SEVEN BACKYARDS HOME NORTH AMERICA:     Santa Monica Mts.     Valyermo     Kansas     Oregon     Arizona     AUSTRALIA:   South Australia     Western Australia
Macro-Moth Studies
Noel McFarland

home Geometrid photos misc. and habitat photos pdfs maps links

Introduction to the book,


The above subheading for this section of the website derives from a Northern Hemisphere native's limited perspective. These incredible geometrids are, in fact, just the normal “everyday forms” that can be encountered across much of southern Australia. Accepting (some of) them as members of the Family Geometridae is initially quite a stretch, for a student of this family whose background is only in the Northern Hemisphere!  We do not have anything like a complete picture, with regard to the geometrids, on this side of the globe....Just quickly scan some of the bizarre images on the list that follows, and thereby expand your perceptions (or challenge your mind-set) regarding what else may constitute the Fam. Geometridae in the SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE:

For starters, have a quick look at Figures 13-19 (Chapter 2), 63-75 (Ch.6), 124-131 (Ch.10), 142-151 (Ch.12), 158-168 (Ch.14), 193-212 (Ch.17), 219-240 (Ch.18), 256-270 (Ch.20), 310-316 (Ch.22), 371-378 (Ch.26), 383-398 (Ch.27), 411-414 (Ch.28), 457-467 (Ch.31), 473-482 (Ch.32), 504- 512 (Ch.33), 516-522 (Ch.34), 576-582 (Ch.37), 597-602 (Ch.38), 629-634 (Ch.39), 657-662 (Ch.40), 690-705 (Ch.42), 710-714 (Ch.43), 724-729 (Ch.44), 733-738 (Ch.45); 755-758 (Ch.47), 777-780 (Ch.48), 822-827 (Ch.50), 852-857 (Ch.51), 880-882 (Ch.52), and 901-912 (Ch.53)....What is most striking to a “northerner” is the large number of geometrid species (involving several genera) that superficially resemble noctuids/notodontids!  Figure-numbers for 19 examples of these oddities are bold-faced in the above list....Another feature constantly encountered, amongst the Australian geometrids, is that there can be every conceivable variation in the number of prolegs present, amongst the amazingly diverse array of larval forms.  This involves many genera in the subfamilies Ennominae & Oenochrominae, as currently interpreted.  The recorded “proleg formulae” (PF) draw attention to this phenomenon repeatedly throughout the book, documenting the percentage of proleg retention, and/or degree of development.  This is given at the end of “DESCRIPTION (L5)” in most of the chapters (see pp. 24 and 246 for discussion and interpretation of the “PF”).

All of the geometrid life history studies documented at this section of the website were undertaken between 1965-1971, while I was renting four rooms at 2 Gulf View Rd., BLACKWOOD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA - then the residence of Mrs. L. Henley (later of Clare, now deceased).  During the first 6 years of this period, I held a fulltime position as Assistant Curator of Insects at the SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM, North Terrace, ADELAIDE.  All of the larval rearings and note-writing were carried out in free time at home, in the tiny half-bedroom of my rental flat!  Most of the B.& W. photographs were made at one end of my tolerant landlady's dining-room table, on a permanently set-up stage, which allowed me to precisely control the lighting and backgrounds.

Seventy-two of the more detailed life history studies undertaken during this 7-year period eventually led to the publication of a book two decades later - Portraits of South Australian Geometrid Moths, printed in 1988 as a limited edition of 500 copies. Presented here are PDFs reproducing all 407 pages of this book [actual dimensions = 13.75 x 10.15 inches or 35 x 26 cm.]  It is possible to first scan through the listing of geometrid species that were studied, and then go directly to any single chapter (Ch.) that may be of interest.  Each chapter represents only one species; see the indices on pp.1-5.  All relevant names of foodplants are also indexed in this book, three ways (see pp.15-18).  Some thoughts regarding application of the term “foodplant” in preference to the term “host” or host plant are suggested in McFarland, 1970 (pdf).

