STORY OF THE MOTH: Synemon plana
The Golden Sun Moth is native to my home town of Canberra, and can also be found across the south-east of Australia. It is not only in danger of extinction due to loss of its native grassland habitat and pesticides, but its own biology and behaviour doesn’t help either.
The sun moth larvae live underground for two or more years eating nothing but the roots a small number of species of grass (predominantly Wallaby Grass, which is in shorter and shorter supply). When it emerges as a Moth, it has no mouth and has to survive on what it has stored as a larva: 3 to 5 days worth. In that time it needs to mate and lay up to 300 eggs to ensure the continuation of the species.
To further complicate this mission, the moth is only active on hot, dry and windless days from around 10am to 2pm from the end of November to the beginning of December. The moths prefer to walk than fly, and females tend to stay in one area waiting for a male to find her to mate. Males won’t fly more than 100 meters away from a suitable habitat (although they are physically capable of it), which means they don’t populate suitable areas that are further away.
It’s remarkable that the Golden Sun Moth has lasted this long given these limitations to its survival, and its only because of human activity that it’s struggling to survive. The moth’s habitat is declining due to land development, overgrazing, agricultural practices and weed invasion.
Relocating the moths to other suitable locations in order to clear their habitat for development is not considered a viable way to ensure conservation of the species (see the link below to the Australian Government’s “significant impact guidelines”). Unfortunately this is still being proposed in the ACT as an “offset” to the destruction of its known habitat within the city and surrounding suburbs (see links to Canberra Times articles below).
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The little things DO count.
What is happening to them in the ACT?
- Golden Sun Moth Habitat to be Cleared in City Hill Transformation
- ACT government to salvage golden sun moths from Canberra Brickworks access road,
- On a mission’: the peculiar life of the endangered golden sun moth
- Significant impact guidelines for the critically endangered golden sun moth (Synemon plana)
- ClimateWatch Fact File
- Environment ACT Fact Sheet