Long-time readers may notice that this edition is an update and correction of a 2014 edition. Yes, at last you know that I am not (completely) infallible!
Last May, I discovered large pupal cases sticking out of the soil like mini-missile silos. After discounting the possibility that it was Australia’s response to Vladimir Putin, I deduced that a b** big moth must be somewhere and made a mental note to search the place daily the following year around the first April rain.
No sign this April until I went to the Newman block and found missile silos galore but no moths.
Rats I missed them!
“I saw two glowing reddish spots at ground level………a giant grey moth frantically beating its wings. It flew off grey and ghost –like. The first moth was the herald of thousands. Soon the sky was filled with fluttering wings. …………The next night came and not a moth was to be seen. The busy ants had removed all traces of dead insects. Had we not been lucky to arrive before the rain, there would have nothing to indicate……the frantic flights of the night before, the excitement of love, mating, and death, all compressed into twelve hours”.
He could have been a great romance novelist!
Ghost moths/rain moths are members of the Hepalidae family. One species holds the World Fecundity Record, for the greatest number of eggs being deposited by a non-social insect. One dissected female had 44,100 eggs. It is thought that the eggs are laid in flight, just being scattered across the ground. After hatching, caterpillars create burrows into the soil and feed on tree roots. The silk-lined burrows are up to a metre deep. In autumn they pupate in a burrow near the surface waiting for rain.
I found pupae under sheoaks and Banksia sphaerocarpa/Calothamnus kwongan.
The kids loved them. Andrew adopted one as a pet and it spent the night in his tent.
Unfortunately next morning he took said moth outside and it flew slowly upwards before being snapped up by a crow, that then retreated from an onslaught of stones hurled by one enraged boy!
See next page