Animal Species:Bogong Moth

Bogong Moths belong to the Family Noctuidae and are well known in south-eastern Australia for their mass migration in spring. In some years, they have descended upon cities such as Sydney and Canberra in their thousands, causing disruption around outdoor sports grounds and to air-conditioning plants.

Adult Bogong Moth, Agrotis infusa

R.Jessop © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Bogong Moth

Alternative Name/s

The larvae are known as Black Cutworms.

Identification

The Bogong Moth is native to Australia. The common name comes from Bogong High Plains region in the Victorian Alps, which is one of the sites where the adult moths congregate in huge numbers over the summer months.

Size range

5 cm

Distribution

Bogong Mouths are found in southern Australia, including Tasmania. Occasionally found in New Zealand and Norfolk Island.

Habitat

Bogong Moths live in urban areas, forests and woodlands.

Seasonality

During winter, Bogongs feed inland as black cutworms on seedlings of wide-leafed plants in an area ranging from southern Queensland to South Australia. During spring, they fly south to south-eastwards, to high altitude regions in the southern part of the Dividing Range, where they remain inactive (aestivation) throughout the summer months. They are sometimes blown towards the coast by westerly winds and may enter houses as they are attracted to light. Over summer, adults congregate in rock crevices in massive numbers and remain dormant, living off their fat reserves. They then migrate north to breed as their larvae can't tolerate cold conditions.

Feeding and Diet

The larvae of Bogong Moths ("black cutworms") feed on seedlings of wide-leafed plants in inland regions of Australia.

Predators, Parasites and Diseases

 

 

Conservation Status

Recently concern has mounted about arsenic levels in the Bogong Moths. The arsenic is present at low levels in the soil of their larval pasturelands and is stored in the body of the adult moth. When the moths die off in their caves, the arsenic leaches from their bodies into the local soil. The arsenic becomes concentrated because of the build-up of dead moths on the floor of the cave over many years. The arsenic could potentially adversely affect their predators, including the Mountain Pygmy Possum, but this has not yet been fully demonstrated.

Economic/social impacts

Aborigines had a good knowledge and understanding of the habits of the Bogong Moth. They roasted the highly nutritious moths in hot ashes and mashed the bodies to make 'moth meat', which is said to have a nutty taste. The mountain caves where the adults aestivate were known to Aboriginal people, who used the moths as an important source of protein.

Caterpillars of the Bogong Moth are known as cutworms and are considered an agricultural pest, causing significant damage to crops.

Classification

Species:
infusa
Genus:
Agrotis
Subfamily:
Noctuinae
Family:
Noctuidae
Superfamily:
Noctuoidea
Order:
Lepidoptera
Class:
Insecta
Subphylum:
Uniramia
Phylum:
Arthopoda
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?


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Tags moths, insects, arthropods, invertebrates, identification, wildlife of sydney,

5 comments

David Britton - 9.01 AM, 30 January 2012

The last major bogong migration that came over Sydney in 2007 was particularly large, with many city buildings carpeted with moths. Millions would have died in the CBD alone. The mass moth kill in the CBD coincided with Australian Museum field work in the Kosciuszko National Park that summer. I would have thought that this would have had an impact on the number of moths reaching the alpine areas, but there were actually more moths in the area that year than in previous years (based on discussions with Ken Green from NPWS). I'm not sure exactly what to conclude from this, but I suspect that total numbers of moths in the alpine areas is probably far more dependent on climatic variables in the areas where the larvae develop than adult mortality during the migration phase of the lifecycle. 

khaeryun - 10.01 PM, 26 January 2012
Hi! I have a question. Do city lights disrupt the moth migration and disrupt the food chain? The bogong moths often become distracted by city lights during migration. Won't this harm the pygmy possums, who rely on moth migration as a means of sustenance?
David Britton - 11.03 AM, 30 March 2011

Dear Mick,

There are a number of "Bogong" place names in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, including alpine/subalpine areas in both NSW and Victoria, so it is not clear as to which locality gave its name to the moth (Australian place names)

downthecreek - 10.03 PM, 16 March 2011
Mount Bogong is in Vic NOT southern NSW

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