Category Archives: Moths

Who is that feasting on my threatened species?

Here at Newstead Natives Nursery I am propagating Stiff Groundsel Senecio behrianus once thought to be extinct but identified by Bernie Robb from a Corop roadside circa 1992, creating much excitement. A few years ago Damien Cook brought me cuttings from various populations at Corop, Lake Boga and Ballaarat and they have grown easily and we are now trying to mix the genetics because each population does not have many different individuals.  When Damien came yesterday to get some plants for planting out we noticed this caterpillar on them which Damien knew was a Senecio Moth Nyctemera amicus. Senecio plants contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which make the caterpillar unpleasant to taste and poisonous to birds which would otherwise attack it.

Senecio moth caterpillar on Senecio behrianus, 12 Nov 2017

Senecio moths 9mm and 15mm long on Stiff Groundsel at Newstead Natives Nursery, 12 Nov 2017

Does this count as a Newstead story Geoff Park? The caterpillar is a Newsteadian and Newstead is in between where the plant occurs naturally in Corop and Ballaarat!

Ed note: Big tick!

Senecio behrianus - STIFF GROUNDSEL - endangered daisy flowering in 150mm pot in nursery, 10 Dec 2015

Buds and flowers of Stiff Groundsel plants photographed by Frances Cincotta at her nursery

Senecio behrianus - STIFF GROUNDSEL - endangered daisy at Miners Rest Ballarat photo by Damien Cook

Stiff Groundsel at Miners Rest Reserve, Ballaarat, photographed by Damien Cook of Rakali Consulting

An easy intervention with big results

About 15 years ago, we collected a few sandwich bags of Shiny Everlasting seeds from Sandon forest and spread them in the fenced front yard of our place at Strangways. We knew they belonged as there were a few specimens in the bush that were a favourite food of the Black Wallabies.

Protected from browsing, the Everlastings thrived in our yard and spread into the bush, where they are now so abundant, the wallabies leave them alone and we have some impressive stands.

Shiny Everlastings

Shiny Everlastings spreading into our bush

They provide an extraordinary resource for invertebrates and therefore, of course, for the keen macrophotographer.



Plume Moth

Plume Moth

Austral Ellipsidion nymph

Austral Ellipsidion instar (AKA the Beautiful Cockroach)

Flower Spider and ant

Flower Spider (Zygometis sp?) and prey

Clerid Beetle?

Clerid Beetle?

Fly on Shiny Everlasting


At one point as I was prowling through the Everlastings it seemed for a short period that there was an abundance of tiny iridescent green wasps on them, less than 2mm long. some seemed to be sticking ovipositors into the daisies. After a bit of searching of and I concluded that they are of the Torymus famaily of parastic wasps. I am curious about why they appeared in such a brief and intense burst.

Torymus wasp

Torymid wasp I

Torymus wasp

Torymid wasp II

We are well pleased with the results of our little bit of direct seeding a few years ago!

Pollinators paradise

by Patrick Kavanagh

The front yard is full of pollinating insects at present. I was very pleased to get some close up photos of a Plume Moth, as they are such striking looking insects. Bee Flies, Family Bombyliidae were cooperative sitters, but the very small native bees were very mobile and hard to catch. What most surprised me was the myriad of tiny insects in the heart of the Shiny Everlastings. Many of these arthropods are fueling the growth of the many nestling and fledgling birds currently being reared at our place, including the Striated Pardalotes now with young in one of our nest boxes.

Bee on Diggers Speedwell_15-11-01_3 crop

Bee on Diggers Speedwell, Strangways, 1st November 2015.

Fly on Diggers Speedwell_15-11-01_8 crop

Fly on Diggers Speedwell

Plume Moth_15-11-01_8 crop

Plume Moth on Shiny Everlasting.

Plume Moth_15-11-01_11 crop


Tiny insects on everlasting_15-11-01_2 crop

Tiny insects on everlasting

Striated Pardalote_15-11-02_1 crop

Striated Pardalote


Insect artistry

by Patrick Kavanagh

I have been enjoying photographing the amazing and beautiful patterns made by insects eating Eucalyptus leaves. These are all from one Long-leafed Box. I was surprised to see a small, very cold and slow Cup Moth on one of these leaves, apparently one of the artists.










Cup Moth larva on Long-leaf Box, Strangways, July 2014.

