Currently viewing the category: "Ghost Moths and Wood Moths"
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Subject: Moth Identification
Location: Richardson, ACT, Australia
January 7, 2013 6:53 am
Hi Bugman,
I have just found this stunning creature on my back wall after my two beagles were going crazy trying to catch it (I have since moved it into a tree in the front yard where it will be safe)
From looking at other posts and pics on your site I tink it maybe a ghost moth but am unsure. I have never seen anything like it before. At first I thought it was a Bogong Moth as we have been known to get quite a few of those here in Canberra but he is the wrong shape.
Would love to know a bit more about it of you are able to help. Sorry the pics are the greatest I didnt want to startle it and I only had my mobile phone.
Signature: Susan Mitchell

Woodt Moth

Dear Susan,
You are correct that this is a Goat Moth or Wood Moth in the family Cossidae.  The caterpillars are edible wood borers known as Witchetty Grubs, with the following alternate spellings from Butterfly House:  “Witjuti, Witchedy, Wichetty, Witchety, witchjetti.”
  According to the Australian Museum:  “The Giant Wood Moth is the heaviest moth in the world, with some females weighing up to 30 grams.”  We suspect the heaviest females are full of eggs, and when Daniel was doing research for The Curious World of Bugs, he learned that “Currently holding the record among nonsocial insects, a ghost moth from Australia is reported to have laid 29,100 eggs; another 15,000 were discovered when she was dissected.”  Another reason Ghost Moths are so heavy is that they don’t feed as adults, living only to mate and procreate, so they need the energy of stored body fat to fly.

Wood Moth

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Subject: Is this a NZ Puriri Moth?
Location: New Zealand North Island, Coromandel Peninsula
January 3, 2013 8:11 pm
I spotted this big fellow late last night on the outside settee. It’s midsummer here and it had been raining steadily through the evening. I would estimate the moth was about 2 – 2 1/2 inches long (5 – 6.5cm), it was pale/bright green with beautiful iridescent markings on the wings. I have been here for 10 years and I’ve never seen a moth like this here before. I would love to know what it is.
Signature: Maureen

Puriri Moth

Dear Maureen,
This is indeed a Puriri Moth or Ghost Moth in the family Hepialidae.  We are not certain if the name applies to only one species within the family as so many members look quite similar.  Here is another Puriri Moth from our archives.  We will do additional research on this matter.  More on the Puriri Moth can be located online on the Kiwi Conservation Club website.

Dear Daniel,
Thank you so much for your quick response to my query. I hope I don’t have to wait another ten years before I see another one of these beautiful moths in my garden!
Kind regards,

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Subject: Giant Wood Moth
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
September 14, 2012 7:26 am
I swear this is not unnecessary carnage. I was filming an orb spider one night when this thing tried to kill me! I kung foo dodged it and it K.O.’d itself on the balcony. Initially I thought it was a mouse that had evolved wings but on further inspection realised it was a moth. This picture shows it unconscious but still alive. I now know from research this is a Giant Wood Moth. I think they spend years underground as pupae only to emerge and try to destroy any humans they encounter. I gather they have a short life span and it started shooting out hundreds of eggs on the money. Lesson: money is dirty and you don’t know where it’s been. In the end I flicked the moth and eggs by the base of a large gum tree, they were probably the next days ant food. It looked in a bad way as it crawled off into the darkness and would have been food for my bearded dragon if I didn’t think there was the posibility of a choking hazard. As a reference, the Austra lian currency shown is about 12cm in length.
Signature: CReadius

Wood Moth lays eggs on currency

Dear CReadius,
We were highly entertained by your encounter with this fecund Wood Moth which is also commonly called a Ghost Moth.

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Location: Le Chautay, France
May 13, 2012 4:59 am
Dear Bugman,
my aunt found this beautiful creature during last summer on the ground – i was wondering if you could identify it for me.
Signature: Cassia

Leopard Moth from France

Dear Cassia,
This is a Tiger Moth, and we cannot find any photos of French or European species that look similar, however, both the wing markings and body markings are remarkably similar to a North American species
Hypercompe scribonia, known as the Giant Leopard Moth which is pictured on BugGuide.

Correction Courtesy of Karl:  Leopard Moth
Hi Daniel and Cassia:
It probably is a Leopard Moth, but not the North American variety. The European species of Leopard Moth, or Wood Leopard Moth (Zeuzera pyrina), is actually a Carpenter Moth in the family Cossidae.  The larvae are stem borers and apparently can take up to three years to develop into adults. They are considered a minor pest on fruit trees. There is a fair amount of online information about the species, including this page from the “Interactive Agricultural Ecological Atlas of Russia and Neighboring Countries”.  I don’t know if the North American species Hypercompe scribonia has made it to Europe, but Z. pyrina has been established in the northeastern USA since the late 19th century. Regards.  Karl

Wow, thanks Karl,
This Leopard Moth looks so much like the Giant Leopard Moth.

