Moths in Cairns Botanic Gardens

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Cairns Nature Tour in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.  As the months roll by, subtle changes in the seasons bring sightings of new creatures and this report aims to give people a wrap up of the current animals seen as well as provide an ongoing citizen science account of our wonderful critters that can be seen in the tropical north of Queensland.

Buggin with Bridgey – June 2022

Brown, pink and blue moth

Pink Underwing Moth (Phyllodes imperialis)

During June there has been an abundance of beautiful moths seen on Let’s Go Buggin night walks in the Cairns Botanic Gardens and throughout the FNQ region. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to see some of these big beautiful beasts of the rainforest.

The most impressive was this huge beauty that I have been hunting for about three years. I first became aware of this species after I found a dead individual on one of my walks around the Cairns Botanic Gardens. I noticed the incredible pink pattern on the underwing and went on a mission to try and find the identification.  True to its design, this species’ common name is the Pink Underwing Moth, also known as the Imperial Fruit-sucking Moth (Phyllodes imperialis).  It wasn’t until this month that I saw one in perfect condition. In fact, at first, I didn’t know what I was looking at but I eventually saw that very slightest hint of the pink section underneath its folded wings and was immediately overjoyed.  You can make out the pink just peeking out from the underwing in the above photo. A few weeks later I saw another individual in the lower levels of the rainforest, although it seemed panicked and struggling to gain flight.  It did eventually settle several meters up on a tree trunk, which I think is their preferred territory and may suggest why they are rarely encountered.  I have only ever seen the caterpillar of the species once and it just happened to be in the same location, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of these incredible moths in the future.

Closeup of the head of Caterpillar of Pink Underwing Moth (Phyllodes imperialis) showing fake eyes and fake teeth

Caterpillar of the Pink Underwing Moth

Other Fruit-sucking Moths (Eudocima)

It certainly does seem to be the season for Fruit-sucking moths as we have encountered quite a number of species including these three gorgeous large moths in the Cairns Botanic Gardens as well as some other locations in Cairns on Private Charters as well as some Let’s Go Buggin Special Walks. (See Annual Membership)

So called for their ability to pierce and suck the juices out of fruit, these large moths are not loved by horticulturists but loved by nature photographers.  They often have horns as part of their head structure which makes them rather unusual to look at.  They are also densely covered in scales, giving them a hairy appearance.  This helps with flash photography as the scales often absorb the light and do not reflect it like some other shiny insects.

Dot Underwing Moth (Eudocima sp.), Fruit Piercing Moth (Eudocima fullonia), Cocalus Fruit Piercing Moth (Eudocima cocalus)

Four O’clock Moth (Dysphania numana)

One of most commonly seen moths (at least in larval stage) is the Four o’clock Moth.  I’ve tried for several years to get a decent image and they have usually been too high, or in a damaged state.  So very happy to share this image of what appears to be a perfect individual that was resting underneath these leaves fairly high up in a tree however there was a staircase next to it so I was able to get the shot.

Four O’clock Moth and Caterpillar (Dysphania numana)

Hawk Moths (Sphingidae)

Another impressive sized moth genus are the Hawk Moths (Sphingidae).  I always get very excited when I see this genus of moths.  The larval stage are really impressive as well and usually have a tail unlike other moth larvae. One interesting fact about hawk moths is that they are one of the fastest flying insects some capable of flying up to 19 km an hour.

The White-brow Hawk Moth (Gnathothlibus eras) is a fairly common sighting in the Cairns Botanic Gardens, the caterpillar is often found sharing the host plant of the Cairns Birdwing Butterfly, so I will often find them as part of my Let’s Go Buggin tours.

Daphnis moorei is an absolutely stunning moth that has the face on its back. I’ve seen this moth species a number of times and the caterpillars are extremely impressive with a beautiful faint rainbow running down the sides of their body as well as the distinctive hawk moth tail.

Privet Hawk Moth or Large Brown Hawkmoth (Psilogramma menephron) is a master of disguise, especially when it is perched on its chosen territory of a tree trunk. Another large moth but often and seen due to its incredible design.

Hawk Moth Daphnis moorei, White-brow Hawk Moth (Gnathothlibus eras), Privet Hawk Moth or Large Brown Hawkmoth (Psilogramma menephron)

Join me to explore the Cairns Botanic Gardens to try and spot some of these beautiful moths on a Let’s Go Buggin Night Walk.  Use ‘blog’ as the coupon code for 20% discount on your tour booking.

Next Blog end of July 2022.

Bridgette uses Olympus OMD EM1 ii, 60mm M.Zuiko lens.