Subject: Moth Identification
Location: Barrington Tops, NSW
December 11, 2013 3:04 pm
My wife and I were camping recently near Barrington Tops NSW and came across an enormous moth which we would like to identify.
The moth was quite docile and as it had landed on a temporary structure which was about to be taken down my wife carefully picked it up and we moved it to a nearby tree. The moth’s abdomen was pumping and it appeared to be about to lay eggs, it was quite heavy according to my wife.
Signature: Happy Camper
Dear Happy Camper,
We believe your moth is in the family Cossidae, the Wood Moths or Miller Moths, and we believe your individual is the Giant Wood Moth, Endoxyla cinereus, which has the distinction, according to the Australian Museum website, of being “the heaviest moth in the world, with some females weighing up to 30 grams.” The Australian Museum elaborates on the life cycle: “The larvae of some species of wood moths are better known as witchetty grubs and bore into smooth-barked eucalypt trees. As they grow, the tunnels left behind in the bark increase in width. They may spend up to one year within the tree before emerging as moths. The newly emerged, small caterpillars lower themselves to the ground on silky threads where they are thought to feed on plant roots. As adults they are unable to feed and only live for a few days. The heavy females lay about 20,000 tiny eggs before dying.” Csiro also has a photo of the Giant Wood Moth. The distinctive striped legs are evident in the photo of the living specimen posted to Butterfly House which states: “The adult moths have a variable vague pattern of light and dark grey or brown on the wings, including a darker spot near the middle of each forewing. The forewings each have a sinusoidal inner margin, and the hindwings a convex inner margin. The moths are very large. The females are larger than the males, and have a wingspan up to 23 cms.” The family page on Butterfly House notes that caterpillars of moths in this family are wood borers known as Witchetty Grubs. Witchetty Grubs are edible.
Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my query and for providing such a wealth of information.
Curtis & Ingrid Brager