Though there are some 587 species worldwide distributed in 60 genera of Ghost moths (Hepialidae), most are found in tropical regions. The Ghost moth Trichophassus giganteus (Herrich-Schaffer, ), or mariposa fantasma as it is known locally, is endemic to Brazil, and this is the third time that this very large and primitive moth has arrived at REGUA’s moth traps. It is very well camouflaged but is attracted to light, and can be found having flown at night during the austral winter season. It can be distinguished by its long woolly legs that, though the rest looks very similar to an ordinary moth.
The Ghost moth gets this strange name from the way it flies in courting the female – hovering up and down attracting its mate. After the fertilization occurs a single female can lay up to 30,000 eggs – each the size of miniature sand grains which are spread from mid-air. Unlike normal caterpillars feeding on leaves, the larvae feed on roots and buried detritus.
Curiously Trichophassus giganteus is also a monotypic genus and is the only species living in the Atlantic Forest. Its primitiveness is represented by having identical veins in the front and rear wings, homoneura, and no longer present in other similar moths. Another distinguishing feature are its legs that resemble those of a tarantula, that has also earned it the name of Tarantula Moth!
You can read more about this amazing moth here.