a bag moth in residence

When I took the cover off the barbecue the other day, a tiny insect caught my eye. It was moving in short, fluttering hops so was fairly easy to catch, and once I had it in a jar I could have a better look. It was less than a centimetre long, dark blue with lovely contrasting golden spots on all four of its short wings. The number of wings told me it wasn’t a fly (despite my husband’s protestations to the contrary), as did its long antennae, which were not quite half the length of its body. And I knew ‘it’ was actually ‘she’, because there on the end of her fat little abdomen were two palest gold puffs – her scent glands.

We showed her to friends over dinner (barbecued lamb that had marinated for the day in a delightful mix of soy sauce, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest & lemon juice, with various other dishes on the side), but no-one knew what our little moth might be. And lacking a decent close-up lens on the camera, I couldn’t mount a photo here for other, wiser eyes to identify.

But tonight I’ve just had an e-mail from our dinner guests, who identified her in a book they were browsing through in a second-hand bookstore in Thames. She’s a female bag moth, Cebysa leucotelis, shown here in a photo from the Landcare Research website:

Australian bag moth

This is a strongly dimorphic species, as the male – who is capable of sustained flight, unlike his partner – looks quite different, a dull brown with pale yellow spots on his hind wings & bars of the same colour along the leading edge of each forewing.

The husband was suspicious, lest they be of the same ilk as the pantry moths currently littering the traps in my store cupboard. But no, bag moths apparently eat lichen & algae on the walls of buildings. So our enchanting little house guests can stay, without fear of further disturbance (at least until the next barbecue!).

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