Synemon plana Walker, 1854
Golden Sun Moth
(one synonym: Synemon hesperioides R. Felder, 1874)
CASTNIIDAE,   SESIOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Synemon plana
(Photo: courtesy of David McClenaghan, CSIRO)

The Caterpillars of this species are off-white with a black head, and a red collar. The caterpillars are thought to feed on the roots of various grasses (POACEAE), including :

  • Short Wallaby Grass ( Rytidosperma carphoides ),
  • Double-jointed Spear Grass ( Austrostipa bigeniculata ), and
  • Chilean Needle Grass ( Nassella neesiana ).

    The caterpillars pupate in silk-lined tunnels beside their foodplant.

    Synemon plana
    female
    (Photo: courtesy of Waltraud Pix, Mount Majura, Australian Capital Territory)

    The adult moths have brown forewings, each with some white markings including two wiggly white irregular squares. The hindwings of the male are orange-brown with some vague dark spots. The undersides of the male are brown with white outlined dark markings.

    Synemon plana
    male
    (Photo: by Tony Howard, courtesy of Waltraud Pix, Mount Majura, Australian Capital Territory)

    The hindwings of the female are pale orange or yellow, with variable brown spots. The undersides of the female are white with brown margins and spots.

    Synemon plana
    male, underside
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The females, although they have wings, are too heavy to fly, and commonly sit displaying their orange hindwings, presumably awaiting discovery by passing males.

    Synemon plana
    female, underside
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The species has been found in

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria, and
  • Western Australia.

    Synemon plana
    male
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    This species is considered to be endangered. Its status is being studied at York Park in Canberra and Mount Piper in Victoria. Attempts are being made to conserve its environment by the University of Melbourne, the CSIRO, the Melbourne Zoo, and the Royal Canberra Golf Club.

    Synemon plana
    drawing by Arthur G. Butler,
    female
    Illustrations of typical specimens of Lepidoptera Heterocera in the collection of the British Museum,
    Part 1 (1877), Plate III, fig. 7,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Gerstein Library, University of Toronto.


    Further reading :

    Michael S. Braby & M. Dunford,
    Field Observations on the ecology of the Golden Sun Moth Synemon plana Walker (Lepidoptera: CASTNIIDAE),
    The Australian Entomologist,
    Volume 33, Part 2 (June 2006), pp. 103-110.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pls. 6.15, 6.16, pp. 284-285.

    Francis Walker,
    Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 1 (1854), p. 37, No. 5.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths, CSIRO Publishing, 2007, pp. 26, 104.


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    (updated 23 April 2013, 11 November 2017, 1 December 2019)