Spodoptera mauritia (Boisduval, 1833)
Lawn Armyworm
(one synonym: Spodoptera acronyctoides Guenée, 1852)
ACRONICTINAE1,   NOCTUIDAE,   NOCTUOIDEA
  
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@yahoo.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Spodoptera mauritia
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Bundaberg, Queensland)

These eggs were laid on the painted wall of a house, as a hairy irregular mass about 0.5 cms. across. The baby Caterpillars were white with big black heads, about 0.1 cm long. They descended from the wall on silken threads.

Spodoptera mauritia
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Concord, New South Wales)

The young caterpillars are smooth-skinned and green with longitudinal lines.

Spodoptera mauritia

Later, the caterpillars become brown with two rows of black triangles down the back. When disturbed, they drop, and curl into a spiral with the head in the middle.

Spodoptera mauritia
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Bundaberg, Queensland)

They are an international agricultural pest on crops and pastures, feeding on plants from the family POACEAE such as:

  • Bermuda Grass ( Cynodon species ),
  • Kikuyu ( Pennisetum clandestinum ),
  • Sorghum ( Sorghum bicolor ), and
  • Rice ( Oryza sativa ),

    as well as:

  • Horsetail She Oak ( Casuarina equisetifolia, CASUARINACAE ).

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 3 cms. They burrow into the soil below the plant where they pupate without a cocoon.

    Spodoptera mauritia
    (Photo: courtesy of Buck Richardson, Kuranda, Queensland)

    The adult moth is brown with a complex pattern of light marks on the forewings. The hindwings are plain pearly white. It has a wingspan of about 4 cms. The pheromones of this species have been identified.

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

    The moth is preyed on by a Bolas Spider ( Celaenia species, ARANEIDAE ). This spider swings a silk thread with a sticky knob on the end, and emits a copy of the female moth's pheromone to attract the male moths.

    Spodoptera mauritia
    (Photo: courtesy of Boris Branwhite, Wyong Shire, New South Wales)

    Attempts to control the pest include the use of:

  • some sacking laid near the plants attacked, so that the caterpillars will hide under that by daytime, and they may be then collected and disposed of, or
  • a garden roller at midnight (when they come out to feed),
  • Hormones,
  • its Alphabaculovirus ( BACULOVIRIDAE ),
  • the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae ( STEINERNEMATIDAE ).

    The species occurs across Asia and the Pacific, including:

  • Borneo,
  • Hawaii,
  • India,
  • United Arab Emirates,

    as well as much of Australia, including :

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Norfolk Island, and
  • New South Wales, and
  • Lord Howe Island.

    In Sydney, counts were made of the number of adults coming to a nightly ultra-violet light, and the numbers totalled for each month of the year :

    JanFebMarAprMayJun JulAugSepOctNovDec
    9
    17
    23
    8
    16
    0
    4
    3
    42
    2
    0
    0


    Further reading :

    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Dechauffour de Boisduval,
    Nouvelles Annales du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle,
    Paris, Volume 2, Part 2 (1833), p. 240, No. 3.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 49.1, pp. 61, 65, 462.

    Peter Marriott & Marilyn Hewish,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 9,
    Cutworms and Allies - NOCTUOIDEA (C)
    ,
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2020, pp. 12-13.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 121.


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    (updated 27 April 2013, 14 December 2020, 19 May 2021)