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100 years on, Old Pelion Hut retains its charm

19/09/2017

One of Tasmania's favourite historic mountain huts, Old Pelion Hut in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, is celebrating its centenary this year.More

Future-proofing our tourism icons

18/09/2017

Environment and Parks Minister Matthew Groom has announced that $8 million will be allocated to upgrade vital infrastructure in our parks and reserves over the next two years.More

Tenders advertised for Freycinet Master Plan

28/08/2017

Freycinet is one of the absolute jewels in Tasmania's crown, with locals and visitors flocking to the area in droves to experience one of the world's most stunning areas.
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Glow worms

Glow WormsGlow worms (Photo by Paul Flood)

Glow-worms (Arachnocampa tasmaniensis) are a spectacular underground sight. In some caves they cluster on walls and ceilings in their thousands—a myriad of blue lights resembling stars in the night sky. Being troglophiles, they also occur in moist, sheltered surface habitats such as rainforest gullies.

Glow-worms are not really worms, but the luminous larval stage of a fungus gnat. A chemical reaction in their abdomen produces a cold blue light. They are able to switch on and douse their lights at will. The larva builds a hollow, tubular nest of silk and mucous from which it suspends sticky threads up to 30 cm long. Flying insects, attracted to the lights, become trapped and are then eaten. In stream caves, the main insects caught are stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies.

The aquatic, larval stages of these insects are carried underground by the stream. When they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adult flies, they are attracted up to the lights and become entangled in the sticky threads. Glow-worms quickly haul up the appropriate thread and consume their victim.

After several months of growth the glow-worm larva pupates inside a chrysalis, then emerges as an adult gnat. The adults live only a few days during which time they don’t feed—they have no functional mouth-parts. Instead, they mate. The female lays her eggs on the cave wall. Glow-worm colonies are dependent upon the continued availability of flying insects for their food,especially aquatic insects carried into caves by streams.

To preserve them it is important to maintain the natural conditions of stream flow and native forest within the cave catchment area. Glow-worms will stop glowing if people shine bright lights on them, or make loud noises. They are also disturbed by people passing close beneath them, and care must be taken not to brush or entangle the long threads.

Glow worms can be seen in the dense gully forest leading to Russell Falls at Mt Field National Park. In the north of the State, they are able to be seen in Marakoopa Cave, in the Mole Creek Karst National Park.