Bogong Moths: An Australian icon

Lisa, from the UK, who reads my posts and runs bite size memoir each week commented that she would like to see the moth that caused me to douse my room with napthalene flakes.  Hence this post was born.

image museumvictoria.com.au

image museumvictoria.com.au

The Bogong moth is so memorable in Australia that statues are built to honour it, people wear bogong moth outfits to fancy dress parties and the like and in the eastern states (mainly New South Wales and Queensland) you know that summer is around the corner when the bogong starts invading.

multiculturalfestival.com.au

multiculturalfestival.com.au

The moth is large with a wingspan of around 2 inches and is recognised by arrow shaped dark markings, a dot resembling a comma and another, lighter spot all of which are on its upper brown wings. It lays its eggs at the base of plants in New South Wales and Queensland and approximately four weeks later the caterpillar emerges. It hides in the ground during the day and feeds at night – decimating the plants it attacks. It is known to farmers as cutworms as they cut up the pieces of plant and take them to their homes in the ground to eat. They love to eat almost everything the farmer likes to plant including cereal crops, peas, cabbages and cauliflowers to name just a few.

When it is about two inches long it weaves itself a cocoon and in another four weeks the moth emerges. Being a temperate climate moth just before summer starts the moths start their migration to a cooler place – caves in the Australian alps. For many of these moths this migration covers a distance of 3,000 kilometres (1,865 miles). The Bogongs don’t like to travel alone and somehow they all start their journey together in numbers of ten to millions.

For cities in the flight path of these moths problems arise for both the city and the moths. As the moths fly at night the city lights fool them into thinking the sun is coming up and they will attempt to find a dark place to rest and in the type of numbers entire walls of buildings can be hidden by the moths covering its surface.

photo www.independent.co.uk  Page by kathy marks - Australia's bogong moth invasion turns even yawning into a potential health hazard

photo http://www.independent.co.uk
Page by kathy marks – Australia’s bogong moth invasion turns even yawning into a potential health hazard

Eventually they find the cool caves and settle for the Summer.  The bogong was a staple food of the aboriginal people in the area and animals still make their way to the caves to feast on the moths. An aboriginal festival to celebrate with feasting on the moths traditionally attracted many people and is still held today – called the Ngan Girra Festival.

The moth is extremely nutritious with a body comprising 60% fat. At the end of summer the moth makes its way north to lay its eggs and start the cycle over again.

Bogong moths are not the largest moths in the world. This honour is taken by the Atlas moth, a relative of the silkworm, of South East Asia which has a wing span of over 10 inches. The Bogong by sheer numbers, in Australia, makes you feel as though it is one huge moth.

 

 

All photos are taken from the internet and attributed to the site from which they were taken.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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26 Responses to Bogong Moths: An Australian icon

  1. cover your mouth when you yawn….

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  2. ChristineR says:

    My first experience with them was while camping on the Murray River. Luckily they weren’t in huge droves but enough to force us to put out the light and go to bed. We get Emperor gum moths here in central Victoria, now and then.

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    • I can believe that Christine. We have had to do that ourselves in the house. Shut the doors and turn the lights out. We know someone who designed their house for moths and other night fliers where the inside was lit from outside so the fliers all stayed outside. The Emperor Gum is a beautiful moth. I like the fake eyes on its wings.

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  3. M-R says:

    Never thought to see a post about the bogong, Irene, and delighted to do so ! [grin]

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  4. TanGental says:

    My young life was surrounded by Lepidoptera of all sorts. Dad bred them and we collected them. I remember waking to find an Atlas moth had hatched and it was sitting on a branch in the Archaeologist’s bedroom drying its wings. Dad would have loved this and it brought back so many memories. In fact I feel a post coming on…. Thank you so much for sharing. What a great post.

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    • My childhood was confined to silkworm breeding but we were fascinated with the cycle that happened in the shoe box. If your Atlas moth was like the ones here it would have been very beautiful. Glad it brought back memories and look forward to your post. Lisa has started a chain post (much nicer than the old chain letter).

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  5. Lisa Reiter says:

    What a fabulous answer to my question Irene! We don’t really have plagues of anything here so it’s interesting to contemplate this happening with moths! And big ones too.

    The ‘worse’ I’ve ever experienced with moths is having hummingbird hawk moths placed in my hair by a cat called Norah, we used to have. It was her favourite ‘gift’ in the middle of the night – a startling wakening though she often woke me up with her loud purrs before they were wrapped up too much to rescue! The hummingbird hawk both is probably only an inch and a half long but a fat and juicier looking one than these – I bet they’re nutritious too though I won’t be trying one anytime soon!

    Thank you for this post – love it ! 💜 Lisa xx

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  6. Having used the larvae of a very large moth, Manduca sexta, the tobacco hornworm, for much of my research, this post was fascinating for me. Most insects, especially the larvae, are rich in fats. Manduca unfortunately contains cardiac glycosides, making it dangerous to eat, so most birds avoid it. But another species I used, Galleria mellonella, the wax worm, is actually quite delicious. I used to fry the larvae and serve to students working in my lab. They taste like bacon bits. The very tiny ones could be spread on crackers. I know this has an inherent yuck factor, but you take your protein and fat where you can, as did the aborigines, if you aren’t living in a society with grocery stores!

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    • Noelle I love your story and the memories you have recounted. I bet your students have never forgotten their experiments with the Galleria Mellonella. It is a pleasant change to hear these strange foods being described as tasting of something other than chicken. Yes I learnt in Vanuatu that the luxury of being able to be picky with food changes quickly when you don’t have supermarkets.

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  7. Annecdotist says:

    Yikes, Irene, I thought slugs were bad enough as a pest in the garden! Luckily for us here our moths are always in such low numbers it’s a delight to come across them. Hope people are still eating those big beasts – free food is not to be sniffed at.

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    • I don’t know Anne whether anyone is still eating them. I haven’t seen them on the menu at any restaurant I’ve been to. Though if you had seen Noelle’s comment above there could be some uni lecturer in Aus serving them up to her students. When we get the next invasion I might try frying them up.

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  8. joannesisco says:

    Informative, but ewwww! I won’t be sprinkling any bogong moths on my salad any time soon – even if they are nutritious 🙂

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  9. Charli Mills says:

    Last night I nearly hit my head on the porch dodging a single moth. I think I might do bodily harm trying to escape an entire flock of these things! But very interesting, both culturally and geographically.

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  10. Sherri says:

    This gave me the chills, I have an absolute aversion to moths of all kinds. The kids would have to rescue me at night when they would hear me screaming if one came into my bedroom, I would be too scared to move. The fluttering around my head, their furry bodies, everything, I’ve got goose bumps just looking at these photos! They are huge…no wonder you sprayed your room like that, I would have done the same! As for eating them, I honestly don’t think I could do it..but if I were starving? No…just the thought of it…
    Very informative post though Irene, Lisa must be thrilled 🙂

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  11. I don’t think I would eat them either but if starving I might just do so but you would have to make sure that it was the right kind of moth because as Noelle pointed out some can be quite damaging to your health. XD

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  12. Pingback: A rustle in the bedroom | TanGental

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