My last post (here) explained that millions of bogong moths pass through Canberra each spring.
The moths fly at night and become confused by the city’s lights that make them think that the sun is rising. As a result, the moths descend in search of a dark cool place to hide from heat of the day and suddenly there are moths everywhere – covering entire walls, invading buildings, blocking air-conditioning ducts and setting off alarms.
Despite sometimes wreaking havoc, a number of sculptures have been erected in Canberra in honour of the bogong moths’ annual visit.
My favourites are the large cast concrete moths created by Matthew Harding in collaboration with Ngunnawal artist Jim Williams in 2001.
Five of these giants are located between the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the National Museum of Australia at Acton Peninsula. This area was once a major corroboree site near the river (now dammed to make Lake Burley Griffin) where Ngunnawal and other local indigenous groups would meet to feast on moths collected in the nearby mountains.
A very different and much larger sculpture by Alexander Knox, called ‘Moth Ascending the Capital’, has recently landed on a median strip in the south of Canberra. It features a bright orange moth in motion – and is in stark contrast with the solemn colours and solidity of the Harding sculptures.
(To be honest, I find this sculpture a bit challenging. I like to imagine that the matching orange pedestrian overpass down the road is a net that is about to trap the moth and put an end to its fluttering.
But one should never let personal preferences get in the way of a great money-making venture. So read on…)
‘Bogong’ means ‘big fella’ and refers to a large mountain in the Snowy Mountains where the moths spend the summer (i.e. not the size of the moths – as some people think). (See here for a post about Mount Bogong.)
Mount Bogong is one of numerous ‘big things’ in Australia. Some other popular examples include: the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, the Big Pineapple in Queensland, the Big Koala in Victoria, the Big Lobster in South Australia, and the Big Merino at Goulburn (near Canberra).
We also have big bugs such as the Big Mosquito, the Big Ant, the Big Redback Spider – but no moths. So I hereby nominate Kambah’s Big Bogong Moth for placement on the (prestigious) official list of Australia’s big things.
(For more about Australia’s big things, try this video set to Paul Kelly’s ‘Dumb things’ or this A – Z slideshow of silly big things. I also recommend this video where a reporter explores the psychology and entrepreneurship behind our big things i.e. why we love ’em and what inspired their creators.)
We could set up a tourist shop at the nearby Kambah Woolshed (featured in this post) and sell snow domes (featured in this post) and other classy memorabilia and let visitors taste genuine Aussie bush tucker like roasted bogong moth (featured in this post) . While we’re at it, why not throw a few yabbies from nearby Lake Tuggeranong and some witchetty grubs on the BBQ as well?
The adjacent community garden could start growing local bush foods and locals could turn them into prized jams, chutneys and flavourings to sell. (See this post about edible native plants)
During the mass migration in spring, we could even sell ‘bogong moth hats’ (a bike helmet with a strong night light) so that visitors can get up close and personal with the moths (like this ‘hummingbird hat‘ that is sold in the USA for the annual hummingbird migration).
I am sure it would bring lots of tourists to the area! Maybe we could even get a government grant to help stimulate the local economy???
- ‘Bogongs migrate south‘ by Abbie Thomas (ABC Science website. Published 14 Nov 2002. Accessed 1 March 2014)
- ‘A plague on both houses: Swarms of bogong moths invade Parliament‘ by Emma Griffiths (Published 4 Nov 2013. Updated 5 Nov 2013. Accessed 1 March 2014)
- ‘New sculpture takes flight over Tuggeranong‘ by Jim Trail (ABC news website. Published 17 April 2012. Accessed 1 March 2014)
- Mount Bogong – John O’Neill (jjron) (Released into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons by its author.)
- All other photos: © Pip Marks (These sculptures look better in the sunlight but that just didn’t seem appropriate given that these moths go to such lengths to avoid the sun during the day.)