The Rain Moths are back!

I see them every year and they never fail to intrigue and excite me. We have several species of moths in the family Hepialidae which visit our property, but by far the most numerous and most spectacular is the species Trictena atripalpis.

Trictena atripalpis

They usually all emerge on the same night and are drawn to our house lights, as you can see above.They need to emerge together because they only live for one night, so they must find a mate and the females must lay their eggs on the night. The trigger for their emergence is heavy rain, and we had quite a dump last night, about 40 mm or so.

In the morning there were only a few survivors left. During the night they were systematically picked off by owls and bats, and in the morning the day birds got the rest. I was only able to find two surviving moths around the house in the morning. The image below shows one of them. It should give you a pretty good idea of their size!

Trctena atripalpis

These moths emerge from underground, because their larvae are root feeders, leaving a pupal skin poking out of the ground. Sometimes just the tip of the skin is poking out of the ground, like in the image below, but on other occasions the entire skin is accidentally hauled out onto the surface.

pupal skin

If you are interested in learning more about these moths you can read one of my earlier posts entitled “Night of the Ghosts“. There is also a page on these moths in “Backyard Insects“.

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Night of the ghosts

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.

hepialid moths Continue reading Night of the ghosts

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