Teia anartoides Walker, 1855
(one synonym: Orgyia phineus)
Painted Apple Moth

Don Herbison-Evans ( donherbisonevans@yahoo.com )
Stella Crossley ( Stella.Crossley@sci.monash.edu.au )

(updated 3 October 2002)

yellow form
(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.

black form
(Photo: courtesy Merlin Crossley)

The Caterpillars feed on a variety of plants in suburban gardens including:

  • Apple ( Malus pumila ),
  • Pear ( Pyrus communis ),
  • Cherry ( Prunus avium ),
  • Apricot ( Prunus armeniaca ),
  • Cotoneaster ( Cotoneaster ),
  • Roses ( Rosa odorata ),

    all of ROSACEAE, as well as :

  • Geranium ( Pelargonium x zonale, GERANIACEAE ),
  • Albizia ( MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Willow ( Salix, SALICACEAE ),
  • Passionfruit ( Passiflora edulis, PASSIFLORACEAE ),
  • Broad Bean ( Vicia faba, FABACEAE ),
  • Lupin ( Lupinus nanus, FABACEAE ),
  • Gardenia ( Gardenia jasminoides, RUBIACEAE ),
  • Dahlia ( Dahlia pinnata, ASTERACEAE ),
  • Capeweed ( Cryptostemma calendula, ASTERACEAE ),
  • Lantana ( Lantana camara, VERBENACEAE ),
  • Banana fruit ( Musa, MUSACEAE ),
  • Primrose ( Primula, PRIMULACEAE ),
  • Gladiola ( Gladiolus byzantinus, IRIDACEAE ), and
  • Cypress ( Cupressus, CUPRESSACEAE ).

    In plantation forests, they are a pest on

  • Monterey Pine ( Pinus radiata, PINACEAE ).

    In the wild they feed on:

  • Coral Pea ( Hardenbergia, FABACEAE ),
  • Spider Flowers ( Grevillea, PROTEACEAE ),
  • Bottlebrush ( Callistemon, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Paperbark ( Melaleuca, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Wattles ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ), and even

    The males grow to a length of about 2 cms. The females grow to about 3 cms.

    (Photo: courtesy of Lorraine Jenkins, Port Lincoln Junior Primary School)

    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.

    flightless female
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    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.

    cocoon with eggs
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    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.

    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    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.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths