What is the 'Eucalyptus Snout Beetle' - An interview with Natalia Medeiros De Souza
Here at Lone Pine, we not only have our own research team but also work with other local researchers to help facilitate their projects. By being home to a wide variety of native plant and animal species, the sanctuary is an invaluable resource to the research community.
Check out our recent conversation with PhD student, Natalia Medeiros De Souza, who used our eucalypt plantation to learn more about the ‘Eucalyptus Snout Beetle’.
Hi Natalia. Tell us about what you are currently studying.
I am studying Gonipterus, an Australian genus of weevil that goes by the common name ‘Eucalyptus Snout Beetle’ (pictured below). Weevil is a common expression used for beetles that have an elongated snout. These particular weevils are endemic to Australia, except Western Australia (WA), although they have now since been found there.
What is your current project and what inspired you to study Gonipterus?
My PhD is about Gonipterus, the plants they feed on and their natural enemies, as well as their taxonomy, metabolism and relationship with other organisms.
I would say that initially, I wanted to work with this project because Gonipterus is an invasive pest of commercial eucalypt plantations. They are commonly controlled with natural enemies, that reduce the pest's population to an acceptable level. The concept of managing pests with the use of other organisms has always fascinated me. Gonipterus itself is also a captivating genus to work with. There is still so much to learn about it and, here in Australia where they are native, I have an amazing opportunity to observe all their diversity.
It certainly sounds like a fascinating project. How is Lone Pine a part of your project?
Since June 2018, I have been visiting once a month for surveys. I sample the different species of eucalypt trees in the plantation looking for any life stages of the weevil, from egg to adult. I then take them to the lab and wait to see if any natural enemies emerge from the samples. I record everything I can about these surveys, including species of eucalypt, species of weevil and species of natural enemy.
What are the practical outcomes you hope to achieve with your project?
I intend to gather data about the ecological dynamics of Gonipterus species here in Queensland. I want to know what species of eucalyptus these weevils like to eat, understanding their lifecycle and when the different life stages (egg, larva, pupa and adult) are present. I also want to find out what species of weevils the natural enemies are associated with. This kind of information may be used when planning future pest management strategies.
Have there been any significant findings so far?
Definitely. I found at least one undescribed species of Gonipterus at Lone Pine and also one of their natural enemies which was originally not known to occur in Queensland!
Why did you choose Lone Pine to be one of your sample locations?
Lone Pine is one of my favourite collection spots. In practical terms, it is very easy for me to collect samples from the trees, due to how they are harvested and kept short to make them suitable for koala feed. I also have a soft spot for Lone Pine; it’s always so nice to catch a glimpse of the animals as I make my way to the plantation. The staff are always so friendly and helpful.
My last collection day was in June, so I’m surely going to miss my visits.