Swift Moth (Abantiades labyrinthicus)
Swift Moth (Abantiades labyrinthicus)

These very large moths are best known to many as ‘bardi grubs’, or fishing bait (their large larvae live and develop underground). Swift Moths (Abantiades labyrinthicus, previously incorrectly identified here as Ghost Moths, or Rain Moths, and named Trictena atripalpis, thanks Peter) are large, robust, fast-flying moths that start to appear around this time of year. The adult moths live for only a few days, during which time the females produce and lay tens of thousands of eggs!!

The Tasmanian Naturalist from 1947 has an informative, if somewhat dated, article about Ghost Moths and their relatives, explaining the derivation of the names of these large, fast-flying, evolutionarily primitive moths. In 1947, only 36 Australian species were known from this group (Hepialidae), whereas today about 120 species are known.

However, none of this is the reason for this post. This is the reason:

Ghost Moth - close-up.
Ghost Moth – close-up.

Take a close-up look at the patterns on the wing of this Swift Moth (click the image to enlarge) – so detailed and intricate, astounding! Because it’s a large moth, most people probably don’t get up close. And the filigree-like pattern on the wing is very reminiscent of some styles of indigenous art (or vice versa), not surprising as humans have always drawn inspiration from nature. And it’s pretty good camouflage too!

The pattern on the fully-opened wing just blows me away. Next time your car headlights, or the porch light are being bombarded by these flying missiles, consider the  millennia of evolution and natural selection that has resulted in this intricate detail – mind-boggling really.

Ghost Moth - wing pattern detail.
Swift Moth – wing pattern detail.