Moths species have their flight times, some may only fly for two or three months, while others may be about throughout the year. Mothing in the winter months can be very slow, but some that do come to the light can be a bit special and under represented in collections, due to long cold hours at the light being not the most attractive option compared with the warm fireside.
However, a calm warm day provided the impetus and in the dusk the rig was set up opposite a privately owned bush paddock that had been checked out with a friend a couple of weeks previously.
Old unburnt bush is the most suitable to sample in order to get an understanding of the range of moths peculiar to that particular habitat, and this bush had not been burnt for at least fifty years. With the current regime of burning in the forested areas it is becoming quite difficult to find bush like this on public land, an area has often barely recovered from a previous burn before it is put to the torch once again.
The powers that be seem to give scant attention to the plight of threatened plants, birds, mammals, or reptiles, let alone the invertebrate populations that are an intrinsic part of the web of life of our bushland. Given the scale and frequency of burning at the present time, those populations may never recover to their original numbers and diversity, another chapter in the sad story of extinctions and species in jeopardy in the Australian natural world since European settlement. The irony is that among the millions of of invertebrates incinerated in a fire lit in the name of fuel reduction, many are larvae of moth species whose job in life is the recycling of dry leaf litter on the forest floor. With that said, back to the night’s mothing.
As is often the case, after firing up the generator and light the first half hour produced only a few mosquitoes, but gradually moths began to arrive. Among the earliest was a Notodontid, Sorama bicolor, the first of several, this is a male showing the diagnostic pectinate antennae.
Moths often choose to land on the back of the sheet away from the bright light, so it pays to check frequently, and on this occasion two good ones took up residence side by side. Both are Geometrids in the Ennominae sub-family, the first is a very nice Nisista notodontaria, the second is Neoteristis paraphanes. Earlier records showed the latter only extending east as far as Tyers, but its range probably extends to the border with NSW where it also occurs.
(MH, Moths of Victoria Vol.5)
July is the first main flight month for Amphiclasta lygaea, and several came to the light. On this night many moths were reluctant to land on the sheet, preferring the surrounding ground and occasionally nearby shrubs. This is a male photographed with difficulty from a teetering stepladder steadied by my friend.
At present being studied by PM for the Moths of Victoria project is the genus Praxis in the Catocalinae sub-family of the Noctuids. Two species came in on this night, pictured below, I was advised to just call them Praxis ssp. as there is still work to be done.
All moths photographed from four hours at the sheet can be seen here, a pleasing result for a winter session thanks to that unburnt bush. I wonder what the warmer months will bring….
Click to enlarge.