Buggin with Bridgey – April 2024

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Nature & Photography Tours.  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.

Butterflies and Moths of Sumatra!

Welcome to the vibrant tapestry of Sumatra’s wilderness, where every flutter of a wing tells a story of beauty and resilience. In this blog, I invite you to embark on an exhilarating journey through the captivating world of butterflies and moths that grace the diverse landscapes of Sumatra.

Amidst the verdant jungles and mist-shrouded mountains, a kaleidoscope of colours adorns the skies, courtesy of the delicate wings of these enchanting creatures. I’ve often said that this island is a Lepidopterist wonderland. But you don’t need to be a Lepidopterist, simply a curious nature enthusiast. There’s something magical awaiting you around every corner. So, let us spread our wings and delve deep into the enchanting world of Sumatra’s butterflies and moths together, where every encounter promises a moment of awe and wonder.

Underwing Moth (Thyas coronata)

This beautiful moth was found in the gardens of our accommodation.  It’s a member of the Underwing Moths Family (Erebidae) so-called for their distinguished underwings that are a consistent feature of this family group.

A brown and orange Moth Underwing Moth on a green leaf

Underwing Moth (Thyas coronata)

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas)

The Atlas Moth is one of the largest of the worlds moths and personally I think the most beautiful. It’s wingspan measuring up to 24 cm (9.4 in) and a wing surface area of about 160 cm2 (25 in2).  The bold colours are inline with the mega-moth.  The design has evolved to mimic a snake on each of the forewing tips. I’ll never forget my first encounter with one.  It was a full moon and we saw it fly like a fairy for about 50m in a clearing.  I saw it land on this lovely palm leaf and we were able to get some natural in-situ photos of this beauty.   I loved it do much I decided it needed to be part of the Sumatra Photography Expeditions Logo.

A Huge brown and green spotted Atlas Moth sitting on a palm leaf

Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas)

Emperor Moth (Samia insularis)

One of the more memorable encounters happened during the overnight stay in the jungle.  When we visited the creek at night I heard one of the participants yelling out… “Hey there’s a moth over here and it’s pissing! Yeah it’s really pissing!! It’s pissing continuously!”

I was busy photographing a spider at the time but as soon as I got the shot I headed over to see the moth that was supposedly ‘pissing’ and sure enough it was squirting water out its rear end every 10 seconds!  This perplexed us and it became known as the ‘Pissing Moth’. The next day when I got back into Wi-Fi I posted a video of this behaviour an ask the Instagram community if anybody knew what was happening. I got a couple of responses from Lepidopterists explaining that this is a normal behaviour where the moth will drink the liquid from a river extracting the minerals and nutrients within the water, then excrete the excess water.  It’s known as ‘mud puddling’.

This Genes of Moths are sometimes referred to as Lesser Atlas Moths as they are closely related, but a smaller size than the huge Atlas Moth (Atticus atlas).

A Lesser Atlas Moth mud-puddling. drinking the water and excreting the waste.

Emperor Moth (Samia insularis) ‘Mud-puddling’ in the creek.

Hawk aka Sphinx Moths (Family Sphingidae)

Hawk Moths are common in Sumatra. We usually see a few in the accommodation gardens which is really nice and they are actually easy to photograph as they like to hang from leaves for a little rest and often quite low to the ground. They are also a decent size, usually at least 4-10cm (1.5-3 inches) wingspan, making them easy to spot especially with their giant eyes providing excellent eyeshine.

Top: Cinnamon Gliding Hawkmoth (Ambulyx moorei)  Middle: White-banded Hunter Hawkmoth (Theretra oldenlandiae)  Bottom: Eastern Death’s Head Hawkmoth (Acherontia styx)

Moth Traps on Night Walks

During our Night Walks in Sumatra we erect some specialised moth attracting lights covered in mesh sheets and monitor the multitude of winged wonders as they are irresistibly enchanted and visit to these beacons.   Here is small selection of some of the variety of moth species seen landing on the mesh.

Matrix of Various Moths on Moth Trap Mesh Sumatra © Bridgette Gower 2024 Aussie Macro Photos

Plush Butterfly (Sithon nedymond)

This stunning butterfly is a member of the Sub-Family of Hairstreaks (Subfamily Theclinae).  As the name suggests they often feature tendrils off the back of the wings and also some metallic blue scales as part of their colourful design.  This was one of the very few butterflies I was able to photograph in Sumatra as they rarely come in for landing.

A white, yellow and orange Butterfly also has blue metallic scales and long tendrils on the end of tits hind wings

Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete)

A very sweet little butterfly welcomed us to our camp site during the inagrual Sumatra Photography Expedition (link).  This delightful flutter-by is a member of the Whites and Yellow Butterfly Family (Family Pieridae).  We were absolutely bombarded with a variety of this family on the river bank of our campsite which was quite a surreal experience.

White yellow and red butterfly with black stripes sitting on a leaf in Sumatra

Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete)

Leaf Mimic Prominent Moth (Genus Gangarides)

At the time of writing this blog, I can only confirm a Genes level for Identification.   This stunning individual was spotted sleeping during one of our mountain hikes.  It does look like a leaf that it is the deterioration process and is likely to be using mimicry to avoid predation

An orange moth Mimicing a dead leaf as it sits on a leaf

Leaf Mimic Prominent Moth (Genus Gangarides)

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the examples of Butterflies and Moths of Sumatra.   If you would like to take a deeper dive into some other encounters you can check out my Let’s Go Buggin Sumatra Project on iNaturalist here.   If you’d like to join one of the next Sydney Buggin Tours, please send me an Email.

Keen for a Let’s Go Buggin Tour? Use ‘BRIDGEYBLOG’ as the coupon code for 15% discount on your tour booking here.

Next Blog in late May.

🐸 📸 💚


Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses