On the weekend, Ian Hamilton (Eurardy Reserve Manager) and I joined Mark Heath and Paul Kay to undertake moth surveys at Eurardy Reserve. Mark and Paul are amateur lepidopterists (moth and butterfly collectors). They were volunteering their time to collect specimens for a project called the International Barcode for Life established by the University of Guelph in Canada. The project is a global collaboration of biodiversity scientists with the aim of ‘creating a DNA barcode reference library for all multi-cellular life’. Find out more about this ambitious program at the Barcode for life website.
The surveys undertaken over the weekend involved turning on a large light bulb out in the bush with a funnel and tub set up beneath it to catch the moths attracted to the light. Specimens were then collected in vials and will be sent to Canada for genetic analysis.
We saw an amazing diversity of moths and certainly many species Mark and Paul had not seen before.
When the work in Canada is completed we will be provided with a list of species to add to our database for Eurardy.
A few interesting moth facts:
- Moths are of vital importance to pollination for many plant species and a food source for mammals, reptiles and birds.
- Some of the key differences between moths and butterflies include:
- Moths generally fly at night, butterflies during the day
- When resting, moths hold their wings flat, butterflies hold them together above their body
- Moths have simple thread-like or 'feathery' antenna without a club, butterflies have a thickened club or hook on the tip of the antenna.
- There are 22,000 moth species recorded in Australia to date, with new species being discovered all the time.
A good resource to find out more about Australia moths is the CSIRO Australian Moths Online website.