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It’s a strange old world

February 5, 2016

Australian Grapevine Moth (Phalaenoides glycinae) DSCN8003Spring and summer are the mating times for many Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths. Their spiralling and sometimes frenzied courtship flights are precursors to eggs being laid on the favourite food plants of the future caterpillar. Currently in egg-laying mode is the Australian Grapevine Moth (Phalaenoides glycinae), pictured left.

The Grapevine Moth is a mainly black and cream day-flying moth endemic to south-eastern Australia. The adult moths have handsome bright orange tufts of hair on their legs and abdomen (below right). The caterpillars feed on native plants such as Hibbertias and Paperbark Mistletoe.

Australian Grapevine Moth DSCN7987When grapevines were introduced to Australia it was found that the Grapevine Moths were partial to this plant — hence their name. They lay eggs on the underside of new vine leaves and the caterpillars feed on these and the developing fruit. The picture below left shows a moth in the process of laying an egg (click photo to enlarge).

And so it is that the native Australian Grapevine Moth is now regarded as a pest in its own land (and other countries) for feeding on an introduced plant. To make things even more strange, one of the methods of trying to control this moth and other insect pests was the Australian Grapevine Moth DSCN7977introduction in 1862 of the Indian Myna (Acridotheres tristis) — a strategy that did little to control the Grapevine Moth and created an even bigger nuisance, the bird itself.

It’s a strange old world we live in.

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photo (2)P.S. Coincidentally, Dave Hubbard just sent in this photo (below) of the same insect. They are obviously making an impression at the moment.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2016 1:13 pm

    Hi Ron,
    That last pic, of Dave Hubbard’s, is an interesting one and a great example of mimicry. That pic shows the Mistletoe Moth (Comocrus behri), very similar in colour and pattern to the Grapevine Moth and they’re in the same moth Family – Noctuidae. Perhaps one of these species is distasteful to predators (or there’s some other advantage to that pattern) and the other want’s to project the same message.

    • February 5, 2016 2:53 pm

      Hi Bert,
      We take responsibility, as we forwarded the pic on from Dave thinking it was a Grapevine Moth. So, what features do you look for to tell the two species apart?

      • February 13, 2016 3:14 pm

        The white banding on the upper wing, esp the wavy white line just anterior to the parallel white hatching at the base of the fore-wing. And they look a little bigger in flight. But the similarities are striking.

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