6 Fascinating Insects of Fiji

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Cicada-Fiji6 Fascinating Insects of Fiji

In Fiji, color is everywhere, and when it’s everywhere at once, it can be as ephemeral as the light reflecting from a rain shower, as sudden as the flapping of the dragonfly’s wings, or as necessary as a stick insect’s evolutionary camouflage for natural defense. No matter where you look in Fiji, the bright, vivid colors of nature will be along for the journey. We are touching upon the world of insects you might encounter on your travels.

Table of Contents

What is an insect? Insects have segmented bodies, jointed legs, and external skeletons. Insects are distinguished from other arthropods by their body, which is divided into three major regions: (1) the head, which bears the mouthparts, eyes, and a pair of antennae; (2) the three-segmented thorax, which usually has three pairs of legs in adults and usually one or two pairs of wings; and (3) the many-segmented abdomen, which contains the digestive, excretory, and reproductive organs. (Britannica, 2020). 

Cicada


Cicada in Fiji | Image: Supplied
Cicada in Fiji | Image: Supplied
Common NameScientific NameFoundLifespan
NanaiRaiateana knowlesiParts of the Serua and, Nadroga/ Navosa provinces on the main island of Viti Levu2 Weeks
Table: Fiji Cicada Details

Nanai has only been recorded on Viti Levu. The Nanai is of great significance to a particular clan in the Navosa Province, where all the chiefly daughters of that particular clan are accorded the title -“Rokonai”.The word”Roko” is a chiefly title given to male and female chiefs in some parts of Fiji. The word”nai” is a rare delicacy for this clan.

Anatomy of Fiji Cicada (Fijian Name – Nanai)


Anatomy of a Cicada (Left - iStock Getty, Right - Encyclopedia Britannica). External features of the cicada. The wing veins shown (with their abbreviations in parentheses) are cubitus (Cu), media (M), medial (m), radius (R), costa (C), radial sector (Rs), anal (An), mediocubital (m-cu), and subcosta (Sc).
Anatomy of a Cicada (Left – iStock Getty, Right – Encyclopedia Britannica). External features of the cicada. The wing veins shown (with their abbreviations in parentheses) are cubitus (Cu), media (M), medial (m), radius (R), costa (C), radial sector (Rs), anal (An), mediocubital (m-cu), and subcosta (Sc).

Lifecycle of a Fiji Cicada


Lifecycle of a Fiji Cicada
Lifecycle of a Fiji Cicada | Image: Supplied University of Illinois

Early on when the eggs are laid deep in tree branches and later on as young nymphs within the first year, before falling and burrowing into the ground for the next 7 long years. In the eighth year, around the beginning of the wet season, it is believed, rising temperatures signals the Nanai to move upwards above ground. Millions of Nanai emerge during this season but only for one to two months at the most It is a brief and noisy invasion of the forests, but an event awaited eagerly by villagers in several provinces of Viti Levu who consider the Nanai a delicacy for gourmets.  (Documentary on Nanai Emalu Forest above)

Video: Documentary on Nanai Emalu Forest

Fun Fact 1: Nanai is a sought-after food, especially in the Navosa province where the adults are collected as they emerge from their final nymphal shells and tied together in chains and cooked. lt is usually cooked in bamboo stems before it is served with coconut milk. The taste is more or less like prawns roasted over charcoal.  Women also use Nanai for bait when they go out fishing.

Butterflies


Viceroy butterfly in the heat of a summer day in the Corkscrew Swamp. This is one of the several species to mimic the Monarch's colours and pattern - known to birds for being toxic to eat.
Viceroy butterfly in the heat of a summer day in the Corkscrew Swamp. This is one of the several species to mimic the Monarch’s colours and pattern – known to birds for being toxic to eat | Image: Supplied

Butterflies are among nature’s most beautiful gifts to mankind. They have been admired and studied for centuries. Even the most uninterested observer of the natural world can identify a butterfly and will, as likely as not, pause to watch a nearby colourful butterfly. Currently, 46 native and one introduced species of butterfly are known from Fiji, Fiji’s butterflies belong to five families and five of the species are considered as endemic species and so found only in Fiji.

