Hepping at Wee Jasper – Abantiades labyrinthicus and Elhamma australasiae

Australians have this innate habit for abbreviating things, and for some of us, it applies to the names of insects. Friends who collect jewel beetles, for example, abbreviate Temognatha and Castiarina to “Temog” and “Casst”, respectively. For Hepialids, a number of us simply call them “Heps”. To go out collecting Heps is therefore to go “Hepping”. And that is just what friend and fellow Hep collector Nick and I did last week at a town called Wee Jasper, located just over an hour out of Canberra.


This is one of the type series of the newest Lepidoptera family – the Aenigmatineidae. They are endemic to Kangaroo Island. Specimen in the Australian National Insect Collection, photographed during the 2013 ANIC moth workshop. The publication photo shows them to be very gold in colour, but they actually look dark purple with gold sparkles in life.

Nick and I got together because there was a new familiy of moths named recently from Australia – the so-called Aenigmatineidae ([A]enigma as in enigmatic, and Tineidae as a reference to the first family of small moths). What’s with the weird name you ask? It is by no means a precedent.

Acanthopterocetes unifascia

Acantho-tero-whatidae? This is Acanthopteroctetes unifascia, another micromoth with a bizarre name.

Primitive Lepidoptera tend to have unpronounceable names – like Acanthopteroctetes unifascia in the family Acanthopteroctetidae. There are also names like Lophocoronidae, Neopseustidae, Agathiphagidae, Mnesarchaeidae and Heterobathmiidae for other microlepidoptera families.

Micalong Creek, Wee Jasper

Micalong Creek, Wee Jasper

You can read about the new family in the CSIRO’s press release here and the formal description here. Anyway, to celebrate the naming of the Aenigmatineidae, the CSIRO’s Australian national insect collection invited a bunch of Lepidopterists over, which gave Nick and I an excuse to go Hepping. So after the formalities were over, we jumped in the car and drove straight to Micalong Creek, just outside Wee Jasper.

Battery for mothing

I have had some dodgy experiences with generators – I don’t have the finances to buy a Honda, which is about the only reliable generator for Hepping purposes. So, I use a military-grade 100 amp-hour battery from an uninterruptable power supply to run a 36W fluoro tube emitting a peak of 365 nanometers (these tubes are used to attract insects in bug zappers), run from 12V to 240V through an inverter ballast. Unconventional, sure, but it works and is completely reliable. I can get several nights light trapping off one charge, as the battery is deep cycle. The downside is the battery weighs 40 kilograms (!!!!), which means I run it off the back seat of my car using 5 meter long leads (good for light sheeting in rain!). I’m trialing a range of LEDs as well, and will post about it when I am happy with an LED setup. I have a 365 nm 10W LED chip that works, but diffusing its output effectively is an issue I am still working on.

Abantiades labyrinthicus, male

And work the battery setup did – we took five males and a female of Abantiades labyrinthicus, a relatively common species but the first time I had an opportunity to collect some. The above specimen is a male. Females tend to come in during sometime after midnight, as appears to also be the case with OxycanusAbantiades labyrinthicus is also a species that does not need rain to fly, unlike Oxycanus and Trictena.

Elhamma australasiae with eggs

We also found the relatively common and widespread Hepialid Elhamma australasiae. The biology of this species in officially unknown, but Nick showed me numerous pupal cases (which we also collected) under the wattle Acacia melanoxylon. What it feeds on is not yet known. Above is a female with eggs that was attracted to the aforementioned 365 nanometer LED chip light. I took a further three males at a friend’s on the weekend after collecting this female, one of which has an amazing cedar-red forewing! This species is extremely variable.


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