Friday, 29 December 2017

December moths on Black Mountain

Another month, another survey of moths on Black Mountain in Canberra with Suzi Bond and Glenn Cocking. And another set of different moth species, all new to me. The one above is a species of Emerald, Chlorocoma melocrossa, Geometridae,  c 3 cm wingspan.

This one, a Triangular Geometrid Moth Epidesmia chilonaria, was not attracted to the lights but was hanging on a grass stem out in the shadows. So low to the ground that I almost stepped on it, a familiar habit of the species. The noticeably long labial palpi protrude as a pointed 'nose' between the antennae, and this one is partially showing some of her yellow hindwing. c 5 cm wingspan.

Not a moth, and not just a smudge on the bark of a tree. This is a case, a sort of tube, a onesie made of silk and pieces of fine dirt, soil, tiny specks of forest litter. And inside is a Psychidae moth caterpillar, possibly Australian Bagmoth Cebysa leucotelus, snug and safe from predators as it crawled up a branch. It feeds on lichen. c 2 cm long.

A side-on view of the same silk onesie. A tiny gap can be seen between the case and the bark. I would like to watch how these caterpillars build such hideaways around themselves as they grow and feed.

Although most of the moths were attracted to the lights and landed on the white sheet next to the lights, I like to photograph them away from the sheet, on nearby trees and shrubs. They make dramatic images, like this a Capusa sp. Geometridae, on a gum tree. c 5 cm wingspan.

This tiny moth wouldn't land on the surrounding vegetation, so I just had to accept a shot of it on the light sheet. I can't pin down this one to species, although it is likely an Oecophoridae. c 1 cm wingspan.

Isn't she so beautiful. This was probably my favourite for the night - I'll have a new favourite next month. I like her black and white socks and the fiery red/orange patch on the back of her thorax. She is a species of Cryptophasa, Xyloryctidae, c 3 cm wingspan.

I would like to find a caterpillar of one of these. They burrow into the stem of their host plant, gather food at night and bring it back to eat in their burrow during the day. But how do I find one, go out at night with a torch I suppose.

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