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Australian Moths 2018 (1 Viewer)

Atropos

Well-known member
After an abscence of nearly two years the Mothman from Mossman has returned...A quick scene setting post I am an ex pat currently living near the small village of Mossman in Far North Queensland (approx 70km north of Cairns). We live close to the edge of primary rain forest, this will be our thrid year here but quite possibly our last as the children are struggling with their mum working away from home for upto 16 weeks at a time so we may well relocate in the near future. The house garden is over manicured and with very few native species but the proximity of decent habitat makes up for this and the moth list is reasonably impressive with 1200 spp recorded in the last 24 months and approx 34000 photos still to work through...in that total are 40 species of Sphingidae (out of an Australian total of 86); three species of Saturnidae including the Hercules Moth that has the largest wing surface area of any moth in the world, 165 Crambidae, Spilomelinae and 62 Geometrinae or "Emeralds"...to say it keeps me busy is an understatement. This year has been an excellent year from the perspective of diversity - this May alone I have recorded in excess of 420 spp so far (not bad for winter) and in total this year 760 spp. That said numbers of each species are most definitely down -for example I have only had one night with in excess of 100 individual Sphingidae where as in previous years I have had several with a peak count of in excess of 160 individuals on the sheet. At no stage this year have I had a "black" sheet ie one covered completely with moths although I have had my best single night with 170+ spp (still working through the photos...). An odd year to say the least.
I will post a few photos next but will end this ramble with one for the UK trappers...this species has become a regular visitor to the sheet this Wet...would have been exceedingly happy with just one in my UK trapping days....
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Hawkmoths never fail to impress and on a good night in the Wet I can catch 15-20 species - numbers have been low this year with a peak of no more than 110 individuals on one night. My poor nights up here still manage to annoy my mothing friends from the southern states where they struggle to get six species in a year!
Ambulyx dohertyi (female top / male bottom) on left and Ambulyx wildei on right - dohertyi is a regular visitor to the sheet in small numbers throughout the year; wildei is a much rare species with just four in the last three years - two of which have been this year
Daphnis protrudens my favourite of the three Daphnis that visit the sheet and probably the scarcest with no more than 10 a year
Hippotion brennus (L) and Hippotion johanna (R) currently treated as forms of the same species - although in his forth coming book Max Moulds the Australian Sphingidae expert treats them as separate species (his justification seems correct to me but I am far from an expert)
Theretra turneri - a beautiful and scarce visitor to the sheet with fewer than five a year, so far have caught just this individual in 2018
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Has been an excellent year so far for Coscinocera hercules with 15 males caught so far, including three in one night...
In the last three years I have caught 30+ males and a single female..although I have found another female at rest during the day.
The other regular Saturnidae is Synthereta escarlata - a very varied species with individuals ranging in colour from yellow like this one through to reds and browns, this in addition to highly variable wing shape and patterning across the genus makes identifying to species quite tricky, geographic location becomes a vital piece of information...
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Another genus that I really enjoy seeing are the Eudocima (Noctuidae; Calpinae) although I am not sure some of our neighbours feel the same as they run a fruit winery and these are serious pests on commercial soft fruit crops..
Eudocima cocalus - male, one of the scarcest with just a couple of records a year
Eudocima fullonia - female, the most common of the six species that i have recorded in the garden
Eudocima jordani - the second most common species in the garden
Eudocima materna
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Crambidae, Spilomelinae are very diverse here with over 160 species so far in the garden and new species turning up every week. They certainly don't all live up to the title "micro" moths as the largest can have wingspans in excess of 40mm..They are also some of the most stunning visitors to the sheet...
Agrotera pictalis - a regular visitor to the sheet and by far my favourite of this genus
Diathrausta ochreipennis - a very deceptive species, looks quite monochromatic until it shows off its hindwings...this one is a female
Filodes fulvibasalis - an uncommon visitor that was new this year
Orphnostigma abruptalis -a scarce visitor to the sheet
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
A few more random species from the first five months of the year...
Neostauropus viridissimus (Notodontidae; Notodontinae) - a regular visitor to the sheet
Teleclita dryinopa (Notodontidae; Notodontinae) - my favourite Notodont, a scarce visitor with 5+ a year
Paectes kebaea (Euteliidae; Euteliinae) - my favourite of the 30 odd species of Eutelid that I catch.
Ulotrichopus dinawa (Erebidae, Erebinae) - another quite deceoptive species. Until this large Erebid opens its wings it looks quite plain but the hidwings are a brilliant yellow with a narrow darker border...needless to say it doesn't spread its wings very often!
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Ateloptica confusa (Geometridae, Ennominae) - a regular visitor in small numbers during the Wet
Casbia fasciata (Geometridae, Ennominae) - the majority of the Casbia are rather plainspecies, with many requiring dissection to confirm ID, but there are a few that are distinctive such as this one!
Scardamia ithyzona (Geometridae; Ennominae) - have only recorded this stunning species once
Pterogonia cardinalis (Nolidae; Westermanniinae) - a large and distinctive Nolid...makes a change as the vast majority of this very common order are small, grey and in Australia virtually impossible to ID with certainty!
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Hulodes caranea (Erebidae; Erebinae) - a surprisingly regular visitor to the sheet. Talking to other mothers in the Indo-Pacific region this species turns up to fruit more regularly than light traps but despite putting a variety of fruit out ona regular basis I have never seen one away from the moth sheet. Can appear in reasonable numbers with a peak of five on one night
Hypena gonospilalis (Erebidae; Hypeninae) - a distinctive, if variable, member of this genus. So many of those that i catch here are plain and either require dissection to confirm ID or are of as yet undescribed species - many of which are known and illustrated on sites such as BOLD
Tamba cyrtogramma (Erebidae; Erebinae) - a very variable species that turns up regulalry on the sheet
Trichoplusia lectula (Noctuidae; Plusiinae) - my favourite Plusiinae and a regular visitor to the sheet; reminds me of my trapping days at Rye Harbour when I caught vittata a fair few years ago!
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Put the trap on for a couple of hours this evening but the weather is just so called here at the moment by Tropical standards with the temperature last night dropping to single figures.
The highlights of a very poor show were these two Geometridae, Geometrinae- Pingasa chlora and Aeolochroma turneri.
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
As the unexpectedly cold weather continues (dropped to 9 degrees and felt like 6 over night - the coldest prolonged spell here for 20+ years) the trap is unsurprisingly very quiet. The best of a very poor bunch last night was this fresh Donuca castalia (Erebidae, Erebinae) the commonest of the six species of Donuca that I catch
 

