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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Swift Moths love the cold, wet weather

I have some difficulty in identifying these Swift Moths which have been coming to my front porch in the last week, of cool, wet weather. Any help in identifying these Moths would be appreciated. You can see in this image that there is considerable variation in size and colour markings of these moths, yet I assume they are the same species.
I was originally inclined towards the species known as Abantiades hyalinatus (HEPIALIDAE) until I saw the images on Donald Hobern's Flickr Gallery of moths, which clearly showed a violet colour to the hindwings and the upper part of the body. Also his specimens were recorded in January.
My specimens show a deep russet colour, but not purple
on the hind wings, and the body brown.
This was taken at 1/500th of a second, but still the image is blurred
showing how fast these Moths flap.

However, there is another likely candidate: Elhamma australasiae (HEPIALIDAE) . Don Herbison -Evans' encyclopaedic website on Australian Moths says: "The earliest adults appear in January, but they are most common in March and usually disappear by April."
As these moths have just appeared in Robertson, in the last week, when it has been cold and wet, the timing of Elhamma australasiae, as reported, hardly fits. I have written about these Moths previously, on 2 June 2008 (when it was cold and wet); and before that, on 27 May 2008
So, perhaps it is Oxycanus dirempta (HEPIALIDAE). At least Donald Hobern's images of this species are all recorded in May.
What troubles me is the variability of these moths - not just in my images, but in the available images on other galleries and websites.
Here is a handsomely marked specimen,
with a clear wing stripe.
Long antennae are also evident.
Here is a much redder specimen
with spots on the wings, not the clear wing flash
And a really dark specimen
with wing blotches, not white spots nor wing flash
Here is a very pale specimen, viewed "head on". It does look very similar to this specimen of Donald's Elhamma australasiae, so I am totally confused.I took this image and marked eight different moths
around my front porch at the one time.
I must admit to an assumption that these are all the same species - simply based upon the similarity of habit and timing of their appearance.
As I said at the beginning, any help in identifying these Moths would be appreciated.

Edit:

Donald Hobern came through with an ID - many thanks.
He said they "all look good for Oxycanus dirempta".
That's great.
Thanks Donald

Denis

9 comments:

Flabmeister said...

This matches very closely my experience in Carwoola (between Queanbeyan and Captains Flat). The moths turned up in largish numbers about 16 May 2009 and are now (22 May) in hordes - at one time last evening we had 5 crawling along the bottom of one window. Like Denis I was perplexedat the colour variation.

Denis Wilson said...

Captains Flat area is east from Canberra, and is about 150 Km south-west from Robbo. Colder, but gernerally much drier. But obviously they are having similar weather to us at present - hence the similar moths.
Its good to share notes.
Thanks
Denis

Junior Lepid said...

Hello Denis,

As I said at Lepidoptera Diary, the Hepialids can be very difficult to correctly identify without invasive surgery!!

Suggestions only! Have a look at Oxycanus janeus for No. 3 (that's IF there is anything on the Web!!) and I think No. 4 might also be Oxycanus species. The others I'm not sufficiently prepared to have a stab at!!

I know this hasn't helped - and for that, I apologise! :-)

Denis Wilson said...

Hi JL
Thanks. I am working on a borrowed Laptop, late on Saturday night. I will follow uo your suggestion when back home, working from my own computer - where I have all the relevant links saved.
I must admit I had assumed they were all the same species - despite obvious differences, for Donald's site shows great variabilty within same species.
I shall check further, and try to email for further advice.
I should stick to Orchids. They are much easier.
Thanks for giving me new nqa,es to chase up, JL.
Very kind.
Denis

Denis Wilson said...

I meant thanks for giving me new names to follow up.
Denis

David said...

Hi Denis,

Just a quick report to say we have these moths in large numbers down the far south coast as well.
They have appeared in the last week or so.
Seems that the ID may be difficult.
The insect world is certainly one of diversity and profusion!
Cheers,

Dave

Denis Wilson said...

Hi David
Good to hear of the range of these Moths.
I will follow up comments from Junior Lepid, who suggested different species (but still in the same group).
Cheers
Denis
I see you have plugged into the satellite!
Cheers
Denis

Anonymous said...

I live on the victorian coast and I have also seen these moths in large numbers and variation in colour. I think it has happened at least twice and maybe more. Im sure that there were maybe thirty or more of them. I remember looking at them and thinking that the only differece between them all was the colouration- all their other features matched

Denis Wilson said...

Welcome to my blog.
There dies seem to be a lot pof variation between them , but the experts feel they are all the same species. Oxycanus dirempta
I got this message from Donald Hobern.

"Denis,

"I always have real difficulties with hepialids. Different species all seem to blur into each other when going by external appearance. However the four I photographed a week or so back (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dhobern/tags/oxycanusdirempta/), even though they varied between each other, all matched nicely with O. dirempta specimens in the collection, other than that the russety-maroon hindwing colour fades after death. I think your moths all look good for Oxycanus and probably O. dirempta.

Best wishes,

Donald"