Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mothy Nights in Robertson

Over the last week, we have had some non-windy nights - not hot, nor cool. Just nice. The moths have been out - presumably seeking out the various perfumes of the local vines (Parsonsias, Wonga Vine, etc) which are in flower at present, and the more obvious Pittosporum trees, with their heavy night scent.

Somewhere in between all these odours, we know that Moths are using their antennae to track down the pheremones of their potential mates.

And then we humans build our little houses (on the edges of the scent-filled rainforests) and light them with electric light bulbs, to confuse the poor darlings. Consequently, when I come inside the house at night I expect to find some moths, sometimes swarms of them, around the little low-energy bulb on my front porch.

Sometimes I take their pictures. Some are more co-operative than others. Some are positively impossible to photograph - buzzing around furiously. Others sit there, patiently.

Some hold their wings wide spread - flat moths (in my mind). Others are compact wing folders, and then there are the tight tuckers, some of the small moths which fold their wings along their abdomen, but have funny upturned tips of their wings. And then there are those rude looking ones which spread their wings, and stick their bottom up high in the air.

Possibly a "Plume Moth"
(Nick Monaghan has a similar moth marked as "unknown Geometrid Moth",
but that seems unlikely to me.
Edit: Mosura says NOT a Plume Moth. Some Geometrids do roll their wings like that....
What's that body posture about? As if we cannot guess!!!

As a rank amateur moth-er (not a "mother"), I have a problem with the classic displays of dead moths, all spread out uniformly, for that is not how one sees them in real life. My comment about how they hold their wings typifies this problem. When you see a photo of a dusty specimen of moth, collected 100 years ago by some famous collector - it does not look how one sees the real thing - a live specimen.

This is one of the reasons I like the work which Mosura, Junior Lepid and Duncan are doing - presenting real moths, in the manner in which I see them - hanging around my front porch.
From what I can glean from these other bloggers. this moth is probably in the Chrysodeixis genus. In that case it is probably within the Noctuidae family. It does not have the seemingly distinctive (or typical) silvery markings which those moths are supposed to have. (Unlike this one below, which I photographed last year - which is probably Chrysodeixis argentifera ).
Edit: Mosura says probably Chrysodeixis eriosomaThe recently photographed moth (below) - the same specimen as on my finger, (2 images above) also has the tufted hairs on the back of the thorax. The closest I can come for this specimen is Chrysodeixis subsidens. The caterpillars of this family are said to feed on Tomatoes, and Tobacco, but it is interesting to note that those plants are in the same family as some of the very common local (native) plants, the "Kangaroo Apple" (Solanum aviculare) and the low-growing, thorny, Eastern Nightshade, (Solanum pungetium). So, while these Moths are said to be more-or-less universal in distribution, it is quite likely that their distribution is natural. In other words, they might not necessarily be an introduced pest species.
I like this photo (below) - for I feel this moth is saying to me - What family are you in? I have a feeling that the banding on the legs might be significant - but what would I know? Certainly the legs look very fetching.
This appears to me to be a totally different type of moth - just from the way in which it holds its wings flat. As a bird-watcher primarily, I cannot help be reminded of the Nightjar family of birds, which are famous for their camouflage.
This moth was sitting high on my front screen door, so it was on the limits of my ability to reach with the camera, and so I could just manage to get a front-angle view, which at least shows the prominent antennae. (I desperately need to clean the screen door, obviously!)The closest I can come with this Moth is that it is a member of the Geometridae family - possibly a member of the Gastrina genus or perhaps it is a member of the Scioglyptis genus.

Any advice on names would be welcomed, folks.


Mosura said...

Great to see lots of moths in the blogosphere lately.

First one is not a plume moth although I can see why you might think that. There are some Geometrids which roll there wings like that so that a possibility. Personally it strikes me as a Pyralid. (Pyralidae) due to the simmple antennae held back over the wings and the shape of the palps. sitting high at the front etc. That's not an ID however, more like the birders jiz.

For photo 3, the one you photographed last year, I'd say Chrysodeixis eriosoma . The two marks on the wing are separate and there is no silver s shape which you will find on C. argentifera

That Geometrid, the last moth, looks rather familiar. I had a flick through some books but can't spot it. If I find it later I'll let you know. It certainly appears you have chosen the right subfamily, that is Ennominae. What would it's wingspan have been (roughly)? 40 to 50 mm judging by the fly screen.

Wish I could have been of more help.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mosura.

Disappointed that I guessed wrongly on the "Possible Plume Moth". I really wish there was a simple "field guide" which would describe Moth families by their "jiz" as you mentioned. In this case, I call it the "Bum Up" moth. Works for me. But not for the collections of dried specimens.

Thanks for the tip on the dark Tobacco Looper type from last year. Lousy photos. I need much more practice.

The Geometrid moth was probably about 40mmm. My fly screen is a very fine one (to try and keep the mozzies out), but it doesn't work.
Thanks for that.

By the way, your link from your blog to your photo albums does not allow one to see your Moths and Butterflies images. I got there, via Junior Lepid's link, which presumable has a slightly different address link. I had a lovely time browsing your website last night.



Mosura said...

Yes I noticed the "Bum Up" title on your photo. It probably doesn't have a common name so maybe we should all adopt that one :-)

There is no "good" field guide to Aussie moths - I guess there are just too many of them. I have a dozen or so Australian moth books and they each have something to offer. A good one for starting out is "A Guide to Australian Moths" by Zborowski and Edwards as it give a run down of the main features of eacg family. The down side is that it doesn't have a wide variety of photographs for each family.

My Tasmanian Moth site is a big mess at the moment. It used to work from a database but I totally changed the way it works. Now everything is parsed from text files. In theory it should be easier to maintain. The problem is a lot of information and formatting was lost. I will probably have to take some time out from blogging etc and get it sorted.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
Thanks for the book reference. Next time I go to Canberra (not that often) I will check out a very good 2nd hand book store there.
Feel free to adopt the name - Royalties not required :-))
It is exactly that sort of "jiz" I need to try and identify the moths by, because their behaviour is quite diverse. That and the way they fold their wings. It ought give the amateur a head start as to where to look. All those awkward Family names that the "check-list style" approaches use do not help. Plus, I fear there have been revisions, for the lists do not appear to be consistent.
That's a problem I am familiar with from Orchids, but you need a good reference text to guide you through the taxonomic maze.
Best of luck with the website. I am hoping to build my own soon enough, but more localised than yours. Not just Moths - in fact probably NOT Moths, until I get better informed. I'll start with plants and birds.
Your photos are very good. Good start, even without accompanying text, at present.

Junior Lepid said...

Good to see you getting into a bit of 'Mothing' Denis. :-)

The top one wouldn't be a Tineodid, would it? Mosura?

Donald Hobern said...

The moth with the upturned abdomen is Sceliodes cordalis. It's in the Crambidae (Pyraustinae) and the caterpillars feed on eggplants.

Some other images here.

Best wishes, Donald

Denis Wilson said...

Thank you Donald
I have had lots of suggestions on that one - a bit of an odd character, it seems.
It is good to have a definite name for it.
Many thanks.
It is funny that my photos and yours all date from November 2008.
Must be a seasonal occurrence.