Moths are back!

After two years I’m beginning to see the moth population in our garden slowly recovering from the frequent chemical baths that became part of the hygiene theater of the pandemic. One of my favourites is the one in diaphanous tutu with a gold border that you see in the featured photo. It was a little more than two centimeters across in size. Most moths do not have common names, so I know this only by its binomial Cydalima laticostalis. It is a member of the grass moth family, Crambidae. I should start calling it the gold-and-satin moth. Maybe it will catch on.

I find it useful to think of moths first by size. The two that you see above are between one and two centimeters across. One of the reasons moths do not have common names is that it is very hard, impossible, to pinpoint species by sight alone. The spotted yellow moth is clearly a member of the genus Conogethes, but this is a massively speciose genus. An attempt at DNA barcoding found that there are many species which were not recognized as different until the genomes were studied. By appearance this moth seems to be a member of the Conogethes punctiferalis complex, one of the many agricultural pests. The other, ivory and chocolate banded moth, is a member of the genus Nosophora. Both these are grass moths, in the family Crambidae.

This moth is smaller, about half to one centimeter across. It is enough of a pest that it has a name: a teak leaf skeletonizer. It is a member of the Paliga damastesalis species complex, containing also the P. rubicundalis and the P. machoeralis. It is impossible to tell these three grass moths apart by sight. I had no desire to extract its DNA in order to identify it better.

Previously I’ve completely ignored moths which were less than half a centimeter across, like these two. But now with my macro lens I can see that they are both likely to be grass moths, ie, in the family Crambidae. That brilliant wine red colour should make this quite recognizable, but all the web sites I consult for identification also seem to ignore these smaller moths. Let me see whether I can nudge them to start working on these smaller ones. Whether I can identify them or not, I’m glad to see that the local population of moths is slowly recovering from the COVID-induced hygiene theatre of spraying everything around us with strong pesticides. Perhaps the bee-eaters and fly-catchers will also be back in a year or two.