Roger Butterfield has certainly surprised me with his wonderfilled Circus of the Spineless #23. He starts out talking about this summer in the UK, the wettest since records began, and goes on to say a few words about Yorkshire, where he lives:
The garden is crawling with slugs and snails but, apart from a few hardy bumblebees, there is a distinct shortage of flying insects.How different to here in southeast Australia where we had the first decent wet in many years. Heavy rains brought out an explosion in the moth population.
As we don't have curtains in my house, each night our windows were thick with what looked like a vertical rain falling upwards, of fluttering males, interspersed with the relatively still bodies of many females. During the day, moths were thick in the shadows on the verandah floor, and on its wooden rails.
Here are two that had spent the previous evening on the window. The male, when held on the palm of my hand, vibrated.
The female laid those eggs as I was taking the picture of the male, not two metres away. The eggs were not laid near a food plant, as I have read that they should be, nor were they dropped in flight, which seems to be the other acceptable behaviour . They were obviously not attached to anything, but rolled free in the breeze.
Was she an anarchist?
Should she be reported to
After laying her eggs, she flew
away, presumably to die free of the prying lens. The male stayed on the post all day. I lost track of him that evening and never found his body amongst the dead. As for their names, don't trust me further than taking my word for them being of the Lepidopteran order. Are they male and female of the same species? I'm guessing maybe as quite a few species are known for dimorphism. What I'll guess with more certainty, however, is that they don't have a common name.
Australian moths suffer from a lack of common names, as so little is known of them. Moths in the UK and the USA are distinguished by names so charming, the name itself invites curiosity. Who can resist wanting to know the Why of the Feathered Thorn, the Scalloped Oak, the Cinnabar and the Garden Tiger?
In the case of moths as of so many residents of the world, unfamiliarity breeds contempt.
The more people get to know moths, the more it's inevitable that they will earn common names, even for their other life stages. And though those names might be common and below the notice of certain entomologists, the commons will benefit.
Making Moths Count
I'm all for us having a moth count here, as David Attenborough has urged in his capacity as president of Butterfly Conservation in the UK. Actually, I'm very much in favour of having a moth count, partly because I'm crazy about moths. Butterflies get so much more publicity and image, but I think moths are far more subtle, when they're not more spectacular! Take this, you of the club antennas!
The young and the foolish
From the time the first female ANTHELID varia moth flew onto our verandah, I have had all the help, support and encouragement I could ask for. That has been from home, school and the gentlemen from Sydney and Canberra, not to mention the policeman from next door, who assured me I was quite safe collecting the moth traps from the scrub at 4.a.m.because I was "the only silly fool around at that time".
The children in my class and I will continue our study of moths in our area, as much of the scrub close to our city is being cleared for housing.
I am told Port Lincoln is expected to double in size in the next ten years.
I hope that does not mean the moth population will halve in size.
– Lorraine Jenkins, Moths of the West Coast (South Australia)
Also be sure to see one of my favourite sites on the web, the Chew family's Insects of Brisbane!
Feeding the multitude
Needless to say, the verandah with its daily scatter of dead and dying moths attracted magpies and kookaburras who wouldn't have cared if I'd called their food Hymenoptera, or eggplants.