New monkey moths found in KZN

2014-09-25 09:53
Two new species of colourful furry moths have been recorded in KwaZulu-Natal. Known as monkey moths because of their generally hairy bodies. (Sapa)

Two new species of colourful furry moths have been recorded in KwaZulu-Natal. Known as monkey moths because of their generally hairy bodies. (Sapa)

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Cape Town - Two new species of colourful furry moths have been recorded in KwaZulu-Natal.

Known as monkey moths because of their generally hairy bodies, the insects - dubbed Stenoglene perissinottoi and Stenoglene clucki by entomologists - have maximum wingspans of 4.5cm and 6.5cm respectively.

Perissinottoi, named after the man who first collected a specimen in the iSmangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal, is a brilliant white, with brown feathered antennae.

Its bigger cousin, clucki (both moths have been placed in the same genus), is a beautiful variegated honey colour.

In a statement on Wednesday, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the announcement of their discovery was a fitting way to celebrate National Heritage Day.

"The species... belong to the moth family Eupterotidae, commonly known as monkey moths... They were described by Belgian entomologist, Thierry Bouyer, who used material collected by [Professor] Renzo Perissinotto [of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University], in the park," she said.

Like most moths, the two species are attracted to light. Both were collected as by-catch during light-trapping surveys in the park.

Short life span

Perissinottoi appears to be endemic to the iSmangaliso Wetland Park.

"It is restricted to the more inland portions of the Maputaland coastal forest," according to the statement. Clucki has a wider range.

"It has... a broader provincial KZN lowland distribution and a more diverse habitat, which includes coastal, sand and riverine forests."

Perissinotto told Sapa both moths had a very short life span of possibly two to four weeks.

"The adult does not feed. They don't have mouth parts like butterflies... They basically hatch, mate, lay eggs, and die."

He said his team had been looking for aquatic beetles, using mercury-vapour lamps to attract them, when they discovered the moths in their trap.

The population of the species that bears his name was not large, and appeared to be endemic to the ISmangaliso Park.

"But this is a world heritage site, so we don't have to worry too much about it being protected."

Perissinotto said the more widespread clucki might also occur in southern Mozambique and the northern parts of the Eastern Cape.

Read more on:    edna molewa  |  durban  |  conservation  |  research

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