Moth species have recognised monthly flight times, some fly for quite a large part of the year while others are restricted to just a month or two. The months of autumn and winter tend to be quieter at the moth sheet due to the cooler temperatures, but some of those that do come to the light can be very interesting and not often photographed. So, it’s always worth while to brave the cold in the hope of getting something unusual. A calm night after a warm day was a good opportunity to sample the late autumn moths at the riverside reserve, and the rig was set up with a small frog calling from the leaf litter and a Common Ringtail looking down from a nearby tree.
With the light shining the first arrivals as often happens were from the huge two-winged Diptera order, the larger is mosquito size, it is probably a Chironomid midge. The smaller is probably a species of fungus gnat, these insects are are pollinators of greenhood orchids, photographs of them at work can be found in the excellent “Orchid Pollinators of Victoria” by Rudie H Kuiter, available at Andrew Isles. Wasps are also important orchid pollinators that are featured in the book, they are common visitors to the moth light, three species on this night.
Small moths started to arrive slowly, then on checking the back of the sheet I found the first larger species, a female Smyriodes trigramma, or Stippled Line-moth. this moth flies from March to May with April and May the main months. More photos of males and females taken two years ago at Giffard may be seen here.
After taking my attention away from the sheet for a while I looked back to see a large moth low down. It was a Hepialid, Oxycanus dirempta, the first of two for the night. This moth can come in in quite large numbers and can be variable in colour and pattern, this light coloured one was beautifully patterned. Compare it with the second more typical individual.
With the cold starting to bite and the home fire calling it was time to start packing up, but as often happens there was some sudden action, two very active moths came in and fluttered around incessantly. Neither showed any sign of landing on the sheet so I followed one with the torch and eventually it landed in the grass. I was then able to pick it up on a dry leaf and transfer it to the sheet for photos. It was another autumn flying Geometrid, Paralaea porphyrinaria, the Chestnut-veined Crest-moth, and a very nice specimen despite all the frantic fluttering.
Another Paralaea species, P. beggaria also flies at this time of year and can be seen at the Smyriodes link. Click images to enlarge.