MOTH OF THE DAY - Friday: Ghosts in the swamp: A winter moth story

Ghost moths are one of the more ancient families of moths worldwide, but that does not make them any less beautiful or interesting. Here in New Zealand, there are many species including our largest moth species ̶ pūriri moth. Because ghost moths are large, their caterpillars are also large and would be a tasty treat for birds and other predators. We find ghost moth caterpillars generally live in a secure retreat. For many species this is a hole in damp ground or wetland. Adults have to take their chances to mate and disperse. Analysis of the diet of stoats living in Fiordland shows that adult ghost moths full of eggs and flipping around on the ground at night can fall victim, at least to stoats, and probably other exotic predators too. Native predators, such as ruru owls, and other now extinct birds of the night, surely got through the winter aided by winter emerging ghost moths.

There are two winter ‘bog specialists’. The bog ghost moth, Cladoxycanus minos, lives in mossy wet areas from Taranaki southwards in Western and central lower North Island and much of the South Island. Adults emerge from the ground from April to June but on the South Island West Coast they emerge right through to August. The other winter species, sphagnum ghost moth, Heloxycanus patricki, lives in peaty sphagnum moss bogs of Otago and Southland. It has a two-year lifecycle and interestingly their populations are synchronised wherever good mossy wetlands remain so that adults only emerge in odd numbered years. This means 2021 is a good year for putting on your gumboots if you are in Otago or Southland and looking for signs of a ghost on the bog!

More information:

Dugdale J.S. 1994. Fauna of NZ Ko te Aitanga Pepeke o Aotearoa #30, Hepialidae.
Patrick 2014 Winter-emerging moths of New Zealand.

Posted by morganemerien morganemerien, July 23, 2021 01:49


It's so fluffy! :-)

Posted by jon_sullivan 2 months ago (Flag)

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