Damage

I was following The Family and The Young Niece along a little path 2 Kilometers above sea level when they came to a stop. I looked down at what they were looking at and saw a large golden, intricately patterned, moth. It took a moment for me to see that it was a real moth and not a piece of some plastic toy. There was straw scattered on the path. I took a couple of photos.

The featured photo shows the moth with the ground around it digitally trampled clean, so that its outline is clear. I’ve never seen a moth like this before, and could not find a mention of this. I thought it is a large moth, but apparently in the Himalayas there are moths with wings which are a foot across (30 centimeters). This was about a third or fourth that size. Moth identification is hard, and I know no amateur who is an expert at recognizing them.

The Young Niece asked, “Will it be okay?” Now that’s a question I’ve answered before. Moth and butterfly wings are similar; the muscles on the body drive only the front wings. They need only front wings to fly. The back wings are for manoeuvrability and speed. They can fly with parts of the back wings gone. We walked on as she listened to me. I don’t know whether she had noticed that this moth was missing large parts of its forewings.

Note added: This seems to be a pale Brahmid moth (Brahmaea hearseyi). It has previously been reported from the eastern Himalayas, as far west as Dehra Dun. This one was seen in a nameless village a little to the west of Gushaini (Himachal Pradesh), and is the westernmost sighting of this moth. It can be as large as 20 cms across, but this was about half that size.