Bogong Moth Agrotis infusa
Image: Denis Crawford
Source: Graphic Science
Question: Is there really a moth that hibernates in summer?
Answer: While the majority of Australia's moths and butterflies increase their activity as the weather warms up, one very interesting species does the opposite.
The Bogong Moth (Agrotis infusa) is found over large parts of the country and the majority of the populations in eastern and south-eastern Australia spend their summers in a state of near dormancy in caves in mountaintops in the Australian Alps.
During spring, millions of sexually-immature adult moths migrate to the Australia Alps. By October, the moths have reached their destination and wedge themselves into caves, crevices or holes to avoid the desiccating heat of summer.
During the migration, the moths are often attracted to the artificial lights on our buildings: there is a regular Bogong Moth invasion of Parliament House. While they may be attracted to lights indoors, they do not feed on clothes and usually die quite quickly inside. However, they should be swept up and placed outside as the bodies of moths can attract pests like carpet beetles and introduced species of cockroach.
Bogong Moths are high in fat and were a regular component of the diet of Indigenous Australians. They are also a key food source for the Mountain Pygmy-possum, a species thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1966.
The Mountain Pygmy-possum, Australia's only hibernating marsupial, is considered endangered due to its very low populations (numbering around a few thousand), restricted distribution and threats posed by development, climate change and feral animals. It is thought that any significant decrease in the populations of Bogong Moths could place this species at further risk of extinction.