Ghost moths are members of the moth family Hepialidae and there are about 150 species found in Australia. The common name “ghost moth” comes from a European species whose white ghostly males are seen hovering over open ground in a conspicuous display flight to attract females.
We have several ghost moth species at our place in the Grampians and the largest (15 cm wingspan) and most numerous is Trictena atripalpis (below). Common across the southern half of Australia, this moth and a couple of related species are known under common names such as ‘bardee’ or ‘bardi’ grub, rain moth, swift moth or ‘Waikerie’. Little wonder that entomologists use scientific names when referring to particular insects! The moths only live for one day – their only role in life is to mate and, if female, to lay eggs. The moths don’t feed or drink because they don’t have the appropriate mouth parts to do so.
An image of mine (below) won the Image Laurel at the 2016 Horticultural Media Association Australia last night. You can read more about this insect here.
The award I won looks like this:
The citation from the judges was: “Denis Crawford’s Mantis-fly image has superb resolution of detail revealing a technical mastery of close-up nature photography. The result is a crystal clear depiction of the Mantis-fly that brings the insect to life.”
To most people the word “parasite” conjures up all sorts of images from tapeworms to brain-eating amoebas to scenes from the film Alien. So a “parasitic wasp” must be something really freaky and horrible then? To us – no; but to an aphid or a caterpillar or some other target insect – yes.
Technically a parasitic wasp isn’t a parasite at all. True parasites like tapeworms don’t normally kill their hosts, because that would mean their own death. So insects such as parasitic wasps and flies which parasitise and kill other insects are known as parasitoids.
You can be lucky sometimes! I had read about the insects commonly called “mantis-flies” and seen many images of them, but I had never seen a live one in the flesh. We were at dinner with neighbours one night when one landed by my plate of food – no kidding. Pandemonium ensued as I tried to catch it, shouting for a container of some kind. Finally it was corralled and I had one to photograph. Here it is! (below)
I picked a tomato off the bush the other day and noticed a little hole in it. I cut it open and saw that the contents were looking a bit ordinary, as if it was about to rot. Under higher magnification I could see the culprits – fly larvae – yep, maggots! The image below shows a close-up of one.
It happened one day at primary school back in the 1960’s. “It’s biting me, it’s biting me!!” the boy screamed as he sprinted past me. He then collapsed on the ground in flamboyant B-grade movie style, shrieking loudly. I ran up to him and could see the culprit clinging to his leg, a very large but harmless moth which I now know it to be one of the ‘rain moths’ of the family Hepialidae (below).