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moth ID
Location: Termeil,NSW….state forest
January 30, 2012 8:18 am
translucent bug,2.5” long,turned up before rain not long after sunset,temp 30C plenty other bugs around,attracted to light…and there’s another moth and a Longhorn Beetle all in the one night.
Signature: Bugger

Ghost Moth

Dear Bugger,
Taxonomically, your three creatures are in three different insect orders, which screws around with our method of archiving postings, however, they are significant in that all three appeared in one night, so we are making an exception and keeping the posting intact.  Your moth that is on the shoe is a Ghost Moth in the family Cossidae, and they are also called Goat Moths, Carpenter Moths or Wood Moths according to the Butterfly House website.  The larvae are called Witchety Grubs.  We just posted a letter yesterday with seven awesome images of a mating pair of Ghost Moths, so it would seem they are currently in season in Australia.

Poinciana Longicorn

We are nearly certain that your beetle is a Poinciana Longicorn, Agrianome spinicollis, and the larva is another wood boring grub.  The photo from the Agriculture of Western Australia website is a match.  The Queensland Museum website states:  “This species is found in rainforest and open forest in eastern Australia. It is common in Queensland and New South Wales and also occurs on Lord Howe Island. The larvae are huge white grubs found in rotten wood, especially dead Poinciana or fig trees. It is an important pest of pecan trees. The large adults sometimes blunder into house lights.  Identification  Length 60 mm. This is a very large, broad longhorned beetle with khaki wing-covers and a reddish-brown thorax edged with a row of pointed ‘teeth’. The antennae are a little longer than the body.”
Your final insect is some species of Antlion in the family Myrmeleontidae and you can see some examples on the Brisbane Insect website.  We believe it is most likely Heoclisis fundata which is pictured on Dave’s Garden.


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Ed. Note:  April 21, 2013
While we believe much of the information here is correct, we believe the family to be Hepialidae, not Cossidae.  Check Csiro for verification.

Canberra moth
Location: Bruce, Canberra
January 28, 2012 7:13 pm
Last night we found a massive moth on our porch, it was about 10cm in length and weighed about 45 grams. We were worried that our cats might think it would make a nice snack so decided to move it. It jumped onto my hand and was heavy and warm. We put it in a tree. We were worried it might not survive the move…..this morning we got up to check on the moth….and it had met up with another moth
Signature: Mel

Ghost Moth from Australia

Dear Mel,
We are pretty certain that you had an encounter with a Ghost Moth in the family Cossidae, possibly
Endoxyla leucomochla which is pictured on the Butterfly House website.  The caterpillar is a wood borer that is called a Witchetty Grub, though alternate spellings include:  “Witjuti, Witchedy, Wichetty, Witchety, witchjetti”.  According to Butterfly House:  “The adult is a large finely mottled grey moth, with wings suffused with rusty red towards the bases, and with a wingspan of about 16 cms. It has degenerate mouthparts, and so cannot feed. It relies for energy totally on the nourishment taken in by the Caterpillar earlier in its life.”  We would not discount that it might be some other member of the genus as they all look quite similar.  There are many possibilities pictured on Butterfly House

Mating Ghost Moths

According to the Brisbane Insect website, Ghost Moths are also called Wood Moths and:  “Moths in the family Cossidae are from large to very large size. They have long and narrow wings like those of Hawk moths. They are mostly brown or grey in colours. Most have the inverted “U” shape on thorax. When rest, they held their wings roof-wise. The adult moths in this family do not feed so their mouth parts are largely reduced.”  While he was researching his book, The Curious World of Bugs, Daniel learned that an Australian Ghost Moth has the record number of eggs laid for a non-social insect, 29,100.

Mating Ghost Moths

Thank you so much for your speedy reply – I got a little bit addicted to your website today.  I actually think it is a Wattle Goat Moth (Endoxyla affinis) – I have some even better photos now (they spent alot of time mating in our garden and it was easier to get good pics in the arvo) – anyway, let me know if you want me to send them through. What an amazing pair they were.

Hi again Mel,
The Wattle Goat Moth,
Endoxyla affinis, did occur to us as another possibility.  We would love to post one or two better images.

Ghost Moth

Here a some photos of both the male and female moth…..I think the female was the bigger one and had a very active scent gland which I took a photo of, the male had some blue on his head. Big storm last night and both moths have gone now 🙁

Ghost Moth

Thanks for sending additional photos Mel.  We hope they will contribute to a positive species identification.  The close-up photo appears to be a sexual organ.

detail of a Ghost Moth

The newest image you sent of the mating pair is also a nice addition.

Mating Ghost Moths



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