More than an empty case: a non invasive technique for monitoring the Australian critically endangered golden sun moth, Synemon plana (Lepidoptera: Castniidae)

Anett Richter, Dana Weinhold, Geoff Robertson, Ted Edwards, Sarah Hnatiuk, William Osborne

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    Monitoring programs for butterflies and moths are focused on the adult stage, rarely considering other life stages. Transect-based counts of adults and searches for empty pupal cases have been suggested as standard monitoring protocols for the critically endangered golden sun moth Synemon plana in Australia. To date, surveys and monitoring have focused only on counts of adults. However, undertaking such counts is constrained by the short adult life of the species (1-2 days), and the fact that prevailing weather conditions can seriously influence detectability. We tested whether empty pupal cases of S. plana can be used to supplement the monitoring of adults and whether this technique can be undertaken by citizen scientists. Volunteers from Canberra (Australia) collected 650 pupal cases from 11 grassland areas. The cases were found in native grasslands and in grassland comprised entirely of the exotic Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana). Pupal cases of S. plana were found to be durable, with most persisting in the field for greater than 3 weeks after first sighting, and exhibited a male biased sex ratio. This study demonstrates that detection of empty pupal cases provides a potential additional tool to monitor S. plana that is not dependent on the restrictions of prevailing weather conditions and time of day, and can be undertaken by citizen scientists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)529-536
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Insect Conservation
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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