For more detailed background information on this geometrid study, see pages 19-44, 217-248, 363-373, 398-399.  (None of that introductory subject matter will be repeated here.)  An earlier publication, which preceded the book by 9 years, entitled, “Annotated list of larval FOODPLANT RECORDS for 280 species of Australian moths”, published in 1979 as a 74-page Supplement to Vol.33(3) of the Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society.  All AUSTRALIAN moth life history studies, that were successfully completed and identified between 1965-1978, are reported in the 1979 publication - geometrids and other moth families as well.  Probably more than 75% of the early stages documented in these two publications (1979, 1988) were unknown at the time when these rearings were being attempted.  Hence the need, incidentally, for some type of code-numbering system that can be uniformly applied to all (unknown) life history investigations being attempted - the more so in regions where many of the species have never been reared before (see pp.4, 5, 22 and 365 in the “Portraits---” book).

The late Dr. I.F.B. Common (1990) refers to many of these previously unrecorded Australian moth foodplant records in his lavishly illustrated book, Moths of Australia (ISBN 0-522-84326-3, Melbourne Univ. Press; 535 pp.).  I am deeply indebted to Ian Common (then of the CSIRO/Entomology, Canberra), and also to Steve Fletcher (then of the BMNH/Entomology, London), for their untiring assistance over a period of 14 years, with the identification (or verification) of most of the numerous Australian moths that I was rearing (or attempting to rear!) between 1965-1978.  Without their input, many of these species would have remained unidentified, or determined only to genus at best....

The earlier preserved specimens (1965-1971), that were documented in the “Portraits---” book (also including most of those reported in the 1979 paper), were deposited in the entomological collections of the S.A. MUSEUM, ADELAIDE - hopefully, still(?) arranged under their original code- numbers, as recorded in both of the above-mentioned publications....Jan Forrest (Senior Collections Manager) is now in charge of the invertebrate collections at the S.A. Museum.  Some of the later Western Australian life history studies (1972-78) went primarily to the entomological collections at the W.A. DEPT. of AGRICULTURE (then of Jarrah Rd., South PERTH), or to the AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL INSECT COLLECTION (ANIC), CANBERRA.

A complimentary copy (#40) of the 1988 book (“Portraits---”) was donated to the Entomology Dept. of the BRITISH MUSEUM (Nat. Hist.), LONDON, soon after the book became available for distribution.  This went to D.S. Fletcher (geometrid specialist), who had so kindly and consistently helped me with the more difficult Australian determinations over the years (see p.371, col.2).  Later, a second copy was ordered by the the BMNH entomological library....Hence the widespread mystification over Scoble's (inadvertent??) total omission, of my numerous well-documented geometrid foodplant records, from his definitive 2-volume world geometrid catalog (1999)....This remains all the more puzzling in light of his letter to me, dated 14 March 1989, a copy of which is reproduced here as a PDF.  [Click here for a PDF showing advertisement for the Scoble geometrid catalog.]

Other professional responses to the “Portraits---” book are also included here as PDF's, along with Scoble's - various letters and published reviews, etc.....Amongst these are commentaries from Rindge, Covell, Janzen, Edwards, Moulds, and others.  Inexplicably, ALL of the Australian geometrid foodplant records documented in the 72-page 1979 publication (see pp.20-47 therein) were also overlooked by the compiler(s) of the Scoble tome - perhaps due to the “obscurity” of the (international) Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society(?)....OR, due to doubts regarding the accuracy of the moth determinations(??) - all of them issuing, as they did, from two of the leading moth taxonomists of that time period (I.F.B. Common & D.S. Fletcher), both experts on the Australian fauna(???)....

This book has now been widely dispersed to many individuals and institutions around the planet.  A few unsold copies still remain in the author's possession (ARIZONA), and others are still available from the ANIC Bookshop, CSIRO (Entomology), in CANBERRA.  These remnant copies are now being sold for about half price (plus postage), from either location.

Something to look forward to:  The book contains over 1,500 photographs, mostly from life, along with much behavioral documentation (“mere natural history”, as a pompous acquaintance was once overheard remarking).  Not a single table, chart, graph, diagram, cladogram, or mathematical equation will be encountered anywhere in the entire book!  And the language is just plain English!!  Pretentious, intimidating jargon (designed to exclude amateurs) and/or popular buzz-words/phrases are never employed.....Well, how could that possibly be conveying any “valid scientific information”, you ask??  It all depends on what kinds of information the reader is seeking!!  For a summary of exactly what this book is (and is NOT) attempting to convey, please see pp. 19-20 [click here].  See also the Rindge review (1989), in the J. New York Ent. Soc. 97(1): 123, which nicely defines my chosen “niche”!....

