Don Herbison-Evans (
(Specimen: courtesy of Miramar Vinyard, Mudgee, NSW)
This is a striking Caterpillar which is black with pale yellow lines running across and along its body to give it a checkered appearance. It has long white hairs scattered sparsely over its otherwise smooth skin. It has a light brown head capsule, a series of lateral red spots, and a big red rump. This big red knob on the last abdominal segment may cause predators such as birds to mistake the tail for the head, and being larger, may even repel them, or at least divert their attention from the more vital head region. The Caterpillar usually rests on the undersides of the leaves of its foodplant.
The caterpillar feeds on the foliage of:
on which it is an agricultural pest, attacking the foliage and developing bunches of grapes. It is also known to feed on:
The optimum temperature range for larval development is 15-27 C, and the threshold 10 C. At 25 C, the duration of the first to sixth larval instars are about 3, 3, 2, 3, 5 and 7 days, respectively. The Caterpillar grows to a length of about 4 cms.
The mature Caterpillars leave the foodplant and go walkabout. After 1-2 days of wandering, the larvae pupate in silk-lined cells covered in detritus, in the soil or in any cracks or crevices, especially in fence posts and vine stems. The species overwinters as the pupa. The length of the pupal stage varies. In Melbourne, specimens pupating in January emerged in February, but specimens pupating in March did not emerge until the following October. There are two or three generations per year, depending on general weather conditions. The values of the product of days times Celsius degrees required to complete the egg, larval and pupal stages are approximately 85, 411 and 321, respectively.
The adult is a day-flying moth, with a wingspan of up to 5 cm. The wings are black with striking white bands on the forewings, and a white outer margin on the hindwings. The abdomen is black on top and has orange stripes underneath.
The body has tufts of bright red hair on the tip of the abdomen, and at the bases of the legs. These red hairs project and are visible from above. The adults are gregarious, feed on nectar and live for 2-3 weeks. They had a characteristic fluttering flight and can ascend to 25 m or more. Their overall sex ratio is about 1:1. The adult males have anterior brush organs on which are secreted chemicals thought to be pheromones.
The eggs are a translucent pale cream colour. They are laid singly on the undersides of young leaves. The eggs are spherical domes, slightly ribbed, and have a diameter of about 0.3 mm. At 25 deg C, the duration of the egg stage is about 5 days.
The species occurs over much of Australia, including :
Attempts are being made to stop it invading other countries, such as Canada and South Africa. The pheromones have been investigated. The hormones controlling the pupal diapause have also been investigated.
The species might be controlled using :
The Indian Myna ( Acridotheres tristis ) was introduced into Australia in 1862 to deal with a number of insect pests including the Vine Moth. In this it was unsuccessful, and indeed the bird is now itself a considered a pest in many parts of Australia.
Further reading :
Ian F.B. Common,
Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 22.14, pp. 31, 57-60, 65, 464.
Pat and Mike Coupar,
Flying Colours, New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 74.
Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
A Guide to Australian Moths, CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 192.
(updated 8 March 2013, 18 September 2013)