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Canberra Today 7°/10° | Sunday, August 14, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Moths, up close and personal

Peritropha oligodrachma. Photo: Donald-Hobern

Book review / “Moths in the ACT” by Glenn Cocking, Suzi Bond and Ted Edwards. Published by Glenn Cocking. Reviewed by CON BOEKEL.  

THIS is a book written by scientists for the layperson. The first part of the book provides a comprehensive introduction to moths. This section alone makes the book a universal resource. 

The bulk of the book covers identification, behaviour, distribution, life history and habitats of selected ACT moths. Flight times and plant associations are described. The book is large and is not a field guide.

The quality of the macro photography is an exceptional feature of the book. The level of detail is minute. I cross-checked the colours with some of my moth shots and the colour calibration looks to be very good. Moths can be as brightly coloured and as iridescent as butterflies. Both adults and larvae can have bold patterns which function to warn predators off: poison alert! They are often stunningly beautiful. The almost infinite variety of camouflage patterns is the true visual wonder of moths.

The writing is easy to read.

Katarina Christenson’s layout is effective. I found navigation to be intuitive. The association between text and illustrations is excellent. 

What shines through is the authors’ passion. As for the moths – they are adventurous evolutionary explorers. The caterpillars of Telanepsia tidbinbilla were discovered living in the scats of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve’s Koalas. Other moth species prefer possum, wombat or wallaby scats.

Canberra’s two moth stars – the Bogong Moth and the Golden Sun Moth – receive the attention they deserve. The recent and totally unexpected crash of the Bogong Moth population shows how little we know about the ecology of even the most common of our moths. 

Without in any way taking away from the magnitude of the authors’ achievement, two full pages of acknowledgements, including a page listing contributing photographers, reflect a wonderfully productive relationship between experts and citizen scientists. I acknowledge a tiny conflict of interest: one of my moth shots appears in this book.

Moths have long suffered from unfair comparisons with their more glamorous taxonomic “cousins”, the butterflies. “Moths in the ACT”  emphatically rights this wrong. The authors are to be congratulated for producing a major natural history resource and a beautiful book.

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