Best Nature Sites Award         

Caterpillars (and Butterflies and Moths)
of Australia

Links to images, and descriptions of biology, behaviour, and life histories of
3,475 Australian Lepidoptera species including 764 with Caterpillar pictures

         Sofcom Pick of the Net

    
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
&
Stella Crossley

Australian
Caterpillar
Frequently
Asked
Questions
FAQ page
.
Caterpillar FAQs Caterpillar Identification Australian
Caterpillar
Identification
Page

links to
Australian
Butterfly
Caterpillars

Butterfly Caterpillars
Moth Caterpillars
links to
Australian
Moth
Caterpillars

AUSTRALIAN
BUTTERFLY FAMILIES

PLANT FAMILIES
IN AUSTRALIA
AUSTRALIAN
MOTH FAMILIES

Butterflies
links to
Australian
Butterflies
and
THE CATERPILLARS
that feed on them
links to
Australian
Moths
.
Moths

Note: that all our pictures have the head to the left.

Did you know:

  • Caterpillars have several thousand muscles (humans only have about 500)

  • Caterpillars from the family TORTRICIDAE can move backwards faster than they can move forwards.

  • Caterpillars from most species in the family SPHINGIDAE have a wicked-looking spine on the tail, but it is in fact entirely harmless.

  • Caterpillars from species in the genus Doratifera sting, with pockets of stinging spines that they evert when they feel threatened. These caterpillars are often called Spitfires, but they do not actually spit.

  • When threatened, caterpillars of species in the family PAPILIONIDAE evert a pair of horns from behind the head which produce a pungent aromatic smell, but which are entirely harmless.

  • Caterpillars from species in the genus Triodes feed on poisonous plants, and accumulate the poisons in their body making them poisonous to predators like birds.

  • Whilst most species of caterpillars feed on leaves, some burrow into the soil feeding on roots, some bore into trees eating the wood, and caterpillars of the moth Argyrotoxa pompica feed on Koala droppings.

  • The caterpillars of some species will eat nearly any leaves put in front of them, and some eat only plants of one family, but caterpillars of Leptocnaria reducta will eat only leaves from the Cape Lilac Tree (Melia azedarach).

  • The female moths of the Australian species Teia anartoides have no wings, and the species disperses by the young caterpillars making an open gossamer sail out of silk, and sailing away on it in the wind.

    Link to More Caterpillar Facts.

  • The fauna and the flora of Australia are very different from those in the rest of the world, and this is just as true of the Caterpillars as it is of the better known Marsupials. With the short history of European influence in Australia and only a small human population, only a limited amount of work has been done on naming and identifying the various species. At a recent count, Australia was home to about 400 described and named species of butterflies, about 10,000 described and named species of moths, and with probably as many moth species again yet to be described.

    Of course, the Australian Aborigines knew a great deal about Australian Lepidoptera, and they used several species as sources of food, for example:

    Wijuti Grubs, and
    Bogong Moths.
    The scientific name for a Caterpillar is Larva (plural Larvae). This name is presumably taken from that of the Roman spirits called Larvae, probably because butterflies and moths might be viewed as the spirits of the Caterpillars from which they come.


    see
    scientific name index
    here


    pretty boring,
    but useful if seeking information on a species for which you know the scientific name

    Most insect taxonomy and identification has been performed on the adult insect forms, the imagos. Collecting and preserving caterpillars poses very difficult problems. This makes the identification of caterpillars difficult. So, only a small percentage of the Australian Lepidoptera have known caterpillars. An even smaller number of these have been photographed, and fewer still are on the web. In an attempt to improve this situation, we have created these webpages with all the pictures and links we can find about caterpillars that occur in Australia. The pictures come from ourselves and many colleagues, from a wide variety of sources, and are of very varied quality. We are still adding more pictures, so watch the number at the head of this webpage.

    These webpages would not be so extensive but for the help of many friends and colleagues, whom we feature on our special

    Australian

    Acknowledgements Page
    Overseas

    Acknowledgements Page

    We have a separate webpage for each species, and links to these are available from a webpage for each family as a thumbnail picture and a highlighted name. The families are linked from one webpage for the moths and one for the butterflies. We have included lots of pictures of the adult butterflies and moths also, even if we had no caterpillar pictures for those species. In these cases, our thumbnail pictures show only an adult. For some species we have found no pictures at all, but only some descriptive text. In these cases, we show only a bullet by the name, and the name is highlighted as the link. Some species have been illustrated on Australian postage stamps, and some more widespread species of Australian butterflies and Australian moths have appeared on overseas stamps.

    Many caterpillars are very fussy eaters, and eat only a very restricted range of plants or foodstuffs. We have tried to include links for the known food sources of the various caterpillars. However, we only list those that we have observed, those we have been told about by other observers, and those reported in the literature. In principle, the caterpillars might feed on anything when nobody is looking.

    We have generally followed the nomenclature and taxonomic divisions as used in the recent book :

    Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Australia
    Nielsen E.S., Edwards E.D. & Rangsi T.V. (Eds)
    (529pp + CDROM, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, 1996)

    See our
    Australian Lepidoptera links

    We also have a list of some
    Overseas Caterpillar and Lepidoptera links.

    (updated 8 August 2014)

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