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honeym

Well-known member
Hi Andy - from my recollection there are no field guides as such. There is this: https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/5571/ and Ian Common's Moths of Australia but I think they are more textbooks than field guides. With over 20,000 species it's not likely there will ever be one, at least not comprehensive. Your best bet would be on-line guides.
Martin
 

Atropos

Well-known member
Hi Andy, Martin is absolutely correct there are no real field guides. There are a couple of books giving an over view of the 20-30000 spp that are here of which only about 10000 are named. There are a few publications looking at specific regions - such as Peter Marriott Moths of Victoria a very comprehensive work, and Tropical Queensland Wildlife by Buck Richardson that is coffee table book covering some of the species he has found in his garden in Kuranda. There are several online resources as well with the most well known being http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/imagos.html run by Don Herbison-Evans that illustrates approx 3500 species I think (although there are some glaring errors in this but that is not meant as a criticism), Buck Richardson has also a webpage that is updated
http://www.leapfrogoz.com.au/moths-of-tropical-queensland-australia/moth-identification/index.html
and of particular use to me is
http://www.papua-insects.nl/insect orders/Lepidoptera/Lepidoptera families.htm
as the fauna here in FNQ is in many cases closer to PNGs than it is to the rest of Australia
A real plus for Australian moth-ers has been the popularity of Facebook and other social media type sites such as Flickr as these have seen an explosion of published photos and in the case of FB some decent groups specialising in moths globally and from my perspective there is an excellent, if small group Indo-Pacific Moths with several real experts in the field all of whom are exceedingly generous with their time and knowledge.
But it is a real struggle as aside from the lack of resources there are few other people trapping in huge parts of the country. For example the area north of Cairns is probably the size of the UK with a population of 50000+ and there are probably fewer than 10 people who actively trap here! As a result I probably identify 70% of what appears on my sheet to broad genera level or better.
My own contribution such as it is is a work in progress and currently a series of Flickr albums of moths from FNQ https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/page1
The lack of resources is a real challenge but it does make it doubly satisying when you finally get something down to genus level after catching it regularly for the last five years!
 

