Art. XXXII.—Notes on some Species of Diurnal Moths.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 11th February, 1881.]
Bronze-wing Moth. (Plusia eriosoma.)
This moth is very plentiful in the Auckland district, but less so in other parts of the North Island. It is both diurnal and nocturnal in its habits, and is especially abundant on the flowering French clover and lucerne. When at rest it presents a somewhat singular appearance, from the pointed shape of its closed wings.
Appears in February and lasts till April.
Description of caterpillar: (Looper.) Back green, slightly tinged with yellow; under-surface green, with white spots; a clear white stripe from head to tail on each side; six minute black spots along this line, with a small black hair springing from the centre of each; white longitudinal stripes down the back, with small white papillæ enclosed by a ring of green.
Length, one inch.
Feeds on scarlet Geranium, the introduced nettle, etc.
Spins a slight web, always on the under surface of a leaf.
Chrysalis: Under-surface and sides, light green; back, marked with irregular dark blotches.
The presence of the chrysalis is always betrayed by the crumpled form of the leaf under which it conceals itself. Remains in the pupa state for five weeks.
Magpie Moth. (Nyctmera annulata.)
This familiar moth occurs plentifully during the summer months in all parts of the colony. It often rises to a great height in the air, although its general fight is weak and feeble. The house-sparrow, strange to say, does not wage war against this moth or its caterpillar (probably from their having a bitter taste); so it appears to increase and multiply every year, while many of the other common moths are becoming extinct. Professor Hutton describes the larva and pupa of this moth in “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. IX., p. 335. There are I believe, two broods in the year, and the caterpillar feeds on groundsel, Irish ivy, and other particular plants. The moth appears in October and lasts till April.
Dwarf Magpie Moth.
I believe this moth inhabits only the Auckland district, as I have never met with it anywhere else. The markings on its wings very closely resemble those of Nyctmera annulata, but the bands on the body are white instead of yellow. The antennæ are not feathered. Frequents grass and flowerbeds. Appears in February.
Rare Tiger Moth (Fidona? crephosata.)
This little moth is met with on the mountain-tops and table-lands in the Patea and Taupo districts, about two or three thousand feet above the level of the sea. It is by no means plentiful, and is very difficult to catch owing to its fitful and jerky flight. It may be mentioned that this moth does not habitually frequent herbage, but seems to prefer the dry and bare ground of the mountain paths, rising before the traveller, and alighting a few yards ahead, only to be again disturbed by his advancing footsteps. In 1877 my father obtained several specimens in the above localities, and these are now in my collection. In the following year, towards the end of March, I captured one in Wellington. This was resting on a shrub of white Escallonia in full flower.
Common Tiger Moth.
This species is not uncommon during the months of November and December, and frequents hill sides and grassy slopes. Unlike the mountain species, it keeps to the grass and stunted vegetation, chiefly “tauhinu.” It is not easy to distinguish when at rest, for the markings on the under-surface of the wings very closely resemble dried grass blades and stalks. No doubt this is for a protective purpose. It is very shy and wary, and to catch a specimen means a long chase with the net.
Common Grass Moth.
Frequents grass, Escallonia, and flowering shrubs in general. It shows a preference, however, for the common Scotch thistle when in flower. It is very plentiful in all parts of the North Island, and may be found in any grassy lane or meadow. It has a bold and swift flight, and a curious habit of vibrating its wings very rapidly for a few seconds after settling. It is both diurnal and nocturnal in its habits.
Appears in February, and lasts till April.