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The Bogong moth (Agrotis infusa) is a temperate species of night-flying moth notable for appearing in large numbers around major public buildings in Canberra, the capital city of Australia, during spring (late September to November) as it migrates to the High Plains. The moth's name 'Bogong' is the same as the mountain ranges on the High Plains i.e. the Bogongs, and may mean 'Big Fella' hence the name for the mountains, or it may have been the name for the Moth which has been accorded to the mountains as their locale.
Ecology and life cycle
The Bogong moth Agrotis infusa is common throughout southern Australia. These brown to blackish moths have a wingspan of approximately 45 millimetres. Adults make lengthy migrations to spend summer months in large congregations in caves and crevices of rocks in the Australian Alps, notably in the region of the Bogong High Plains in Victoria. They are attracted to lights, like those seen at night in the Sydney and Canberra areas. They were notable in broadcasts of the Sydney 2000 Olympics Opening Ceremony on 15 September. Large numbers may enter houses or other buildings to rest during the day. In winter, adults disperse to pastures across inland New South Wales and Queensland to lay their eggs.
This subfamily are characterised by their stoutly built bodies covered with long dense scales.
The larvae, collectively known as cutworms, are also stoutly built. They feed on a wide variety of plants (see list below). The name cutworm comes from the larvae's habit of cutting off plant parts during the night which they drag back to their burrows in the soil as food.
The Bogong moth is univoltine (i.e. it has one generation per year). The Lepidopteran life cycle consists of four stages; ova (eggs), several larval instars (caterpillars), pupa (cocoon), and imagines (adults).
Indigenous Australians living in south eastern Australia were known to have feasted on the moths, benefiting from their rich fat reserves, particularly during the summer when the moths were plentiful. The moths were either killed or stupefied by the heat and smoke of torches, and then their bodies collected. Many Aboriginal band groups from the lowlands traveled to exploit this tasty, high protein and high fat resource, and so at any time during the summer, the population of human foragers could be upwards of 400 individuals. Moth collection activities were accompanied by appropriate ceremonies and rites of intensification, and most nearby groups held title to their own pitch for harvesting. Once collected, the moths were generally roasted and eaten whole. This cultural use is no longer practised. The term "Urri Arra" refers to the Bogong moth feasts that these Aboriginal people held.
Recorded host plants
- Beta - Beet
- Hordeum - Barley
- Linum - Flax
- Medicago - Alfalfa
- Pisum - Pea
- Triticum - Wheat
- Pinus - Radiata Pine
- Oliver, Douglas L. 1989. Oceania: The Native Cultures of Australia and the Pacific Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp 174-175.
- Moye D.G. (ed) (1959). Historic KIANDRA. The Cooma-Monaro historical society. p. 1.
- Physical Map of Australia, special advertising feature of Australia.com on pg 16, National Geographic magazine, May 2006, Washington DC