Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, October 08, 2012

A delightful small, pink moth with black spots

I had never seen anything like this delightful moth before.

Scoliacma bicolora
Daniel found it when the ANOS group was at Ken's place at Bullio, last week (where we saw the "Rufa-type Greenhood").
Scoliacma bicolora
Scoliacma bicolora
Scoliacma bicolora

Scoliacma bicolora
This little day-flying moth was relatively tame, and it walked around on Daniel's hand for a few moments. It then flew off fairly weakly, but it travelled far enough for me to lose track of it. Oh well, I had a few photos.

I then came to trying to identify it, with little success at first.

Naturally I tried to search images for a fairly distinctive moth, but somehow I missed it in the Australian Moths On-line  But of course it is in that wonderful collation of images.

For those not familiar with that on-line reference for Moths,  "most of the information comes from Len Willan’s collection and from the Australian National Insect Collection housed in Canberra at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences (formerly CSIRO Entomology).
Copyright of all images belongs to Len Willan and CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences."

How did I get to know this?

Well, that's where I have to sing the praises of Dave Rentz and Len Willan.
My Blogging colleague Dave Rentz, a retired CSIRO entomologist (now living in Insect Heaven at Kuranda, Qld. Dave has helped me many times with Cockroaches, Stick Insects, Katydids, and other odd insects I have come across.

I was also helped greatly by Len Willan, who I have met several times at Entomology Workshops which CSIRO Entomology has held over several years. You will already have noticed the credit to Len for compiling the images in that Moths On-line website. In fact I understand that Len more or less built that website.

Len told me that my moth is in a group known as Lichen Moths, which are treated in this paper from the Lichen people at the ANBG and the Australian National Herbarium.

I just love it when scientists work in an interdisciplinary manner. The Insect people do that really well, because the Moth larvae are often very host-specific. So the moth experts have to know their plants.

That paper tells me:  "Scoliacma bicolora. This species has been found in north and south Queensland and from there south to Victoria, Tasmania and south-east South Australia. Near Adelaide larvae of this species have been seen eating moss and, less frequently, lichens on rocks in grassy areas."

Len's further information was as follows:
  • Your moth is Scoliacma bicolora (Boisduval, 1832)( (Arctiidae: Lithosiinae),
  • I have most of the described  Arctids well covered on Australian Moths Online, they best seen as a Slideshow for Arctiidae  
  • A resting specimen at Mt Annan Botanical Gardens is shown via this link
What can I say?
All my questions had been promptly answered by both Dave Rentz and Len Willan, and I have only met Len a couple of times. He was even kind enough to tell me he likes my Orchid photos. So that's very nice to know.

He added this point, with which I completely concur:
I presume that these populations and other lichen feeding moth larvae are been completely buggered by successive wildfires and above all repetitive "control burning".

One of these days I will write more on "control burning" a subject about which I have recently reported a little, but not enough. I previously reported on an SCA "control burn" which was similarly overly hot and ran out of control.

In my view, if the endangered Ground Parrots and Eastern Bristlebirds at Budderoo Plateau have their habitat burnt at breeding season, (and when they are well-and-truly known to be present), what chance is there that fires will be planned around the need to protect creatures as little known as Lichen Moths and Tussock Moths? 

Its almost enough to make one despair. But Len ended his email with this note:
"Slow Stoning wears away the Drips"


fnkykntr said...

Hi Denis, you inspired me to try and identify a mystery moth of my own! no luck so far - here is my blog post about it!!

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Hazel
Glad to have inspired you to try to track down a Moth ID.
That is always the "funnest" part of Blogging.
I have sent you several links to suggested names in the same family Arctiidae - they are extremely numerous, being what they call "detritivores" they eat dry leaf litter, mosses, dead leaves and bark.
They have evolved to fill a niche which in moist climates is taken over by fungi - namely breaking down the cellulose in plant material which many things cannot eat - especially from Eucalypts, because the oils are toxic to many animals.