Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is home to the pink underwing moth. This beautiful insect is classified as endangered under the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act.
Its large brown forewings provide excellent camouflage, resembling mottled, old leaves. Hiding beneath are a pair of vibrant pink hind-wings, with black and white markings thought to have evolved as a warning bluff to predators.
Adult moths live for only 30 days and boast a wingspan between 130 - 170mm at full size. It one of the largest insects found in this forest. They feed by sucking the juice from rotting or overripe fruit, not yet fallen from the rainforest mid-storey.
Pink underwing moth larvae have an extraordinary appearance. Their body is marked with a pair of bright yellow and turquoise ‘eyes’ surrounded by white lines resembling a fierce mask/face. When threatened or disturbed, the larvae curls forward to present the face as a defensive behaviour. The larvae of this giant moth has an extremely limited diet. It only feeds on a single host plant, the carronia vine.
Habitat containing the carronia vine such as the remnant rainforest which grows at Mary Cairncross (complex notophyll vine forest) is therefore crucial for this magnificent moth. Our reserve is one of few confirmed breeding sites for the endangered pink underwing moth.