A giant moth belonging to the heaviest species of its kind in the world has been discovered at a primary school in south-east Queensland.
Builders at Mount Cotton State School discovered the giant wood moth on the building site of new classrooms at the school.
The school’s principal, Meagan Steward, said it was an “amazing find”.
“Our new building is situated on the edge of a rainforest and during the build the moth was found,” Ms Steward told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“Our staff and students weren’t surprised by the find because we have a range of animals at Mount Cotton, but certainly this moth was not something we had seen before.”
Female moth can weigh 30 grams
The giant wood moth, also known as the Endoxyla cinereus, belongs to the Cossidae family and survives only a few days as an adult.
Queensland Museum’s head of entomology Dr Christine Lambkin said at the larvae stage, the giant wood moth grubs were the “true witchetty grubs” of traditional First Nations people’s diet.
Dr Lambkin said the moth was the heaviest in the world with the female weighing up to 30 grams and boasting a wingspan of up to 25 centimetres.
“They fly very, very poorly. In most cases when they emerge, the females, they just crawl up a local tree or stump of a fence post and sit there and wait for males to find them,” Dr Lambkin said.
“The males are much smaller – about half the size. Essentially what happens is the females are non-feeding, they only live for a few days as adults, they emerge, they mate, they lay eggs, they die.”
‘Very rarely seen’
Honorary fellow of the Australian National Insect Collection, Ted Edwards, said as caterpillars the creatures bore deep into gum trees and fed on the bark of the growing tissue of the tree.
“They stay like that for two or three years, with a central bore right in centre of tree and then just before they turn into a pupa, they cut out a circle of bark … and build a series of defences against ants and other insects,” he said.
“That’s when they turn into a pupa, and then when they come out, they are very rarely seen.”
He said the moths had a total life span of about three or four years, and the adults could not feed or drink.
Moth sparks creative writing flair
Ms Steward said the builders took a photo of the moth before returning it to the rainforest, with the discovery providing some inspiration for students in the school’s creative writing class.
“After viewing the photo the class brainstormed what could happen and they decided on a giant moth invasion,” he said.
“The students wrote some very creative, imaginative pieces of writing – including (year 4/5 teacher) Mrs Wilson getting eaten by the giant moth.”