Australian Whistling Moths

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Len Willan
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Australian Whistling Moths

Post by Len Willan »

Imagine a warm summer evening in a patch of Sydney Sandstone Heath land, the sun is just about to set and a high pitched whistling sound is heard coming from a flying insect just discernable against the darkening sky.
It is a male Whistling Moth (Hecatesia fenestrata) flying in his typical figure-of – eight territorial display flight, he is trying to attract a female. The audible sound is made by the castanet raised cell structure on the leading edge of the male’s forewing as illustrated.
There are two differing opinions on how this sound is generated. One theory is the clapping of the tymbals (castanets); the other is stridulating of the cell by the moth’s middle legs.
I would like to thank Craig Gerard for the link to the William E. CONNER paper : http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/202/13/1711.pdf
‘UN CHANT D’APPEL AMOUREUX’: ACOUSTIC COMMUNICATION IN MOTHS
Australia has three described species of Whistling moths, their larvae feed on Cassytha (Lauraceae),H exultans and H thyridion which are all known from the inland arid areas. Females are nocturnal and I have encountered them at light sheets.
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Planapo
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Post by Planapo »

I had never seen this so well-documented before.
Thanks for posting!

Was it shot through a microscope, or what technique did you apply?

--Betty

Len Willan
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Post by Len Willan »

Thank you Betty,
Set Up
Nikon 105 Macro lens,4x SB-200 Flashes, Plastic Shaped Diffuser,
I have now added a 0.002 Digital Indicator to my XY Stage to fallicitate easier measuring of the rise and fall of the stage.
This is my first use of this upgraded device using Zerene Stacker.
A photo of the Digital Indicator has now been added to
A Simple Vertical Stacking Rig using a XY Linear Stage
http://photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8857

Whistling moths (fenestrata) are found in my back yard, and on a hot summer night it is a delight to remark to visiting Northern Hemisphere Entomologists “We will have a pre dinner drink (Aust Vintage), and watch and listen for male Whistling Moths flying in figure-of eight at shoulder height.
They are such a skeptical lot until convinced, then they take back home (to Winter Snows) a vivid memory of”Mothing Down Under”

Craig Gerard
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Location: Australia

Post by Craig Gerard »

Len wrote:
They are such a skeptical lot until convinced, then they take back home (to Winter Snows) a vivid memory of ”Mothing Down Under”
Or they take back dropbear nightmares (details below) :shock:

I'd like to see some high-speed imaging used in further study of the Australian Whistling Moths.

Here is a related video. (sometimes slow to load). The mention of the Castanet Moth lead to a search that revealed the document you have linked to in your initial post.

This video is associated with Kimberly Bostwick's research.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... wings.html

Found another article that may be of interest:
'Private Ultrasonic Whispering in Moths'.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article ... 2_0123.pdf

Oh, and here is a quote from Wikipedia regarding dropbears:
A drop bear (or dropbear) is a fictitious Australian marsupial.[1] Drop bears are commonly said to be unusually large, vicious, carnivorous koalas that inhabit treetops and attack their prey by dropping onto their heads from above.
It is often suggested that doing ridiculous things like having forks in the hair or Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears will deter the creatures,[3] or that walking through the bush carrying a screwdriver raised above one's head will impale an attacking drop bear.
"Fictitious"......hmmm....evidence is inconclusive. Always take the appropriate precautions listed above.


Craig
To use a classic quote from 'Antz' - "I almost know exactly what I'm doing!"

sonyalpha
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Post by sonyalpha »

Two things come to light here:

Do Australian Whistling Moths toot......................Waltzing Matilda as they flutter about the Outback??

I reckon that Drop Bears is a is misnomer........it is in fact......Drop Beers....................something anyone from OZ would never do: :P

Sorry just couldn't resist it:

sonyalpha
Retired but not old in spirit:

Fairly new to photography........keen to learn:

Len Willan
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Post by Len Willan »

Hecatesia exultans Walker, [1865] (Noctuidae: Agaristinae), is the Whistling Moth of the dry inland areas of Australia. This male comes from the Amy Johnston Highway, Big Desert,in Victoria.
The male when calling does not fly in a figure of eight like the local Hecatesia fenestrata but perches when calling to attract females (Ted Edwards : A Guide to Australian Moths)
This observation gives strength to the argument that the audible sound is made by beating the fore wings cells as tymbals, not by stridulating with its legs.

Nikon D200 ,105 Macro,2 x SB200 flashes, 3 images stacked with Zerene Stacker
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The female Hecatesia exultans Walker, [1865] is from 17 miles W Ravensthorpe, in Western Australia,collected 23. Nov. 1958,by I.F.B. Common and has the normal fore wing structure .

Minolta A1 and Minolta flash
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rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

Len Willan wrote:...perches when calling...
This observation gives strength to the argument that the audible sound is made by beating the fore wings cells as tymbals, not by stridulating with its legs.
I'm unclear about exactly what was observed.

It seems to me that if this beast could be observed and filmed closely enough, it would be straightforward to see what's going on.

Is there still uncertainty about what this beast does, or only uncertainty about how closely this beast's behavior represents the others?

--Rik

morfa
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Post by morfa »

Amazing! I was completely unaware of the existence of these!

I second Rik's question! With those strange wings and the exotic whistling it it would be funny if it turned out they were stridulating with their legs! You have to applaud the theory though – never jump to conclusions!

rjlittlefield
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Post by rjlittlefield »

morfa wrote:With those strange wings and the exotic whistling it it would be funny if it turned out they were stridulating with their legs!
Not so funny as using the legs alone. See Len's first post: "the other is stridulating of the cell by the moth’s middle legs."

--Rik

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