Monday, 20 October 2008

Helena Gum Moth

.....Opodiphthera helena

I found a gravid female Helena Gum Moth last night. Australia has 14 members of the Saturniidae family and some of them can look rather similar. Thus the Helena Gum Moth is sometimes confused with the Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti). In Tasmania it's really quite simple as Opodiphthera helena is the only one we get here. The one shown below is the first I've seen this season. As is often the case this female was found flailing about on the ground looking half dead. The problem is she is full of eggs. Once they land they seem to have a real hard time getting air borne again and even then they will often only flutter a few metres away. If you pick them up they will happily sit on your hand after first giving a few warning signals. That is to say they open and close their wings in order to reveal the large eyespot on the underwings. You can see this in the small video I've included below.

She has laid 55 eggs since last night although I have no way of knowing how many she laid prior to my finding her.

Update: The following night she laid another 53 eggs bring the total t 108 eggs.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
#1 - Opodiphthera helena - Helena Gum Moth

#2 - Opodiphthera helena - Helena Gum Moth

#3 - Opodiphthera helena - Eggs of the Helena Gum Moth
- No I did not use baked beans for this shot :-)

#4 - Notice it reveals the large eyespots when I shake my hand


  1. Great photos Mosura. Does she lay the eggs in a pattern? Have yo provided something for her to lay onto?
    PS I couldn't get the video to work

  2. Thanks Boobook - She has laid in smalls groups mostly between 3 and 6 eggs but ranging from 1 to 7. At the moment it's in my butterfly rearing cage so she has laid on the fine mesh walls. I'll remove them later and hatch them out.

    The video should be working now.

  3. You get moths. I leave light on outside and get frogs, some of which have to be rescued from a slow roast near the bulb!

  4. That is a stunner of a moth, what a beauty! Nothing like that over here as you know!
    Those would be pretty manky looking baked beans if you had used them! (-:

  5. Thanks Duncan - Do you not see them up your way?

    Thanks Tony - Frogs eh - hardley ever see them at my place except when I'm digging.

    Thanks Jenny - Same family as your Emperor Moth but much larger.

    A bit of sauce would make all the difference to those eggs/beans.

  6. hi Mosura,

    your photography is simply stunning.

    I am looking forward to moths encounters on the back porch throughout summer.

    (I am only on dial-up out in the backblocks, so unfortunately I don't get to check out the videos that are posted in blogs)


  7. Mosura, this is very interesting about the moth. Great images and great video, however, I probably would never put something big like that on my hand, lol. Anna :)

  8. Hi Mosura
    I have seen similar moths to your Anthelid Moth (I hope to post it soon). I don't get anything as spectacular as the Helena Gum Moth.
    Great use of the Video to show the alarm reaction.
    PS I have given you guys down there a raspberry for your weather (which you have just sent up to us) - in a facetious way, of course.