Children and employees members at the Mount Cotton State School, an elementary faculty close to a rainforest in Queensland, Australia, have noticed wallabies, koalas and snakes over the years.

But not too long ago, builders who had been including new lecture rooms to the faculty made a discovery that stood out even amongst the famously numerous fauna of Australia, a continent the place spiny mammals lay eggs, flightless birds kick with daggerlike claws and platypuses glow in the dark. The builders discovered a giant wood moth, which can have a wingspan of up to nine inches.

The moth — fuzzy-looking and mottled grey, with a passing resemblance to a well-loved stuffed animal — was discovered on the aspect of the new constructing.

“It was an amazing find,” mentioned Meagan Steward, the faculty principal, in an interview with ABC Radio Brisbane that was broadcast on Sunday. “This moth was something that we had not seen before.”

The kids had been delighted, she mentioned, and wrote fictional tales primarily based on the moth, together with one about a big insect that eats considered one of the academics.

The grey wooden moth, or the Endoxyla cinereus, is discovered in Australia and spends most of its life as a larva inside eucalyptus timber, feeding off the tissue. As larvae, they reside for 3 years, in response to the Queensland Museum.

But as adults, they reside for less than about a week — dying quickly after they lay eggs and mate. They are due to this fact hardly ever seen, mentioned Christine Lambkin, a curator of entomology at the Queensland Museum, who collected the moths as a little one and estimated there could also be about a dozen sightings of the moth in one 12 months.

“I had to dissect it and remove the abdominal contents, stuff it with cotton wool, and sew it up so that I could put it in my collection and it didn’t rot,” she recalled. (Ms. Steward, the principal, mentioned the moth discovered at the faculty was returned to the forest.)

Adult moths don’t eat. They don’t have any useful feeding organs and as a substitute draw their vitality from the fats reserves they accrued throughout the larva stage, in response to a museum reality sheet about the moth.

They can typically be seen in opposition to streetlights, in response to the reality sheet: “Great excitement usually occurs when one of these massive creatures comes into house lights.”

They sometimes relaxation on the grey trunks of gum timber, the place they fold their slim wings alongside their physique, camouflaging them from predators.

Females of the species are particularly giant — males are solely half the dimension of females.

A feminine can weigh as much as 30 grams, about an oz, which is greater than some small mice or shrews, mentioned Floyd W. Shockley, an entomologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.

While the big wooden moth has a powerful wingspan, it doesn’t have the widest one, he mentioned.

The white witch moth, which is discovered in Mexico and South America, does, with a wingspan of as much as 12 inches.

The big wooden moth’s giant thorax — about the width of a finger — is what helps make it the heaviest moth, Dr. Shockley mentioned. A feminine can carry as much as 20,000 eggs in her stomach.

Dr. Shockley mentioned he was fascinated by the animal as a result of it spends a majority of its life as an “immature” fairly than as an grownup, in distinction to people and different animals; he mentioned he was additionally impressed by the standing of larval wooden moths as a source of food for some Indigenous Australians.

“You can eat them raw or you can cook them,” Dr. Shockley mentioned. “The flavor has basically been said to be something like almonds.”

The discovery of the moth at the faculty might assist entomologists collect extra knowledge about the species’ distribution, which stays one thing of a thriller, he mentioned.

“I think any entomologist would be really excited by finding these things,” Dr. Shockley mentioned. “I’m a beetle person, and this would still be superexciting to me.”

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