Monday, 1 March 2010

Raiding the fruit bowl

Following the lead of David Rentz at BunyipCo, I put out some fruit to lure in nocturnal frugivores. Over the past few nights, the frugivores have all been furry tree-climbers ...

... but last night, a winged fruit-eater made an appearance.

Ischyja manlia is a large noctuid moth (Noctuidae: Catocalinae) found from India through South East Asia to Queensland. PaDIL (Pests and Disease Imaging Library) lists it as an exotic. CSIRO's handy Australian Moths Online depicts several set specimens, including this one caught by Frederick Dodd.

It spoils citrus crops by piercing the fruit skin with its proboscis and sucking up the juice. Not only does this damage the fruit directly, but also opens it up to further attack by insects and moulds. This moth didn't have to work too hard for its meal. It seemed happy to share with ants.

A related genus of fruit-piercing moths, Calyptra, includes species that use their sharp-tipped proboscis to puncture the skin of mammals so they can drink blood. Other noctuids feed on tears from birds and mammals. Although unusual for moths, these are all variations on the theme of liquid feeding. Other insects — especially flies — have travelled along a similar path. Most noctuids restrict themselves to plant products. Lucky, really, because there are well over 1,000 species of them in Australia.

As far as I know, Ischyja is not a vampire moth. But I might add more garlic to the pasta, just to be on the safe side.


Susan said...

It's a beautiful moth, regardless of its impact on fruit crops...and gerat photos of it!

Susan said...

oops...I meant great!

Snail said...

Isn't it gorgeous! I couldn't find much out about it, despite its wide distribution and pesty behaviour.

I'd like to find out a bit more about that exotic status in Aus. I wonder if it really is introduced by people or has just turned up here under its own volition.

desertnutmeg said... does have on some heavy eyeliner like those teenage emo goth vampire wannabes.

I agree it is a beautiful moth and you got excellent shots!

I like the furry tree-climbers too!

Dave Coulter said...

Very cool!

Snail said...

teenage emo goth vampire wannabes

Now you umention it ... And I haven't seen them by day. Coincidence?

Dave, the moths are way cool around here, but often difficult to photograph because they're so active. Th eonly way is to distract them.

Seabrooke said...

Such a lovely species! It looks fairly large, too. I've never tried putting fruit out here, though probably we don't have as many species who'd be interested as you would.

It can be tough to get photos of the moths while they're out fluttering about at night. If there's something I really want a photo of, I always catch it and put it in the fridge for a while (or overnight) to cool it down.

Snail said...

Fruit-piercing moths are definitely more diverse here in the tropics than in the temperate areas. Apparently, sugaring doesn't work very well here, so fruit is the lure of choice. My problem is finding somewhere to put it where the possums can't get it!

I will get out with my insect net and try to catch some of the uncooperative species. So many moths, so little time!