Wednesday 19 August 2015

Small moths are often overlooked

Australia has an unusually high proportion of very small moths (microlepidoptera). They are not the big, spectacular moths that you see in the public displays. Although many are beautifully coloured you need a magnifying glass to see them. Many are also dull coloured with few markings. These are not the moths that attract interest. No doubt that helps them to survive.

Identifying moth species large and small, that we have living in this country is of prime importance, and in order to identify new species we have to have people who are sufficiently qualified to know the insects, identify new species, name and study them. They need to have the finances to do this too.
From "A Guide to Australian Moths" (Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards 2007) page 31 "In Australia the number of such people is dangerously few".

Australia has been losing species at an alarming rate, particularly mammals. We are rated as a world leader in extinctions, depending on the criteria used. We don't know how many moths have become extinct since only a small portion of Australian moths have ever been identified and fully studied, fewer than half and probably only a third have even been named, and little is known of the biology of most, it would be impossible to know how many species are being driven to extinction or what role they play in the environment.
Therefore, when we read about mining companies or other developers being granted the right to destroy an area because it doesn't contain any threatened species, we have to ask how they can be sure. The fact is, they can't be sure.


Genus:- Pyroderces
Species:- terminella
also known as Anatrachyntis terminella

This moth is about 7mm long. It usually sits like this at rest, head down and tail raised. It also has red eyes.    
These moths sometimes invade the deserted nests of the Polistes paper wasp. They have also been reared on dead leaves and the remains of dead insects and the galled flower buds of the Acacia binervata (Mimosaceae), and the egg sacs of the Nephila edulis (Golden Orb Spider). From "Moths of Australia" I. F. B. Common.

A previous blog on June 3rd shows 3 other species belonging to the same family.


Superfamily Gelechioidea
Species unknown

It is common when dealing with moths to not be able to get a positive identification from a photograph. As mentioned in a previous post, dissection of the moth under a microscope is the usual way, and now DNA is also used.
 I think this moth belongs to the Superfamily Gelechioidea. There are about 10 families under the superfamily. I believe this moth is likely to be one of the leaf miners. The tiny caterpillars bore tunnels in the leaves of the host plant between the upper and lower layers of the leaf.
This is a tiny moth, the flyscreen in the photo is about a 2mm grid. This is a moth that has lost a fair number of  scales and so wing markings that might have helped identify it have gone.

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