Just when you think you’ve heard of all the weird creatures that inhabit Australia, this one pops up on your news feed.
This is a Giant Wood Moth, and it was found by construction workers at an Australian elementary school. These moths aren’t particularly rare, but it is rare for one to be seen by humans. Needless to say, this moth got a lot of press.
According to the Australian Museum, the females of this species can have a wingspan of nearly ten inches, and they can weigh up to 1/10th of a pound. That certainly isn’t heavy by human standards, but it’s the heaviest moth in the world. The males are much smaller.
To understand how something so big can avoid public scrutiny, you have to understand its life cycle. In the larval state, when they’re called Witchetty Grubs, they bore into the trunks of Eucalyptus trees. They have purple and white bands at this stage, so they’re probably quite stylish, but they’re in the tree trunk, away from prying eyes. They can remain in this stage for up to three years.
When they finally emerge, they’re no longer stripey and they’re slightly less than an inch long and about as thick as a pencil. They lower themselves onto the ground on silk threads and feed on plant roots. They have to put on as much weight as possible, because when they’re adults, they live only for 3 days, and don’t eat anything. The females are so heavy they struggle to fly. They focus on mating and then laying 20,000 eggs before they die. And so the cycle begins again. Isn’t nature grand?
Learning about Giant Wood Moths led me to a strange realization. I have a size limit to what I’m willing to kill with my bare hands. No, I don’t go around killing things at random, just for the heck of it. I do my best to let the web of life weave on. But I have been known to kill bugs that are prone to sucking my blood or spreading disease or injecting me with a toxin. Mosquitos receive no mercy from me, for example.
I can’t really imagine a scenario in which I’d purposely kill a Giant Wood Moth. I suppose if it went rogue and attacked me or something, I might be tempted. But even then, I don’t think I could do it. Killing something that big would be a sensory nightmare. I mean, that would be a substantial squish. You couldn’t even pretend you weren’t committing murder under those circumstances. You’d have to be dedicated to your deed. So thank you, Giant Wood Moth, for helping me to discover that I have limits. That’s a fascinating bit of information.
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