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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, January 30, 2012

Huge colourful Swift Moth at Butler's Swamp.

On Friday I was at Butler's Swamp (just on the roadside verge, folks), in Kangaloon. I noticed this amazing moth sitting low down in the grass and rushes there.

I am familiar with the large Swift Moths which come to my porch light and windows on wet nights, especially. Usually Oxycanus dirempta.
But this one seemed different - larger, heavier, fatter and with deeper wings than any I had ever seen before.
Also, all my previous ones had some silver marks on the wings, but the patterns vary considerably.

All photos today are provided by 
my Orchid colleague, Alan Stephenson.

Ignore the dark lines on the wings
They are shadows from the grasses and rushes
in which this moth was hiding.
Its wings are plain fawn coloured.
No silver stripes.
Abantiades hyalinatus - a "Swift Moth" or "Ghost Moth"
Anyway, I sought advice from Dave Rentz, who said he thought it was an Hepialid Moth, but flicked the question on to Ted Edwards, from CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection.

The answer came back that it is indeed a Hepialid moth, Abantiades hyalinatus
Indeed, my moth matches some shots from Donald Hobern's gallery.
But a quick look at the link below will show you why I did not recognise it at first. Look at the variability of this species of Swift Moth.

It sure makes it hard for the amateur when they have wing pattern markings which are "optional".

I was not surprised when David originally suggested Hepialidae, but could not find matches in the Australian Moths on line page for this species.
Ted's comment about the colour fading (after the specimen dries out) explains that.

But I still think it very unsporting of these Moths to have optional patterned or plain wing markings.

Many thanks to both Dave Rentz and Ted Edwards.


Although we were out and about searching for Orchids (and we found some good ones), the Moth "find" tended to be the discovery of the day.

What happened was that when I spotted the moth 
we all gathered around to take photos.
Then I decided to try to pick up the moth, gently, 
as many large moths appear not to be too troubled by being handled.
Side on view of head, and neck of Abantiades hyalinatus
When I did pick it up, it immediately started flapping.
That revealed this amazing underneath colour.
Clear lilac hind wings.
Abantiades hyalinatus - hind wing colour
And not only were the wings this lilac colour
So was the body!
Abantiades hyalinatus with lilac body revealed

Lest you think too badly of me, dear reader, 
for having disturbed this creature,
here she is, after I released her. 
She flew straight back down into the grasses and rushes
and grabbed hold of a stem, 
just as she had been doing when I first found her.

(I have assumed the sex to be female, mostly because of her size
and also her relatively fine antennae - but I am NO EXPERT.)

You can see the slight hint of lilac even there.
I am not sure what the large black dots are
on the abdomen.
Presumably some kind of gland or other organ.
If anyone can advise me, I would appreciate it.
Underneath view of Abantiades hyalinatus
Once again, I express my gratitude to Alan Stephenson for the photos.
I can now reveal that on the day I was busy 
hanging on to the Moth during the "flapping shots"
and afterwards, 
I was totally bewildered by my encounter with this wonderful moth
and so could barely hold my camera straight.

Post Script: Regular readers will have noted that when Blogging about Moths I frequently link back to Donald Hobern's Flickr Gallery of Australian Lepidoptera (as I have done today).

Well today, Donald advised that "Friday was my last day working at CSIRO as Director of the Atlas of Living Australia ( I am moving for a few years with my family to become Director of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility ( in Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm already suffering withdrawal pains at the thought of leaving the Australian fauna for a few years, but I'll be back and I plan to keep working on the Australian plume moths in my spare time."
Donald Hobern.

It is appropriate therefore for me to thank Donald publicly for the excellent service he has provided via his personal Photo gallery, and also via his role as Director of the Atlas of Living Australia. 

I hope that he will continue to make his photo gallery available to us, as a reference service.
And I hope that the Atlas will continue to grow, and develop to its full potential. It is a service which has attracted the interest of many naturalists as well as professionals in the various fields of Natural History.


Joy Window said...

Wonderful creature, especially the purple bits (very technical entomology jargon, I know). The biggest moth I've seen up here is probably the bogong - at least that's what I think the large furry brown numbers with big eye spots are. Very nice find.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Joy.
This one was about 10 times the size (weight, etc) of a Bogong Moth. It was as large as my hand and very heavy.
The "ones with the eye spots" are probably Emperor Moths - Saturniinae family.
See Donald Hobern's site: