When I was a kid, I had an unusual affinity with a particular species of moth. In country Victoria, periodically they would all hatch at once and suddenly the air outside every window that had a light near it would be filled with fluttering wings. Those times were the high point of my childhood. I'd go outside and collect as many moths as I could, bring them inside, hang them on my clothes, in my hair, put them on the table and make them race against each other, stroke their furry heads...you get the picture. Yeah, I was a nutcase.
Anyway, without further ado, let me introduce Hepialidae.
Hepialidae - also known as Ghost or Swift moths - are a family of moths common in certain parts of Australia. The larvae - which are grub-like and extremely ugly - live underground, feeding on tree roots, and leave tell-tale moth-sized holes in the lawn after they pupate and hatch, pushing to the surface.
The adult moths more than make up for their unpreposessing juvenile form. They are extremely beautiful, with huge black eyes, thick fur and intricate patterns on their elegantly shaped wings which are unique to every moth, like a fingerprint (I used to be able to tell apart my pet moths, which frequently had names, by their wing-print alone). The species I knew as a kid had fine, wriggly silver lines like woodgrain against a background that could be anywhere between silvery beige and black-brown, with one or two jagged bright silver streaks in the center of each wing.
The variation in wing patterning is so great that I haven't been able to determine through googling what species of Hepialid moth I'm familiar with. But here's a selection of some of the best pictures I've been able to find (what would I not give to see one of those green ones in the flesh!)
Hepialid moths have a very short lifespan - so short that the adults have no digestive system, as they don't live long enough to need to eat! Most moths are already beginning to die the day after hatching.
I had the rare good fortune to come across a half-dead Hepi outside my back door some time ago (they are very uncommon in the city). I hung it on my curtain like a decoration. I think it fell off a few days later, dead. Here's a picture of it while it was still alive: