South Sister St. Marys, Tasmania

South Sister

moth ssurvey

Report on a survey of nocturnal moth species occurring on South Sister near St Marys, Tasmania.

University of Tasmania


South Sister is a dolerite peak situated north of the township of St Marys in north eastern Tasmania. From a biogeographical viewpoint, it is strategically located at the top of a major river catchment but also forming part of the hinterland to the east coast adjacent to the township of Falmouth.

Moths were sampled as part of a programme to document the biodiversity of the local area in order to improve knowledge of the natural values of the area.


Nocturnal moths were sampled with 12v, 8w ultra violet light traps operated from dusk to dawn. A voucher collection was field-pinned and is archived in the collection of the School of Geography & Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania.

Seven sites in tall Eucalyptus delegatensis forest on the flanks of South Sister were sampled over two nights in mid summer (Table 1). Elevation spanned a range of 200m. Overnight conditions were dry and without strong wind but with an estimated minimum temperature of 11°C on 2005/01/21 and 7°C on 2005/01/22.

Sampling sites were chosen to represent a cross section of the habitats present in the area and their locations were fixed with a GPS set to the WS84 datum. Habitats mainly differed in the nature of the understorey vegetation.

Table 1 - Details of sampling sites
LatitudeLongitudeState LocalityElevationDateHabitat
41.53383°S148.17433°ETASSouth Sister 768m2005/01/21Tall E. delegatensis forest
41.53434°S148.17344°ETASSouth Sister 774m2005/01/21Tall E. delegatensis forest
41.53500°S148.17466°ETASSouth Sister 749m2005/01/21Tall E. delegatensis forest
41.53819°S148.17944°ETASSouth Sister 692m2005/01/21Tall E. delegatensis forest
41.54047°S148.17672°ETASSouth Sister 650m2005/01/22Tall E. delegatensis forest
41.54120°S148.18041°ETASSouth Sister 620m2005/01/22Tall E. delegatensis forest
41.54142°S148.18606°ETASSouth Sister 580m2005/01/22Tall E. delegatensis forest


At least 90 species representing 18 moth families were found (Appendix 1). When identification is complete, the sample will probably include about 130 species. In the current list for example, the genus Barea includes at least 7 species, but their identity must await closer study.

At least three moth species not previously recorded from Tasmania were present in the samples:

Sterictopsis melanoglypta (Lower) family Geometridae 41.54142°S 148.18606°E, South Sister near St Marys; 580m, 2005/01/22

Tisobarica sp. family Oecophoridae 41.53819°S 148.17944°E, South Sister near St Marys; 692m, 2005/01/21

Paraphyllis sp. family Yponomeutidae 41.54047°S 148.17672°E, South Sister near St Marys; 650m, 2005/01/22

All three are associated with tall eucalypt forest in south eastern mainland Australia. S. melanoglypta and Paraphyllis sp. are thought to be relaint on eucalypts as foodplants whereas the plant associations of Tisobarica are unknown.


It is not easy to put the results in context as there are few comparable datasets for moth communities in this forest type in Tasmania, and none for this bioregion. However, the fauna of drier eucalypt forests in north eastern Tasmania is known to be seasonal in its activity, with a turnover of species every eight to ten weeks (McQuillan et al. 1998). On this basis, the size of the South Sister moth fauna would be a minimum of 500, and probably in the order of 950 species. Many species are not efficiently sampled with light traps and careful sampling over an extended period could take the total beyond 1000 species.

The elevation of South Sister is sufficiently high to support some elements of a montane or higher altitude fauna. Typical Tasmanian montane species include the geometrid Mnesampela heliochrysa and the noctuid Neumichtis iorrhoa. The Bogong moth Agrotis infusa was also found at the highest site, consistent with the likelihood that these migratory moths may spend the summer in reproductive diapause secreted in rocky cavities on NE Tasmanian mountain summits (L. Hill, DPIWE Devonport, pers. comm.). It is possible that these moths may originate on mainland Australia and cross Bass Strait in the spring, forming outlier populations relative to the well known aggregations which form each summer on Mt Kosciusko and the Victorian Alps. Together with the very abundant large noctuid Neumichtis iorrhoa it may form a valuable seasonal food source for birds and mammals. A number of moth and butterfly species exhibit 'hilltopping' behaviour, whereby males move upslope to aggregate on local high points in the landscape to establish mating territories or seek females. It is therefore important to maintain native vegetation cover along this gradient to facilitate the movement of these species.

The extraordinary diversity and development of lichens on South Sister is reflected in the relative abundance of moths whose larvae rely on lichens as food. Examples include Damias sicciodes, Scoliacma adrasta and Thallarcha isophragma. These plants are likely to be important in the lifecycles of many other species.

Also noteworthy in the dataset is the high diversity of moths associated with leaf litter and decaying wood. Such resources are typical of older forests which maintain a buffered micro-climate at ground level. In all probability, the maintenance of a wide range of decay states in the litter favours a high diversity of associated moths which individually specialise on its components. This in turn may be mediated by a constellation of wood-decaying fungi which are now known to be influential in maintaining beetle diversity in old growth forests. Leaf litter feeding larvae are ecologically important as comminuters of the refractive litter of Eucalyptus and consequently are potentially important in the fire fuel cycle.

Given the poor conservation status of tall forest in the north east of Tasmania, the preservation of South Sister and its adjacent habitats in their natural state would make a very worthwhile contribution to redressing this oversight.


McQUILLAN, P.B., TAYLOR, R.J., BERETON, R.N. & CALE, P.G. (1998). Seasonal patterns of activity in geometrid moths (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) from a lowland and a highland eucalypt forest in Tasmania. Australian Journal of Entomology 37: 228-237.

Appendix 1. List of moth species occurring on South Sister, January 2005.
FamilySpecies LatitudeLongitude ElevationDate
AnthelidaeAnthela ferruginosa Walker, 1855 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
AnthelidaeAnthela nicothoe (Boisduval, 1832) 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
ArctiidaeCastulo doubledayi Newman, 1857 41.54120°S148.18041°E 620m2005/01/22
ArctiidaeDamias sicciodes (Hampson, 1914) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
ArctiidaeScoliacma adrasta (Turner, 1940) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
ArctiidaeThallarcha isophragma (Meyrick, 1886) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
CosmopterygidaeMacrobathra sp. 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
DepressariidaeEutorna sp. 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
GeometridaeAcodia pauper Rosenstock, 1885 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
GeometridaeAnzarhoe anthracinata (Guenée, 1857) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
GeometridaeArchephanes zalosema Turner, 1926 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
GeometridaeBoarmia’ suasaria (Guenée, 1857) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeCasbia melanops Rosenstock, 1885 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
GeometridaeChloroclysis sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeChloroclystis filata (Guenée, 1857) 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
GeometridaeChrysolarentia bichromata (Guenée, 1857) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeDrymoptila temenitis (Guest, 1887) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeEccymatoge morphna Turner, 1922 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
GeometrideaEpyaxa subidaria (Guenée, 1857) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
GeometrideaEuphronarcha epiphloea (Turner, 1926) 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
GeometridaeHeliomystis electrica Meyrick, 1888 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
GeometridaeHydriomena crocota (Turner, 1904) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeHydriomena severata (Guenée, 1857) 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
GeometridaeHydriomena’ anaspila Meyrick, 1891 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
GeometridaeMicrodes diplodonta Turner, 1904 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
GeometridaeMicrodes haemobaphes Turner, 1926 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeMicrodes sp. 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
GeometridaeMicrodes squamulata Guenée, 1857 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
GeometridaeMicrodes villosata Guenée, 1857 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeMnesampela heliochrysa (Lower, 1893) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
GeometridaeOenochroma vetustaria (Walker, 1860) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
GeometridaePalleopa innotata Walker, 1866 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaePsilosticha mactaria (Guenée, 1857) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
GeometridaeScopula sp. 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
