fbpx Skip to main content

Moths of North Queensland – A few endemic oddities

By November 7, 2023Recent News

It is no secret that here in North Queensland we are lucky to be surrounded by a myriad of diverse flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet. Moths are no exception.

Moths are far less popular than their diurnal relatives the butterflies. The vast majority of moth encounters stem from the eyeshine of moths attached to windows peering in at unsuspecting people at night.  Perhaps this is why fear of moths is commonplace. But there is no reason to harbour fear of these docile creatures, and to show that moths are friend and not foe, here are some of the beautiful endemic moths that call tropical north Queensland home.

Members of the genus Dura are characteristically fluffy and white.

Gentle Giants…

By far the most tremendous moth in north Queensland is the Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules), which is so named for its colossal size – so colossal in fact that they are the biggest moth in the world! These moths can be found from the Paluma Range north along the east coast to the tip of Cape York, as well as in Papua New Guinea. Most sightings of adult moths occur between September and January following rain. The Hercules moth caterpillars are also gargantuan in size. These hefty larvae can be found eating away on their host plants for up to 3 months, gaining in size and weight. These caterpillars must get as rotund as they can prior to undergoing metamorphosis as adults do not have mouth parts and therefore cannot feed.

Close up of a male Hercules moth (Coscinocera hercules) displaying large antennae characteristic of male moths.

The caterpillars of the Hercules moth grow incredibly large.

Male Hercules moths have long tails on their hindwings.

Not a Butterfly…

Another notable moth is the North Queensland Day moth (Alcides metaurus). As the name suggests, this moth is active during the day and is usually mistaken for a butterfly. And with such lovely colours it is easy to see why!  Unlike the giant Hercules moth, the North Queensland Day moth actually feeds. Just like a butterfly, this moth feeds on the nectar of flowers. These moths inhabit rainforests and occur from Mackay in the south up to the tip of Cape York in the north of its range.

North Queensland Day moths are very beautiful and are often mistaken for butterflies.

Keep an eye out for cocoons!

Just like moths come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so do their cocoons. The large caseworm moth Metura aristocosma produces a huge, impressive cocoon. This species is yet to have a common name and has been sighted between Wooroonooran National Park and Port Douglas.

The cocoon of Metura aristocosma is so impressively large that it is often longer than a human hand.

In all, there are many fascinating moths up here in north Queensland – far too many to include in this short post. Next time you see the eyeshine of a moth looking in at you from your window, it may just be worth a closer look…