Tags: Tiger moths. Australian, Queensland. Wildlife. Insects.
By Marj Webber
Tiger moths are a large family of colourful moths of small to medium size with wingspans varying from 10 to 85 mm. In Australia there are about 280 species of Tiger Moths three of which I have photographed in our area.
The abdomens are usually striped – hence the name Tiger Moth. Most moths fly at night but some species of Tiger Moth fly during the day. The Dark-spotted Tiger Moth was photographed at Ningi during the day resting on a white wall. I have not been able to establish if it is a day flying moth.
Featured Image(above): Lydia Lichen Moth Day Flying
The yellow and black Tiger Moth is unnamed as there are many species found in Australia, many of which are so similar they are difficult to identify from a photograph. I sent the photograph to Queensland Museum Discovery Centre for identification and they were not able to give me a positive identification except to say it is a species of Amata which is a genus of Tiger Moths.
They also informed me that there has been very little work done on this genus in the last 90 years. This moth was photographed during the day feeding on nectar at Sandstone Lakes. Also photographed at Sandstone lakes was the Lydia Lichen moth (Asura Lydia) which also belongs to the Tiger Moth family and is a day flyer.
Tiger Moths are not strong flyers. Eggs are laid on the host plants which can be several varieties of herbaceous plants or mosses and lichens. The food of the caterpillars is often poisonous so that the caterpillars themselves become toxic to predators. The moths retain some of the poison and their bright colours are also a warning that they are not good to eat. Caterpillars are quite hairy and are often called Woolly Bears.
These hairs can cause minor irritation to the skin. When they pupate their hairs are used to spin a flimsy cocoon behind bark or in leaf mulch. Moths differ from butterflies in that when they land the butterfly generally holds its wings upright while the moth keeps its wings flat. Mouthparts of moths are a tube which is used for sucking and their wings are covered with scales.
They belong to the insect order Lepidoptera from the Greek – lepidos meaning scale and pteron meaning wing. Tiger Moth aeroplanes which were developed as training aircraft in the 1930s were named after Tiger Moths as their wings fold similar to a moth when in storage.