Sunday snaps

The Rainbow Bee-eaters are still feeding young in their tunnels … it can only be a matter of days until they fledge.


Rainbow Bee-eater with cicada, Newstead Cemetery, 12th January 2014.


This time with a Heliothis moth


An early morning feeding visit.

Great gathering of ravens

by Chris Johnston

Green Gully is witness to a remarkable gathering of ravens. Hard to estimate how many are here but it must be a hundred or more. They are everywhere, their calls are filling the air from dawn to dusk. Its like “The Birds” – their calls come from every direction. And they have been here for days now.


Little Raven searching for cup moth pupae, Green Gully, 15th December 2013.


They are feasting on the cup moth cocoons, picking the round brown cocoons up delicately and then stabbing it with their beak to crack it open and then extracting the pupae. A lot of the birds are hunting on the ground rather than in the trees, finding cocoons that are under the leaf litter. Many seem to be in family groups with a youngster following its parent/s, matching their searching behaviour but also doing a bit of open-beaked ‘feed me’.

It’s been hard to get a good photo of the process. They are a bit flighty, and once one bird sees you the flock flys!

Are other locations witnessing the same phenomena?


Another cheeky raven!

Cup moth killers

by Patrick Kavanagh

For the last few weeks we have had large flocks of Little Ravens hanging around our place at Strangways. One flock of at least 50 was patrolling our ridge the other day. We’ve wondered what their mass business has been here. At last I have some photographic evidence about what the attraction may be – one looks to have a Cup Moth larva in its beak. Given the weight of the Cup Moth larva population, we are glad that someone seems to be eating them.


Little Raven (juvenile), Strangways, 4th November 2013.


Little Raven with Cup moth caterpillar.

What moth is this?

by Chris Johnston, Green Gully

This beautiful large moth arrived on my window sill one night recently and stayed for a day.

Beautiful pattern and very furry legs and head!

Beautiful visitor

Beautiful visitor

A furry close up

A furry close up

Can someone please identify for me? I looked at the great website – Australian Moths On-line – – but too hard for a beginner like me.

Flowers and insects in abundance

I’ve been away all week and there is some catching up to do, but first some material from last weekend.

Warmer weather means an explosion of insect activity and the next raft of wildflowers coming into flower. Bulbine Lilies Bulbine bulbosa are one of the loveliest, and most striking mid- Spring varieties. They tend to favour open, grassy areas with lots of light.


Bulbine Lily, Mia Mia Track Newstead, 12th October 2013.


A close-up of a flowering Bulbine Lily

The combination of flowers and warmth brings a cavalcade of interesting insects. Crane flies are emerging in large numbers at the moment. Aptly named, these insects belong to the same order, Diptera, as the true flies and have very short life spans. They mate, lay eggs and then die, leaving the larvae to live in the soil where they process organic material.


Crane Flies mating, Fence Track, 12th October 2013.

Also out and about at the moment are different types of day-flying moths, such as the one pictured below. I’ve no idea what species this one might be, so would welcome any thoughts on its identity.


One of the day-flying moths … but which one?

Moths are a featured on many nature blogs, including one of the sites I visit regularly, the terrific Ben Cruachan – Natural History site. I’ll have to have a hunt around to try to figure out how this moth fits into our local ecosystem.

More on mixed species flocks

by Patrick Kavanagh

The Buff-rumped Thornbills Acanthiza reguloides along our ridge have been very noisy with the onset of Spring, foraging in the leaf litter and on low shrubs. This one was so intent on dissecting a large moth that I was able to get quite close for these photos.


Buff-rumped Thornbill, Strangways, 13th October 2013.

At our place we usually see these as part of multi-species flocks and it was interesting to read an article about this phenomenon in the latest Australian Birdlife. The article spoke of how Buff-rumped Thornbills are often the key species in these flocks, and also how the birds tend more to segregate by species during the breeding season. And sure enough, the Buff-rumps are almost always by themselves at our place at the moment. Must have read the article!


That moth wasn’t subdued easily!

I’d always assumed that the advantage of a multi-species flock would be many eyes to watch for predators, but apparently it is also thought that with each species having its own niche in the foraging system, the activity of each species may disturb insects which fly into the other niches, so that everyone has more opportunities to catch something in the process.


Note the distinctive pale iris of the Buff-rumped Thornbill.