Common NameLocatedEnvironmental – ColourWingspan
Dark Tiger – Danuas hamataWidespread on the larger islands in FijiA distinctly black and white butterfly7 cm
Great Eggfly – Hypolimnas bolinaWidespread across FijiSuburban gardens. Males and females differ considerably with the wings of females being duller and lacking the spots10 cm
Fijian Emperor – Polyura caphontisViti Levu & Taveuni – EndemicTree tops usually restricted to forest and the forest margin.7 cm
Autumn Leaf – Doleschallia bisaltideLarger islands of FijiWhen its wings are closed over its back resembles an old dried up leaf. When it flies, a rich orange upper surface is revealed7 cm
Fiji Swallowtail – Papilio schmeltzii
Long tailed Blue – Lampides boeticus
Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus
Meadow Argus – Precis villida
Table: Butterflies of Fiji

Beetles


Oryctes Rhinoceros Fiji Beetle Courtesy of Beetle Identification
Oryctes Rhinoceros Fiji Beetle Courtesy of Beetle Identification | Image: Supplied

Fiji has several species of Jewel or Buprestid beetles, which are among the most colourful of its beetle population. None of them are common unless one knows where to look for them. In spite of their brilliant colours or perhaps because of it, as their spectacular colours surprisingly only help these beetles blend into their natural surroundings.

Common NameLocatedSizeColour
Jewel Beetle – Paracupta sulcataViti Levu, Taveuni and Vanua Balavu in the Lau GroupDamatic display of metallic green and powder yellow stripes.Whether this beetle is actually poisonous or distasteful to potential predators is not known – Rare
Giant Fijian Long horned Beetle – Xixuthrus herosEndemic to Viti Levu10 cm long excluding the antennae, which are another 7.5 cm.Chocolate brown colour.
Jewel Beetle – Paracupta flaviventris
Weevil – Rhinoscapha lagopyga
Jewel Beetle – Agrilus sp
Jewel Beetle – Paracupta spmetallic blue and powdery yellow stripes
Jewel Beetle – Cyphogastra abdominalis
Table: Beetles of Fiji

Anatomy of a Beetle


Diagram of a beetle - Illustration
Anatomy of a Beetle Diagram | Image: Supplied
Video:  The Giant Fijian Long Horn Beetle

Dragonflies


Agrionoptera insignis Fiji Dragonfly Courtesy The Flying Kiwi
Agrionoptera insignis – Fiji Dragonfly | Image: The Flying Kiwi)

Dragonflies are perhaps the most attractive-looking insects after various butterflies and beetles, with their eyes and bodies coming in a veritable rainbow of different colours. They typically have an adult lifespan of between 1-9 months. The dragonflies’ distinctive visual characteristics are their wings typically they are entirely transparent, through all species have at least one coloured window at the front of each wing.

An adult dragonfly’s main diet consists of a variety of insects, they hunt their prey in a couple of ways…

  1. Many sit on a perch territorial and when something passes by they fly up to catch it. Successful or not, they usually then return to the same perch, or perhaps another favourite perch in the same area.
  2. Other species patrol up and down an area, and catch their prey in mid-flight, dragonflies have evolved amazing powers of flight, with four wings which can be operated independently, enabling them to forward and backwards. they are typically referred to as ‘mosquito hawks’ as they consume a large number of these harmful insects beneficial to humans, another reason for their popularity. flying without break and even eating while on the wing.
NameDescriptions
Striped Flutterer – Rhyothemis PhylisFlies rather like a butterfly, often gliding and slowly flapping its wings in a manner unusual for a dragonfly.
Grenadier. – Agrionoptera InsignisRed and Green
Green Skimmer –
Orthetrum Serapia
Narange Creek in Korayanitu National Park
Common Percher – Diplacodes bipunctataKorayanitu National Park – yellow colouration, and the males starts yellow but change through orange and red, when they are mature
Table: Fiji Dragonflies of Fiji

Fun Fact 2: Like many other flying insects, dragonflies are unable to fly when their large flight muscles are cold, so if the temperature is below about 18 degrees Celsius they usually remain hidden in vegetation. Some darker dragonflies become darker when it’s cold, which helps them heat up if there’s any sunlight. The different patterns of veins on the wings are the main way of distinguishing one family of dragonflies from the other.

