Don Herbison-Evans (
Stella Crossley ( Stella.Crossley@sci.monash.edu.au )
(updated 3 October 2002)
(Photo: courtesy Merlin Crossley)
This Caterpillar is usually brown and hairy, although the colour can vary from yellow to black. Whatever colour it is, characteristically it has four pale tufts of hair on abdominal segments 1-4, and also a tuft on its tail, and also two black tufts on its head pointing diagonally left and right like a pair of horns. Behind the dorsal tufts are two red markings, surrounding dorsal glands on segments 6 and 7. The hairs can cause skin irritation ( urticaria ) in sensitive people.
The Caterpillars feed on a variety of plants in suburban gardens including:
all of ROSACEAE, as well as :
In plantation forests, they are a pest on
In the wild they feed on:
The males grow to a length of about 2 cms. The females grow to about 3 cms.
They pupate amongst the leaves of the foodplant in a sparse cocoon that they decorate with hairs from their larval skin, making thes cocoons likely to cause urticaria too. The adults emerge after a few days.
The female adult is dull brown, fat and flightless. She stays beside her cocoon emitting a pheromone to attract males. She lays eggs on and around her cocoon after fertilisation. She has a length of about 1 cm.
The male has dark brown patterned forewings, and orange hind wings with a black border.
He has a wing span of about 2 cms.
Despite the females being flightless, the species is found over most of Australia, including Tasmania. The newly hatched Caterpillars have a special way of dispersing by spinning threads of silk which are caught in the wind ("ballooning"). The species has recently (1999) appeared in New Zealand. So far this particular species has not spread beyond Australasia, although related and similar species occur in America.
Further reading :
Pat and Mike Coupar, Flying Colours, New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 65.
David Carter, Butterflies and Moths, Collins Eyewitness Handbooks, Sydney 1992, p. 271.