Here is a truly beautiful delicate ghost of autumn – the enchanting spectre of the Black and White Tiger Moth, Spilosoma glatignyi who I found today, resting on my worm farm.
Bold amongst the reds and browns of autumn, its mothy patterns for me, reference the Snowy Owl, even down to the fluffy large head and the red-eye markings, like the Snow Owl’s piercing yellow eyes. You can just make out the intimidating ‘red eye stare’ in the photograph I took below.
Even viewed from above, this funny little moth seems to emanate the intimidation that an owl can summon up from just one glance (see the pictures below for a hint at this). I should mention, that these are only my observations, and I’m not sure there is anything scientific about saying this tiger mother mimics a Snowy Owl. 😉
Moths are masters of mimicry, and having encountered a hummingbird hawk-moth back in the UK a few years ago, I remember feeling a frightened thrill as it dipped its proboscis into a lupin flower in my garden. I had no idea if I was looking at a bird or an insect. It was a truly amazing encounter and a glimpse into what it must have been like as a botanist documenting the wildlife of far off distant lands.
Moths seem a bit underrated, almost unloved but they are quiet achievers. They help pollinate, impersonate other animals with their markings , and even mimic bird droppings,. Some even have calls for communication and there’s even a moth that sounds like a squeaky toy. Even if you aren’t into moths, just taking a closer look at their markings is worth it for the artistic inspiration.
Links to help you identify South Australian moths
Common Moths of the Adelaide Region sheets – Butterfly Conservation SA
Sheet 1 and Sheet 2