GeometridaeSterictopsis melanoglypta 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
GeometridaeTaxeotis sp. 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
GracillariidaeAristaea periphanes Meyrick, 1907 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
LasiocampidaePararguda nasuta (Lewin, 1805) 41.54120°S148.18041°E 620m2005/01/22
NoctuidaeAgrotis infusa (Boisduval, 1832) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
NoctuidaeArtigisa lignicolaria (Walker, 1866) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
NoctuidaeCirphis ebriosa (Guenée, 1852) 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
NoctuidaeDasygaster* epipolia (Turner, 1920) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
NoctuidaeNeumichtis iorrhoa (Meyrick, 1902) 41.54120°S148.18041°E 620m2005/01/22
NoctuidaeNola sp. 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
NoctuidaePersectania ewingii (Westwood, 1839) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
NoctuidaeProteuxoa D 41.53500°S148.17466°E 749m2005/01/21
NoctuidaeProteuxoa sanguinipuncta (Guenée, 1852) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
NoctuidaeRhapsa suscitatalis (Walker, [1859]) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
NotodontidaeAglaosoma periblepta (Turner, 1922) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
NotodontidaeGallaba eugraphes Turner, 1922 41.54120°S148.18041°E 620m2005/01/22
OecophoridaeAcanthodela erythrosema (Meyrick, 1886) 41.54120°S148.18041°E 620m2005/01/22
OecophoridaeAeolothapsa malacella (Meyrick, 1885) 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeBarea cf 41.53819°S148.17944°E 692m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeBarea sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeBarea turbatella (Walker, 1864) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeChezala sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeCosmaresta canephora (Meyrick, 1883) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeCosmaresta sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeEochrois callianassa (Meyrick, 1883) 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
OecophoridaeEulechria sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeGarrha sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeHoplostega ochroma (Meyrick, 1886) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
OecophoridaeLichenaula sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeOrescoa paurogramma (Meyrick, 1883) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeOxythecta alternella (Walker, 1864) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeOxythecta sp. 41.53819°S148.17944°E 692m2005/01/21
OecophoridaePhilobota sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
OecophoridaeTisobarica sp. 41.53819°S148.17944°E 692m2005/01/21
Oecophoridaeundet sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
PsychidaeLepidoscia 41.53819°S148.17944°E 692m2005/01/21
PterophoridaeStenoptilia phaeonephes (Meyrick, 1886) 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
PyralidaeHednota sp. 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
PyralidaeHygraula nitens (Butler, 1880) 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
PyralidaeScoparia anthracias Meyrick, 1884 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
Roeslerstammiidae Nematobola orthotricha Meyrick, 1893 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
RoeslerstammiidaeThereutis chionozyga Meyrick, 1893 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
TineidaeMonopis ethelella (Newman, 1856) 41.53819°S148.17944°E 692m2005/01/21
TortricidaeCapua intractana (Walker, 1869) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
TortricidaeContortula (Turner, 1927) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
TortricidaeCryptoptila immersana (Walker, 1863) 41.54142°S148.18606°E 580m2005/01/22
TortricidaeEpiphyas sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
TortricidaeEpiphyas xylodes (Meyrick, 1910) 41.53383°S148.17433°E 768m2005/01/21
TortricidaeEricodesma liquidana (Meyrick, 1881) 41.53819°S148.17944°E 692m2005/01/21
TortricidaeHolocola sp. 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
TortricidaeMeritastis polygraphana (Walker, 1863) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
TortricidaeOphiodesma (Lower, 1902) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
TortricidaeStereodes (Meyrick, 1910) 41.53434°S148.17344°E 774m2005/01/21
YponomeutidaeParaphyllis sp. 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
YponomeutidaeZelleria cynetica Meyrick, 1893 41.54120°S148.18041°E 620m2005/01/22
ZygaenidaePollanisus sp. 41.54047°S148.17672°E 650m2005/01/22
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