I continue to imagine that (just perhaps?) we do not all robotically seek exactly the same kinds of information, regurgitated (zombie-like) in exactly the same style and format, as if we were nothing more than a mechanistic assemblage of clones!!  Whatever happened to “diversity”??  All writings that report observations of biological phenomena cannot (and should not) be standardized and “homogenized”, in order to be mindlessly STUFFED INTO the same rigid format of identical subheadings and identical boring prose, like a straight-jacket (one-style-fits-all??), and still hope to clearly convey all of the more subtle or nuanced observations [see also Standen (1950) and Wheeler (1929), for multiple hilarious validations of every aspect of the foregoing mini-rant!].

For dozens of examples of these kinds of narratives in the “Portraits---” book, please scan the “Subject Index of Miscellaneous Topics” on pp. 217-223!  See also page p. 21 (col.1) for still more on this topic.  There is a separate Access Sheet (dated Dec. 1990), which compactly summarizes most of the diverse topics broached in this book....[click here]  The latter provides access by page-number &  column, whereas pp.217-223 provide access via chapter-number (Ch.).  A photocopy of the “Access Sheet” was intended to accompany every one of the books sold.  Unfortunately, this did not apply to the first year of sales (1988-89)!  Therefore, anyone now wanting this interpretive sheet is welcome to contact me and request a copy, or feel free to make a print-out of it from the PDF at this website.

Here is a suggested lifetime project for some young and energetic geometrid enthusiast:  It would be of great interest to undertake comparative studies between the GEOMETRID FAUNAS of temperate southern SOUTH AMERICA (i.e., Argentina + Chile) and the temperate regions across southern AUSTRALIA.  Numerous fascinating kinships and convergences should be revealed!  This suggestion was inspired by the perusal of some interesting papers by Rindge (1971, 1983), depicting a few examples from the temperate “southern cone” of South America....[see also the discussions on pages 151 (col.2) and 267 (col's.2-3) in the “Portraits---” book, mentioning the showy Chilean geometrid genera, Catocalopsis and Catophoenissa].

About the Website COLOUR SLIDE-GALLERY which Accompanies the Book,


During my seven years of residence in BLACKWOOD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA (1965-1971), I was making occasional colour-photos (35 mm. slides), but most of my efforts back then involved working only with various black-&-white films....This decision was the practical byproduct of a very limited income during those years, and was also due to the fact that high quality B.& W. film (but not colour!) was being supplied to me FREE and in unlimited quantities, by my employer (the S.A. Museum of Natural History, Dept. of Entomology).  During the 1960's, I was just beginning to “learn the ropes” of insect close-up photography.  At the time it made more sense to do that learning as cheaply as possible - hence the B.& W. emphasis!  I also had constant access to the darkroom-expertise of Roman Ruehle, our S.A.M. staff photographer throughout this period (see p.372).  Yellow, orange and green filters were frequently employed for the B.& W. work, in order to sharpen detail and/or increase contrast (green primarily for the habitat photos on pp.36-44).

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, I deeply regret that I didn't spend the extra money, and go 100% for colour film....Still, some colour work was undertaken from time-to-time.  But, due to inexperience and a penchant for experimentation with lighting and backgrounds, the colour results were erratic at best!  It is from this motley array of old Australian 35 mm. colour slides that I have selected about 180 of the “best”images to be scanned for this website.  They partially illustrate just a handful of the 72 species that were depicted entirely in B.& W. in the 1988 “Portraits---” book.  Also selected from the motley array, are a few colour slides of other South Australian moth families encountered during the Blackwood years...Most of my focus then was on the Fam. Geometridae (as it still remains to date), although rearings were (are!) regularly undertaken amongst certain other moth families, whenever encountered - particularly the Spf. Noctuoidea.

