Currently viewing the category: "Ghost Moths and Wood Moths"
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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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Location: Bermagui NSW
November 6, 2011 5:40 pm
Can you please ID this moth. She came in on Nov 1st, laid her eggs on the back of my chair then stayed till she died 5 days later, sad.But what is she?
Signature: Sue

Hawkmoth from Australia

Hi Sue.
We strongly feel this is a Hawkmoth in the family Spingidae, however a species identification is eluding us.  We started searching Butterfly House, and the two best candidates there are the Australian Privet Hawkmoth,
Psilogramma casuarinae, and Synoecha marmorataThe former has the dark markings on the thorax, and the latter has closer wing markings.  Csiro has this image of the latter.  The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website has this to say about Psilogramma increta:  “Reliably recorded from northeastern China, Japan and Korea, south and east through China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Peninsular Malaysia, to the Greater Sunda Islands; then west through Burma/Myanmar, Nepal and India to Kashmir. It is possible that P. increta extends much further east through the Malay Archipelago and may even reach Australia and the Pacific islands. However, in these latter areas, the features of adult wing colour and pattern that farther west differentiate P. increta from the closely related species, P. menephron, break down and it becomes impossible to reliably distinguish them on this basis. The two species are also identical in genital structure. Mell (1922b) described diagnostic features of larvae and pupae but these have yet to be investigated in eastern populations of Psilogramma.”  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in this difficult identification.

Update and Correction
Thanks to a comment from Ryan, we now realize this Hawkmoth imposter is actually a Wattle Goat Moth, one of the Wood Moths in the family COSSIDAE.

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Location: NZ Taupo bush
October 18, 2011 1:56 pm
Hi Bugman,
I am in NZ and have never seen a moth this size before. I was Hunting out of taupo when this moth decided to land on the back of my neck. I thought the world was about to end….can you tell me what sort of moth it is?
Signature: stevo

Puriri Moth

Hi Stevo,
This is one of the Puriri Moths in the Ghost Moth family Hepialidae.  You can compare your individual to this image on New Zealand Tramper.  The Insects and Spiders of New Zealand website profiles the species Aenetus virescens and indicates that “is the largest moth in Aotearoa / New Zealand, and is found only on Te Ika a Māui / North Island.”  There seems to be much variation in the coloration of Puriri Moths posted online, and we are not exactly certain if there are different species or just variation within a single species.  The
Insects and Spiders of New Zealand website also provides this information:  “relatives live in Australia, New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea;  caterpillars start life living in a bracket fungus;  older caterpillars make a refuge tunnel in the trunk of a large tree;  caterpillars feed on the wound tissue of the tree around the tunnel entrance, which is concealed by a silken ‘tent’;  pupation occurs in the tunnel;  adult moths do not feed, and live only for a few days;  moths are active at night.”

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What’s this bug?
Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
January 30, 2011 5:44 am
Hi, thanks for the website. I snapped this very large moth in my back yard in suburban Hobart, Tasmania, the coldest (and island) state of Australia. We are in the middle of summer and it was a warmish night of about 15 degrees celcius. I have not been able to find any information online about this moth except that it resembles many of the hepialidae family. I have seen one of a similar size in the bush but this sighting was a first around the city. Hobart is surrounded by mountains & bush so the wilderness is never very far away from suburbia.
Signature: Bug info

Wood Moth we believe

Dear Bug info,
Our first impression, because of the long narrow wings, was that this was a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, but after a brief moment, we revised our opinion in alignment with your speculation.  We agree that this interesting specimen resembles the Ghost Moths or Swift Moths in the family Hepialidae, but like you, we have not been able to find any matching images on Csiro which includes this wonderful Hepialidae slide show.  We could not find a match on the Moths of Australia Hepialidae page either.  We then researched our original impression, but there are no matching images on the Moths of Australia Sphingidae page either.

The large body of this specimen inclines us to believe it is a female full of eggs.  When Daniel was researching his book, The Curious World of Bugs, a Ghost Moth from Australia was discovered to hold the record for the most eggs laid by an insect that was not social since Ants, Bees and Termites can lay millions of eggs over the course of the queen’s life.  Here is that bit of information courtesy of the Book of Insect Records published online by the University of Florida:  “An Australian ghost moth, Trictena atripalpis (see Moths of Australia), is the insect with the highest recorded fecundity among nonsocial species. One female was reported to lay 29,100 eggs, and when dissected, 15,000 fully developed eggs were found in the ovaries.”  We remain puzzled by this identification and we hope a reader will come to our assistance.

Update with Identification
We just received three comments from a reader who supplied this link: of a Wood Moth that looks identical to this amazing creature.  When we finish preparing Beoff Bourgenon (or however you spell Beef Burgandy in French), we will update this posting better.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination