There are thought to be close to 30,000 moths in Australia. They range from micro moths to very large moths the size of a small bird. New moths are still being identified in Australia and many life histories await discovery.
Like butterflies moths have breeding ranges limited by the availability of their caterpillar foodplant. This means few butterflies or moths are found right across Australia.
Most moths fly at night (making them more difficult to see than butterflies) but a few are day flying. Moths are divided into many families. Below are the ones we have photographed here at Claire Cottage, Dorrigo, except for those of the Sphingidae (Hawk Moth) Family which have their own Gallery and description pages.
Family descriptions taken (in edited form) from A Guide to Australian Moths by Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards, 2007.
(*1) UNNAMED species (Geometridae) We've been reliably advised (Oct 2019) that this moth most likely belongs to the family Geometridae but has no subfamily, genus or species name at this time. We understand a number of specimens have been recorded in NSW prior to 2019.
ANTHELIDAE Woolly bears Generally large, antennae in male broadly pectinate to the tip, wings broad and hindwings usually large as well, females usually with large bodies. (Andreas Zwick, (NCMI, CSIRO Black Mountain, Environmental Sciences) has assisted us with some Anthelidae IDs (we have credited him (AZ) in each instance).
Andreas has provided us with the following information. The Anthela astata/acuta complex is highly variable and shows a dazzling variety of colours and wing patterns, even within the offspring of a single female - anything from plain brown, grey and orange to strongly speckled. This remarkable variability holds true also for A. excellens and others, although A. excellens is not closely related to A. astata/acuta. The A. astata/acuta complex includes a number of species (also A. ekeikei in New Guinea), many of which are either currently regarded as synonyms or undescribed. There are clear differences in male genital structures for some of them, but without examining primary type specimens for all described species (including synonyms) and using molecular data it's not possible to revise this variable complex. A. astata seems to refer to a larger species, A. acuta to a smaller species, but in both cases there are multiple species involved and there are intermediates in size, too. Hence, I generally refer to any of these species as the A. astata / acuta complex. Most if not all of your species seem to be smaller and probably A. acuta (or one of the many synonyms that should be valid species).
Anthela repleta is also very variable and includes multiple species that can be distinguished with morphological characters and molecular data, but again, primary type specimens would have to be examined to resolve this complex. A. repleta varies especially in its shades of brown and red, and in the degree of crenulation of the post medial line on the forewing. This said, the forewing almost always has a crenulate post media. In contrast, A. phoenicias is very distinctly reddish, plain in terms of markings and never has a post media on the forewing.
Medium; moths 'furry' or 'woolly' with head and body well covered in long hair-like scales; wings held outstretched or back roof-wise over body at rest; antennae in male broadly pectinate to the tip, never bent; antennae held back under wings at rest; wings broad; hindwings usually nearly as large as forewings and usually with a pattern of colours.
ARCTIIDAE Tiger Moths, Woolly Bears and Footmen (subfamily LITHOSIINAE).
Small to medium; head and body smooth-scaled; antennae held out from head; antennae simple or pectinate; wings held back steeply roof-wise over body, flattened or rolled about the body, some have their wings held out away from the body and held flat; moths are often yellow, red, white and black.
Large; head rough-scaled, small compared to body; wings held roof-wise; male antennae very short, feathery, pectinations rapidly shortening halfway along, rarely long all the way to the tip; antennae held back under forewings at rest; wings narrow for the size of the moth; palpi very small.
Medium, head rough-scaled, wings held roof-wise, antennae held back along the leading edge of the wing, palpi upturned sickle-shaped sharp-pointed, hindwing broad lanceolate, often black and white or black and yellow, forewing grey or white with numerous black spots.
Small to large; head smooth or rough-scaled; wings usually outstretched from body pressed flat against the substrate, but sometimes back along body roof-wise or rolled about body, and a few with wings held upright together like butterflies; antennae held back under forewing when at rest; wings very broad and only rarely without pattern on hindwing and then hindwings covered at rest; wing pattern usually consists of a large number of wavy more or less parallel lines crossing the wing and without prominent circles.
The Hepialidae are primitive moths. Generally large, short antennae, forewings and hindwings of similar shape and held steeply roof-wise.
Nb. The Oxycanus genus is difficult to identify to species as they are so variable. The only certain way is by dissection and we do not agree with killing moths. This particular group of Oxycanus is very problematic as there are many 'species' that are synonyms, and require taxonomic revision. iNaturalist has been helpful in offering ID's for many of our photographs and these are marked "iN".
Small; head smooth-scaled or rough; wings held roof-wise over body at rest; antennae simple, slightly thickened, held in front of head and our at 45 degrees; forewings often brightly coloured in red and yellow, or red and black.
Medium to large; head and body 'woolly'; wings held roof-wise back over body when at rest; antennae in male broadly comb-like/feathery, often gradually bent in the middle and held back under wings at rest; wings broad - hindwings usually much smaller than forewings and often without so much colour pattern.
Medium; head rough-scaled, often small compared to body; wings held steeply roof-wise over body; antennae in male short, feathery, with pectinations shortening rapidly towards tip; antennae held back along leading edge of wing at rest; wings short and very orad; body covered in long hair scales and wings covered in slightly 'fluffy' scales.
Medium; moths 'furry' or 'woolly' with head and body well covered in long hair-like scales; wings held back steep, or flat, roof-wise and slightly extended; antennae broadly pectinate in the male with pectinations extending to tip of antennae, gradually curved along their length; antennae held back along or under the forewings; hindwings smaller than forewings and with less colour pattern.
Small to large; head and body smooth to rough-scaled; wings may be held back over body steep roof-wise or flat or with wings extended and flat against the substrate; a few adopt off poses and one group rests with wings up like butterflies; antennae usually simple; held back under wings at rest; wings broad, in some groups hindwing broader than forewing; if resting with wings extended then significant colour pattern on hindwing that is not broader than forewing, if resting with wings closed then hindwing usually broader than forewing and with little colour pattern; forewing pattern usually incorporates in some way a kidney-shaped spot about two thirds of the way along the wing in the middle and a smaller round spot at about one third of the way along the wing.
NOTODONTIDAE Bag Shelter Moths and Processionary Caterpillars
Medium; those in subfamily Thaumetopoeinae hae a 'furry' or 'woolly' appearance; the remainder have rough scales or are smooth on head and body; wings held back roof-wise over body; antennae usually pectinate but sometimes simple; antennae held back under forewings at rest; hindwing shorter than forewing, with less colour pattern; Thaumetopoeinae males have a tuft of long scales at the end of the body.
Small; head usually smooth; wings held roof-wise or flat back over body; simple antennae held back along leading edge of wing at rest; palpi upturned, sharp-pointed, sickle-shaped; hindwing usually lanceolate.
Small to medium; head usually smooth, sometimes rough-scaled; wings held in many different poses; antennae usually simple but sometimes pectinate, usually about half length of wing but sometimes very short or long, held back over wings or body and together or along leading edge of forewing; if wings held back at rest then hindwing often without intricate pattern and broader than forewing but if wings held out then the hindwing may be patterned and no broader than the forewing.
Small to medium; head small hairy; wings held steeply roof-wise; antennae thread-like or broadly pectinate (feathery) and held back along leading edge of wings; medium-sized species have wings sparsely scaled or unscaled.
Large; moths 'furry' or 'woolly' with head and body well covered in long hair-like scales; wings held partly out but flattened at rest; antennae in male very short, broadly pectinate to the tip, never bent; antennae held partly up and out and back parallel to the front of the forewing; both wings have either a triangular window or an eye-spot in the middle but in some the hindwing may just have a dot; tip of forewing often broadly extended; hindwings smaller than forewings but well patterned; the body is very small for size of the moth.
Small; head smooth; wings held back over the body low roof-wise; antennae pectinate to the tip in males; antennae held out at 45 dgrees and in front of head; short, somewhat stout bodies; forewings shining green copper or black sometimes wasp-like in orange and black or white and black, mostly active by day.