The Nature Bible


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Lights off for moths - down under



From now until the end of October millions of Australians in northern Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are being urged to turn off their lights to stop their iconic Bogong moths from becoming distracted and lost.


Bogong moths, which were historically used a food source by Aboriginal tribes located in Southeastern Australia, are also the preferred food for Mountain Pygmy Possoms whose numbers have dropped dramatically in just a couple of years from around 4.4 billion to only a few hundred! This has had a knock-on effect for the possoms, which emerge from hibernation in September and October and of which there are thought to be fewer than 2,000 left in the wild. According to scientists, last spring 95% of surveyed females lost their young.


Despite the fact that Bogong moths are the only insect known to use the earth's magnetic field to help them navigate their seasonal migrations, strong winds are known to blow them off course and lights are known to confuse them. Some say their decline in numbers is due to pesticide use, a lack of rainfall in their breeding areas and climate change but light pollution from buildings, such as Parliament House in Canberra is known to drawn in and trap large numbers.


As well as being encouraged to turn off unnecessary outdoor and indoor lighting this year people are also being encouraged to record any Bogong moth sightings on a Moth Tracker page of the SWIFFT (State wide integrated fauna and flora teams) website. "Every single moth is precious", said Reproductive Biologist Dr Parrot, who is one of the partners in the Mountain Pygymy-possum Recovery Program, leading the campaign, "The female moth can lay 2000 eggs."