The (clickable) LIST below names all of the South Australian species which are represented at this website by one or more COLOUR images, selected from the 1965-1971 archive of 35 mm. slides.  The moth names are arranged alphabetically by family/genus/species; also included are the McFarland rearing code-numbers, and the various chapter numbers (Ch.) in the B.& W. “Portraits---” book.  These photos depict many of the living adults and larvae in their typical resting postures, and/or feeding on their locally occurring foodplants.  Most of the colour images were made indoors, with explicitly chosen sheets of rigid “Perspex” to provide various coloured backgrounds, and there was controlled lighting as well (both ambient and flash).  The majority were from the BLACKWOOD district, or the nearby NW. quadrant of Belair National Park, unless otherwise stated.  A few interesting Western Australian spp. have also been included in the colour gallery (from the Geraldton/ Northampton/Kalbarri districts, 1972-1978); some of these western entities are further documented in McFarland (1979).   [click here for the complete PDF of that publication].  All specimen measurements accompanying the colour images are metric (mm.).  Some of the moth and/or plant names may now be “outdated”, with reference to recent revisions(??)  However, these were the names that were suggested at the time these rearings were being attempted (1960's-1970's)....

LISTING of the COLOUR SLIDES that ACCOMPANY the 1988 “Portraits---” book:

Some detected NAME CHANGES that have evolved since the publication of these studies:

(1)   re. the 1979 paper, see pp.363-65 in the 1988 “Portraits---” book [click here]

(2)   re. names that were used in the book, the following changes (bold-faced) probably now apply:


Ch.4     -     Phelotis cognata (Walker) - McF. G.91 (rearing code-number)

Ch.11   -     Corula geometroides (Walker) - McF. G.170

Ch.24   -     “No available genus” for ada Butler - McF. G.136

Ch.25   -     “No available genus” for biplaga Walker - McF. G.217

Ch.27   -     Plesanemma fucata (Feld. & Rog.) - McF. G.109

Ch.37   -     Nisista notodontaria (Walker) - McF. G.140

Ch.38   -     Nisista serrata (Walker) - McF. G.110

Ch.40   -     “Smyriodes” trigramma (Lower) - McF. G.104 (why the quotes? - see Ch.39 & 40!)

Ch.41   -     Lipogya exprimataria (Walker) & Lipogya sp. - McF. G.135; G.134 (possibly new?)

Ch.46   -     Amelora leucaniata (Gn.) - McF. G.171

Ch.52   -     Hypobapta diffundens (Lucas) - McF. Gm.125

Ch.57   -     Chlorocoma assimilis (Lucas):  delete the “?” - McF. Gm.76

Ch.60   -     Chlorocoma haplochlora (Meyr.) - McF. Gm.404

Ch.66   -     Prasinocyma semicrocea (Walker) - McF. Gm.89

Ch.68   -     The tentative (Northern Hemisphere) generic handles, “Euphyia” and “Horisme” sp., were

                     applied to this entity by various experts during the 1970's-80's.  As a starting-point,

                     this moth should be compared with the type of “E.plesia Turner, which was (still is ?) in

                     the Museum of Victoria, Melbourne; see further discussion on p.348 (col.1), quoting a

                     letter I received from A. Neboiss, dated 15 Dec. 1984.  See also McFarland (1979: p.41,

                     dot 7) for additional remarks....This may, in fact, be an undescribed sp., for which there is

                     no available generic name(??) - McF. G.196

Ch.70   -     Chrysolarentia actinipha (Lower) - McF. G.98

Ch.71   -     Chrysolarentia vicissata (Gn.) - McF. G.92

Most of the above changes were drawn from Nielsen, Edwards & Rangsi (1996) - Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia (pp.                  ).  Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera, Vol. 4.

Regarding the PHOTOGRAPHS in the 1988 “Portraits---” book, there is a brief summary of the methods employed on pp.369-370.  Some of the REARING & LARVAL PRESERVATION TECHNIQUES are discussed on pp.366-368, including a detailed description of the miraculous “Henne Pupa-Pot” (p.366, col.3 to p.367), which greatly contributed to the success of my rearing efforts in South Australia!

SPECIMEN MEASUREMENTS:  I refuse to introduce rulers, scales, or other (ugly) artificial intrusions into my photos, so the relevant measurements (in mm.) are always recorded elsewhere - either directly under the photos (in the case of colour images), or somewhere in the text nearby (in the case of the B.& W. images in the “Portraits---” book).  See pp.20-26 and p.378 (under “WINGS”), for more explicit details on this topic.


