Regional Roads Victoria (RRV) established the environmental off-set site in Menzel’s Reserve near Dimboola in 2009 to protect the Pale Sun Moth – which is one of Victoria’s most critically endangered insect species – along with a range of other under-threat plants and animals.
The moth is so elusive that its existence wasn’t discovered until the early 1990s, with only sporadic sightings occurring across Victoria in the decades since.
The moth species has flourished under the protection offered by Menzel’s Reserve, with regular sightings of the insect recorded by RRV environmental officers and other environmental researchers over the past ten years.
The 48-hectare site, which is also known by its indigenous name Gityawal Ngarri, was chosen for its low-lying, open grassland and abundance of Scented Mat-Rush – both of which represent an ideal habitat for various larval varieties of the Sun Moth family.
A recent inspection by RRV officers and insect experts revealed the site is also playing home to an equally endangered member of the Sun Moth species – the Reddish-Orange Sun Moth.
Even more elusive than other varieties of the Sun Moth family, the Reddish-Orange Sun Moth is only known to have been spotted at two other locations in the past – at Kiata, approximately 40 kilometres west of Dimboola, and across the Little Desert National Park.
RRV’s environmental experts believe the Reddish-Orange variety of Sun Moth may have been lured to the site by a profligate amount of Scented Mat-Rush, which has increased dramatically since the site was established a decade ago.
The discovery will help to inform biodiversity and conservation management practices for Menzel’s Reserve, as well as other offset sites around regional Victoria.
These practices may include increased onsite monitoring and surveying practices to identify other unsighted zoological or botanical species which remain undiscovered across regional Victoria’s diverse landscapes.
RRV Regional Director (Western) Mal Kersting said the sightings of both the Pale Golden and Reddish Orange varieties of Sun Moth are validation for RRV’s environmental stewardship practices.
“Sites such as Menzel’s Reserve play a key role in our environmental offset strategies,” Mr Kersting said.
“These sightings are proof that our management practices are serving the purpose they were designed to – providing protection for endangered species and offsetting the impacts our works might have on the environment.”
Photo courtesy Fabian Douglas