Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ghost (Puriri) Moth

Hole left by a Ghost Moth caterpillar
We have all seen the holes in the willows that the Tree Weta live in but did you know that the holes are what is left behind from the Ghost Moth Aenetus virescens caterpillar? If you did know did you know that the Ghost Moth is alive and well breeding in Mangaiti Gully?
Some interesting facts from; “Common Insects in NZ, by David Millar 1971”, the Ghost Moth is the largest native winged insect with a wing spread reaching 150mm (6”). The moths used to appear in great swarms but with the clearing of their habitat, numbers have greatly reduced. The Morepork favour them as a food source.
The caterpillar bores into the growing limbs of a number of trees, which includes our Grey Willows, covering the entrance hole with a fine silken camouflaged web. The caterpillar stage lasts for three years before emerging as a moth during September to November.
A covered entrance hole with a fine
silken camouflaged web
It is interesting to observe what native fauna is already living in restoration areas before major change to the flora mix is attempted. If we had removed all the willows when we first started, as was suggested by a number of informed restoration people, then a very large habitat of the native Ghost Month would have been removed. It would have taken ten to fifteen years for replacement trees to be big enough. The Ghost Moth may well have, at worst, become extinct in our gully or, at best, left with a seriously depleted population.
Ghost month caterpillar bore the holes which pupa to moths that feed the Moreporks. The holes left behind are a shelter for Weta. Weta are also a food source for Morepork.

Giant Willow Aphid

Giant Willow Aphid
It was evident during late summer a honeydew was covering the plants in the understory of the willows and there was considerable bee (not wasp) activity up in the willow canopy.  Since that time it has come to our attention that a Giant Willow Aphid Tuberolachnus salignus  is present in the Waikato. It is now winter so not the time to confirm that they are the cause of the honeydew but we would say it is highly probable. It will be interesting to see if they have any negative effect on the willow population.  If you would like to know more about this aphid click on this link:

Photo:Dense colony of Giant Willow Aphids (image courtesy of Alan Flynn, Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand)

Extension to shade house

Base in place for the garden shed
An extension to the shade house has been completed adding about another third to its length. To complement this we are erecting a garden shed to store potting mix and other shade house potting equipment. Once all this is completed in the next week or so we are forming a small team of about three or four people whose responsibilities will be just to look after the growing of the plants in the shade house. We already have a “keen to start” team leader for this group. She will be working in the afternoons, the day is not yet confirmed, and will be on an “as required” basis.  We do not imagine there would be enough work for weekly working bees. If you would be interested in having your name on the “on call” list for this team send an email to

A serious population of copper skinks

Wow. Do you reckon our skink habitat will ever be like this? We hope they are not Rainbows!!

Down side of opening up to the public

One of our bait stations was seriously attacked.