Anatomy of a Dragonfly


Anatomy of a Dragonfly
Anatomy of a Dragonfly (Image Unkown)

Moths


Theretra Pinastrina - Fiji Moth
Theretra Pinastrina – Fiji Moth | Image: The Flying Kiwi

In Fiji, 10 species of Moths have been described, they are among nature’s most accomplished mimics. Some moths are day fliers and would be easily mistaken for butterflies by the untrained eye.

The Sphingid (Hawk) Moths are found all year round (abundant during the warmer and wet months), they are the most interesting group of moths with their thick bodies and long fore wing, making them quite powerful flyers. They feed on blossom nectar through the proboscis that uncurls to reach the bottom of a flower tube.

Stick Insects


Dragonfly in Fiji
Dragonfly | Image: MaxPixel)
Common NameDescription
Coconut Stick Insect – MimimataThe coconut stick insect is the most common stick insect in Fiji, and is unusual among stick insects in having wings, though they are very small and not particularly useful for flying. Females are bright green and about 7 inches (17cm) long, while males are light brown and rather smaller. They spend their lives attached to the rough underside of coconut leaflets.
Ucikau – Phasmid Cotylosoma dipneusticumThe Fijian stick insect is unique to Fiji, and has a ferocious appearance, with rows of vicious-looking thorn-like projections along the sides of its brown blotchy body and legs.
Ucidrau – Phasmid Chitoniscus feejeeanusThe leaf insect is very rare in Fiji, which is at the eastern extremity of its range, They are small – up to 4 inches (10cm) at most – and the body mimics green leaves in shape and colour, down to the presence of veins.
Ucikau Walking Stick – Hermarchus apolloniusThe Giant stick insect is one of Fiji’s largest insects, attaining a length of 12 inches (25cm), particularly fond of guava trees.
Table: Fijian Stick Insect

Stick insects (known as ucikau in Fijian, uci, meaning ‘to resemble ‘, plus kau, meaning ‘stick’) are one of nature’s experts at camouflage, evolving alongside the vegetation closely in which they reside, being stationary most of their lives, this evolutionary invisibility cloak protects them from known predators, with an additional ability if required to regenerate any lost limbs which may be lost through fight and flight.

They have long thin bodies, and long antennae, with some species having small wings. The majority of stick insects are females, which are normally larger than males, and capable of reproduction by themselves.

References

  • Diplacodes bipunctata. (2019, October 20). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Dew, D. (2017). Hypolimnas Bolina [Photograph]. Flickr. Link
  • Doleschallia bisaltide. (2021, November 9). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Gnathothlibus erotus. (2022, April 16). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Hewitson, (2018). Fijian Emperor [Photograph]. INaturalist. Link
  • Hippotion celerio. (2023, January 12). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Kerr, G. (2018). Brand new species of swallowtail butterfly discovered on Fiji [Photograph]. Brand new Species of Swallowtail Butterfly Discovered on Fiji. Link
  • Macroglossum hirundo. (2021, January 5). In Wikipedia. Link
  • [Reddplus Fiji]. (2019, October 18). Documentary on Nanai Emalu Forest [Video]. Youtube. Link
  • [Social Plug – Fiji]. (2021, April 17). Fijian Wildlife – The Giant Fijian Long-horn Beetle [Video]. Youtube. Link
  • Psilogramma jordana. (2021, June 24). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Prevost, L. (2021). Long-tailed Blue [Photograph]. Butterfly Conservation. Link
  • Rhyothemis phyllis. (2017, February 28). In Wikipedia. Link
  • Unknown (2018). Rhinoscapha lagopyga [Photograph]. INaturalist. Link
  • Unkown (2015). Coconut Stick Insect, Phasmid [Photograph]. Project Noah. Link
  • Unknown (2017). Genus Paracupta [Photograph]. INaturalist. Link
  • Winterflood, G. (2019). Green Skimmer (Orthetrum serapia) [Photograph]. Flickr. Link
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