Bathytricha truncata (Walker, 1856)
Sugarcane Stem Borer
(one synonym : Nonagria exitiosa Olliff, 1893)
ACRONICTINAE ,   NOCTUIDAE ,   NOCTUOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley


(Photo: courtesy of Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, Bundaberg, Queensland)

These Caterpillars are pale pink or purple, with black spots. They bore into the stems of their foodplants, leaving a smelly messy feacal matter in the hole as they go. They will often move from stem to stem as they destroy a shoot on which they have been feeding.

The caterpillars are an agricultural pest, attacking a variety of plants from the family POACEAE, including:

  • Rice ( Oryza sativa ),
  • Sugar Cane ( Saccharum officinarum ),
  • Wheat ( Triticum aestivum ),
  • Maize ( Zea mays ),

    as well as various grasses, such as:

  • Rhodes Grass ( Chloris gayana ),
  • Crowsfoot Grass ( Dactyloctenium species ),
  • Red Natal Grass ( Melinis repens ),
  • Guinea Grass ( Panicum maximum ), and
  • Dallisgrass ( Paspalum dilatatum ).

    The caterpillars have even been reported to attack:

  • Gladiolus ( Gladiolus grandiflorus, IRIDACEAE ), and
  • Ginger ( Zingiber officinale, ZINGIBERACEAE ).

    They grow to a length of about 4 cms.

    They pupate in the tunnel they have bored. The pupae have a length of about 2 cms. The pupal stage last for about 12 days in summer.


    oops: no abdomen
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The adult moth is beige, with some dark dots, and a narrow dark line from base to mid-margin on each forewing.

    The female moths lay about 600 eggs, in clusters under the edges of leaves of foodplants. The eggs hatch in about eight days.

    The species is found over most of Australia, including

  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania, and
  • South Australia.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press 1990, p. 462.

    J.R. Agnew (ed.),
    Australian Sugarcane Pests,
    Bureau of the Sugar Experiment Stations,
    Indooroopilly: 1997, pp. 42-43.

    Francis Walker,
    Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 9 (1856), p. 111, No. 79.


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    (updated 1 July 2010)