Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Mystery Moth

I was inspired to try and identify a lovely Moth I found on our bedroom window back in July after I saw the lengths fellow blogger Denis Wilson went to in order to identify a pretty mystery moth of his own (Scoliacma bicolora)

Denis went straight to the top and asked some of my CSIRO colleagues in the Australian National Insect Collection for advice.  I took a look at the reference Denis gave to Australian Moths On-line, and the diversity of Australian Moths is bewildering!  So, it looks like I will need to find a friendly expert too - maybe there is one out there in blog-land?! 

Post update - see the comments below for an i.d. (Nyctemera secundiana) and some useful info, thanks to fellow bloggers Martin and Denis!  The genus is commonly referred to in Australasia as the 'Magpie moth'.  


  1. well, it was there, in the same family as mine, but sometimes moths change colour when dried.
    This is perhaps more normal.
    As you are livin in Brisbane now, Hazel, you ought try to contact Peter Chew, who runs the Brisbane Insects website. He has great photos.
    In this case, he has photos of a closely related moth
    That page takes you to what he calls the Magpie Moth.
    In turn that opens up to reveal similar moths to yours.
    There is a serious Moth guy who has written much about moths and Mount Cootha Reserve.
    Don Sands is his name.
    I could not find the link I was after, but he has written this paper on Fire and mOths and control of tropical grasses.,don-the_case_for_biological_control_of_the_exotic_african_grasses_in_australia.pdf
    Email me if you wish to follow up, and I can track down a contact for you.
    peonyden@gmail dot com

  2. G'day Hazel

    I find using "Australian Moths" by Zborowski and Edwards a help in getting to the right family. I need to get myself back into mothmode so started to use your moth as a pilot project for the season. To my surprise I quickly found a photo very like your beastie on p183 labelled as Nyctemera secundiana. They say there are many very similar species but I think the genus is good


  3. Wow, thanks so much Denis and Martin! that is funny, after seeing your moth Denis I looked through all those but didn't pick up on that one! It looks different dried for sure but now you point it out I can see it looks like it. Having done a little more of a search on those two species I am inclined to go with Nyctemera secundiana due to the more 'broken' spots on the wings,the darker colour and the shape of the patch of white on the hind wing, there are some nice pictures and a description on this website, which makes reference to N. amicus and points out some of the differences!

    So, thank you both once again - and thanks for the pointers to the 'experts' Denis, though I think you are both experts yourselves! Fascinating fact (re Denis' blog post) - this family of moths Arctiidae have evolved to fill a niche where thy break down the cellulose in plants (similar to fungi!). I also found an interesting fact from the websites I reference above: the Nyctemera caterpillar feeds on plants that contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are nasty tasting and poisonous to birds, a great protection strategy!

  4. I'm late to the party, so don't have much to add. For my moth IDs I have an old copy of Moths of Australia by I.F.B. Common, which is really handy, but often refer to a combination of the book Martin mentioned and the Moths Online site that Denis suggests.

  5. Hi Bronwen, thanks for the comment and recommendations!