerged after one week of the pupa stage.

The beetle is about 3 mm as shown below.

After seeing the adult (teneral) photos, friends and enthusiasts decided that this is indeed a Coccinellidae, confirmed by field experts. The latest suggested ID was that it should fall under the tribe Ortaliini (subfamily Ortaliinae), and the most probable genus Amida / Ortalia.

(ID credit: Adam Slipinski, Doug Yanega)

The rearing environment and observations:

The larvae was placed in the same species of plant it was found. The plant was potted and placed in the open space outdoor, shaded by tall roof, protected from heavy rain and hot sunshine.

The larvae source of food is unknown. Even though I had tried to place aphids, thrips and fungi on the leaves, they were not interested in them.

The white wax on the larvae was getting thinner and thinner day by day. Probably this was due to malnutrition or unsuitable temperature and humidity surrounding the environment. Also, there is a high possibility that its source of food was not present because of the different ecosystem of my backyard. It is also possible that its source of food is in the soil of its natural habitat.

A couple of hours after the teneral adult (above photo) appeared from the pupa, the colour did not change, and then flew off.

Reference 1:

Reference 2:

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