Atropos

Well-known member
The cold weather has continued during the week although it is not as cold and there has been more activity on the sheet on the warmer night. Here are a few from the last few nights....
Eudocima materna (Noctuidae; Calpinae) - it is more normal to find them sitting in their tent like position so it was very obliging of this female to actually show its stunning hindwings. This is one of the commonest of the seven members of this genus that I catch in the garden
Problepsis apollinaria (Geometridae; Sterrhinae) - a very regular visitor to the sheet occuring throughout the year
Laelia obsoleta (Erebidae; Lymantriinae) - this was new to me this week, although I have a hazy recollection of something very similar from a couple of years ago that as yet I have not refound in my unidentified files
Savara variabilis (Erebidae; Catocalinae) - I catch this fewer than five times a year, although this Wet was particvularly good and I have already caught four. Unusual for me to catch it in the Dry as it does seem to prefer the warmer wetter conditions
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Onebala hibisci (Gelechiidae; Dichomeridinae) - one of the huge number of Gelechioidae that I catch here - they are a massively diverse Order in Australia. As is so often the case this is no longer the correct name but my tiny brain cells can't cope with all the name changes and I still know this as hibisci..
Niphopyralis (Crambidae, Spilomelinae) - at the moment these are treated as the same species chionensis but the dark individual on the right is on BOLD as chionensis PS1 which indicates that this may not be the case. That said I think most members of this genus show very similar external features and separation without dissection may not be reliable. These always remind me of Cilix sp from my UK days
Araeopteron (Erebidae; Boletobiinae) - this genus personifies in my mind the danger of using "common" names. The Niphoyralis above is what many people would classify as a "micro" moth - implying that it is small, these Araeopteron are so called "macro" moths (they have a wingspan of no more than 3-4mm). In reality the Araeopteron are minute probably only a quarter of the size of the Niphoyralis which isn't exsctly a huge moth itself. This year has seen a huge increase in the number of these tiny moths appearing at the sheet, the vaste majority of which I have absolutely no idae as to species, in part because of size and the probable need for dissection but also due to the fact that the majority of them are undescribed...
Tridrepana lunulata f fasciata (Drepanidae; Drepaninae) - I have seen fasciata listed as a separate species in some resources but as far as I am aware it is more normally treated as a form of lunulata. The more normal form lacks the fuscus markings on the forewings.
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
Aside from the moths there is a huge selection of wildlife that appears on or close to the sheet - from Papuan Frogmouths and Bats trying to eat my moths, upto five species of snake trying to eat the geckos and frogs eating the moths, 15+ species of native frog as well as the ubiquitous Cane Toad and hundreds of other species of invertebrates.
Some of the more spectacular visitors are the Cerambycidae or LongHorn Beetles. These are just a handful of the ones I catch..
Batocera frenchi - with a body length of over 50mm this is one of the larger species that I see
Rosenbergia megalocephala - another large species with a body length of 60mm+
Pelargoderus rubropunctatus - a smaller species only approx 30-40mm in length but one that is apparently quite scarce across its range, I catch 5-10 a year that I notice
Unknown - I catch this, or very similar ones very regularly but as yet have not managed to get it down to Tribe/ Genus level let alone species! Medium sized with body length 25-30mm
 

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Atropos

Well-known member
There are also a huge number of spiders that appear on and around the sheet including several of these guys - one of the Barking / Whistling Tarantulas from FNQ. These are a common resident in the garden, with at least ten active burrows. They are an active species with the sub-adults going on the traditional Aussie Walkabout as they search out territories of their own - this unfortunately regularly includes wandering through the house! They are in reality harmless to humans but waking up to one of these on the pillow beside your head is enough to scare the crap out of anyone...
 

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Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Hi Andy, Martin is absolutely correct there are no real field guides. There are a couple of books giving an over view of the 20-30000 spp that are here of which only about 10000 are named. There are a few publications looking at specific regions - such as Peter Marriott Moths of Victoria a very comprehensive work, and Tropical Queensland Wildlife by Buck Richardson that is coffee table book covering some of the species he has found in his garden in Kuranda. There are several online resources as well with the most well known being http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/imagos.html run by Don Herbison-Evans that illustrates approx 3500 species I think (although there are some glaring errors in this but that is not meant as a criticism), Buck Richardson has also a webpage that is updated
http://www.leapfrogoz.com.au/moths-of-tropical-queensland-australia/moth-identification/index.html
and of particular use to me is
http://www.papua-insects.nl/insect orders/Lepidoptera/Lepidoptera families.htm
as the fauna here in FNQ is in many cases closer to PNGs than it is to the rest of Australia
A real plus for Australian moth-ers has been the popularity of Facebook and other social media type sites such as Flickr as these have seen an explosion of published photos and in the case of FB some decent groups specialising in moths globally and from my perspective there is an excellent, if small group Indo-Pacific Moths with several real experts in the field all of whom are exceedingly generous with their time and knowledge.
But it is a real struggle as aside from the lack of resources there are few other people trapping in huge parts of the country. For example the area north of Cairns is probably the size of the UK with a population of 50000+ and there are probably fewer than 10 people who actively trap here! As a result I probably identify 70% of what appears on my sheet to broad genera level or better.
My own contribution such as it is is a work in progress and currently a series of Flickr albums of moths from FNQ https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/albums/page1
The lack of resources is a real challenge but it does make it doubly satisying when you finally get something down to genus level after catching it regularly for the last five years!

Thanks for this, I may try and source a couple of them e.g Marriot's, Victoria.

Some amazing moths down there, I have similar issues on a much smaller scale, here in Russia. A great percentage are found in the British guide by Waring but plenty aren't and that's when I have to avail myseld of the not inconsiderable experience of the guys here.

Thanks for sharing anyway, I assume you're aware of Surfbirds? No limit to how many shots you can post and it's a way to broaden your audience.

http://www.surfbirds.com/index.php

If you're not familiar, I can write a step by step for you to post if needed.




A
 
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