This insect created a bit of a flutter when she was found in the seed-raising igloo at the Crows Nest Community Nursery last Thursday.
“Oh no!” we thought. "Not a butterfly laying eggs on our precious seedlings!"
On examination she proved to be not a butterfly, but our largest and most glamorous local day-flying moth. With a wingspan of 7cms, she is as large as the more familiar blue triangle butterfly, so it is not surprising that Joseph’s coat moths are often mistaken for butterflies.
This is a female. You can tell by the large white patches on her shoulders. Her brilliantly striped caterpillars - black, white, and orange - grow to 7cms, so could have done a lot of damage to the right kind of seedlings.
However, the Joseph’s coat moth is only known to breed on plants in the grape family, and there are none of those in the igloo. The poor girl had blundered in there and was only trying to escape.
She was carefully captured, taken home and photographed. (This picture of her showy knickers was taken through a sheet of glass.)
Then she was released in my garden, where her most common local host plant, the slender water vine Cayratia clematidea, grows. Hopefully she has found a boyfriend by now, and may be out there laying eggs as I type.
See March 2011 for more on the slender water vine.