Readers’ wildlife photos

December 8, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today we have some lovely moths (and one other insect) from Tony Eales of Queensland. Tony’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.


I’ve had a few cool finds of the lepidopteran variety of late.

I found a strange pupation case hanging from a leaf. When I put it up on the internet,  a number of people spoke up, saying that they too had found these structures—and there’s been a lot of discussion about what they were.

The consensus was that they were like case moths but not exactly and everyone was hoping to get one to enclose and see the adult. Well, the other day one that I had collected did just that, solving the mystery. It’s a strange moth called Piestoceros conjunctella.

Although as some experts pointed out, there are probably undescribed species that are all currently being lumped under that name. Looking through older resources, there was some debate about whether it was a moth or a caddisfly but the presence of wing scales (which caddisflies do not have) solved that. It’s currently listed in most places as being in the case moth family Psychidae but has been awkwardly shuffled from family to family in the past. The latest research using genetics places it as kin to the genus Heliocosma, but in turn the family relationships of this genus are equally unclear. Anyway it was nice to get an answer to one mystery.
Another nice find was my first Lycid mimicking moth Snellenia lineata. I’m a little bit obsessed with the lycid mimicry complex, having photographed many other beetles that mimic these distasteful beasts. This is my first moth, and now I’m on the lookout for the lycid mimicking fly:

This is one of the beetle models that the moth is mimicking.

Another trick of moths that I like is camouflage like this Eucyclodes sp. caterpillar looking like a lichen-covered twig:

And this well camouflaged geometrid moth caterpillar from the family Ennominae:

The adult moths in this family are no less well camouflaged:

But some caterpillars eschew the camouflage for aposematic colouration like this Antithemerastis acrobela moth that feeds on the plant Trema tomentosa known as Poison Peach:

Another moth I really like to find is members of the genus Alucita. They are unusual in not having any membrane between the veins of their wings so they are more like a fan of feathers than usual insect wings.

This one is Alucita phricodes:

. . . and this tiny one is Alucita pygmaea:

18 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Wow, fascinating post, Tony! The moth with its wings spread against the tree bark (above the photo of the colourful caterpillar) resembles the one on Jerry’s recent ‘Spot the Moth’ challenge.

  2. Totally cool! Your Piestoceros might be doing a bit of false head mimicry with the contrasting markings on the wings. And I know a couple caddisflies that one would swear were moths. It is a bit unusual to not be sure what order an insect belongs to.

    1. I had a similar confusion about orders with a rare type of lacewing which I took for a caddisfly or a moth and turned out to be neither

  3. Whether they’re camouflaged near invisibility or taking mimicry to a very close “impersonation (?)”, these insects put the Selection in Natural Selection.

  4. Thank you for these amazing photos and the accompanying text – a reminder that there’s always more to learn. The Alucita is beautiful!

  5. Wow, what an exceptional collection. The Alucita wings are a marvel, never seen anything like that. Thanks for another memorable submission.

  6. The last word about aposematic colours is far from being said.
    Why are the reds an yellows of cherries or raspberries not aposematic? These fruits want to be eaten, so why?
    I left out apples on purpose: from Paradise to Snowhite, it would lead to Peterson-like convolutions and complications.

    1. Well, aposematic colors don’t really apply to humans- we like yellows, oranges, reds; they tell us- edible (at least nowadays). For insects, I suppose, it’s a different matter…a different world. Fruits like cherries / raspberries / apples and other “warning” color fruits were cultivated that way to stimulate a humans’ appetite. And they haven’t been around very long, either, at least compared to aposematic colors as seen in insects. And some frogs? Does it even apply to mammals? (Just spit-balling here, of course. I’m no scientist, just a questioner.)

      1. More spit-balling but I would say the main target for aposematic colouration would be birds and to a lesser extent other reptiles. Birds generally have good colour vision especially in the red-yellow range. A good rule of thumb is that red tubular flowers are looking for bird pollinators, blue/purple flowers are directed towards insects and white flowers bats and moths. A lot of red fruits are also targeted at bird dispersers.
        Thinking about it, a lot of bird species are specialist either insect eaters, nectar feeders or fruit eaters with not a huge amount of overlap so signalling a ripe fruit to a fruit eater shouldn’t cause much confusion when a red insect is signalling its distastefulness to an insectivore.


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