Stylish moth’s life is fleeting

HANDSOME: Emperor moths store up energy during the caterpillar stage.

HANDSOME: Emperor moths store up energy during the caterpillar stage.

My grandson found this moth in central Ballarat. We cannot identify it; could you please help us?

L.H., Ballarat.

This handsome moth is an emperor gum moth, once fairly common, but now becoming uncommon. Your specimen is a male, because of its feathery antennae. Females have unbranched antennae and are slightly larger, with up to 150mm wingspan.

The moth lives for just a couple of weeks, during which it does not feed, having stored up sufficient energy to fly and reproduce during its long caterpillar stage. Caterpillars are impressive: large, finger-sized, fleshy and light green with short bristles. They feed on young eucalyptus leaves. The moth’s tough pupal cases are often found in bushland; about 25-30mm long, oval, and attached to a stem or trunk.

  • Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to rthomas@vic.australis.com.au