ISBN:  0-935868-32-1

CIP:  87-31064

U.S. COPYRIGHT:  TX 2-460-715 (28 NOV. 1988)

DIMENSIONS: 13.75 x 10.15 x .75 inches  (35 x 26 x 2 cm.)

SHIPPING WEIGHT:  Slightly over 4 lbs. (close to 1.6 kg.)

BRITISH SPELLING:  This was intentional - NOT an oversight!  (see p.398, col.1, parag.4).

Final thought:  Please take just a few minutes to read the comments and/or quotations on pages 320 (A.F. Skutch) and 397-400 (esp. 398), before delving further into the book.  Thank you!       


- The Author (2009)


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Amelora petrochroa

Chapter 2 - Arhodia lasiocamparia

Chapter 3 - Arhodia retractaria

Chapter 4 - Boarmia cognata

Chapter 5 - Boarmia sausaria

Chapter 6 - Capusa cuculloides

Chapter 7 - Chlenias gonosema

Chapter 8 - Chlenias stenosticha

Chapter 9 - Chlenias zonaea

Chapter 10 - Ciampa arietaria

Chapter 11 - Corula spodochroa

Chapter 12 - Cycloprorodes melanoxysta

Chapter 13 - Dichromodes sp.

Chapter 14 - Dinophalus drakei

Chapter 15 - Dinophalus (?)serpentaria

Chapter 16 - Ectropis excursaria

Chapter 17 - Fisera eribola

Chapter 18 - Fisera (?)perplexata

Chapter 19 - Gastrinopa xylistis

Chapter 20 - Hypographa sp.

Chapter 21 - Idiodes apicata

Chapter 22 - Lophothalaina habrocosma

Chapter 23 - Melanodes anthracitaria

Chapter 24 - "Metrocampa" ada

Chapter 25 - "Metrocampa" biplaga

Chapter 26 - Mnesampela comarcha

Chapter 27 - "Mnesampela" fucata

Chapter 28 - Mnesampela privata

Chapter 29 - Monoctenia falernaria

Chapter 30 - Monoctenia smerintharia

Chapter 31 - Niceteria macrocosma, Nisista

Chapter 32 - Oenochroma vinaria

Chapter 33 - Onychopsis lutosaria

Chapter 34 - Paralaea ochrosoma

Chapter 35 - Phallaria ophiusaria, Phelotis, Plesanemma

Chapter 36 - Rhynchopsota rhyncophora

Chapter 37 - "Smyriodes" notodontaria

Chapter 38 - "Smyriodes" serrata, Stenoteras

Chapter 39 - Stibaroma melanotoxa

Chapter 40 - "Stibaroma" trigramma

Chapter 41 - Symmetroctena (?)exprimataria, Symmetroctena sp.

Chapter 42 - Thalaina angulosa

Chapter 43 - Thalaina clara

Chapter 44 - Thalaina macfarlandi

Chapter 45 - Thalaina selenaea

Chapter 46 - Xantholepidote leucaniata

Chapter 47 - Austroterpna idiographa

Chapter 48 - Austroterpna paratorna

Chapter 49 - Crypsiphona ocultaria

Chapter 50 - Cyneoterpna wilsoni

Chapter 51 - Heliomystis electrica

Chapter 52 - Hypobabpta eugramma

Chapter 53 - Hypobabpta percomptaria

Chapter 54 - Lophothorax eremnopis

Chapter 55 - Sterictopsis argyraspis

Chapter 56 - Aeolochroma sp. nov.

Chapter 57 - Chlorocoma (?)assimilis

Chapter 58 - Chlorocoma carenaria

Chapter 59 - Chlorocoma externa

Chapter 60 - Chlorocoma halochlora

Chapter 61 - Chlorocoma melocrossa

Chapter 62 - Chlorocoma vertumnaria

Chapter 63 - Eucyclodes buprestaria

Chapter 64 - Euloxia fugitivaria

Chapter 65 - Euloxia meracula

Chapter 66 - Gelasma semicrocea

Chapter 67 - Prasinocyma ocyptera

Chapter 68 - "Horisme" sp. (?)

Chapter 69 - Poecilasthena pulchraria

Chapter 70 - Xanthorhoe actinipha

Chapter 71 - Xanthorhoe vicissata

Chapter 72 - Idaea philocosma

Stilbopterid Life History