Spodoptera picta (Guerin-Meneville, [1831])
(formerly known as Polia picta)
AMPHIPYRINAE ,   NOCTUIDAE ,   NOCTUOIDEA
  
Don Herbison-Evans,
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Spodoptera picta
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

These Caterpillars are smooth-skinned and pale grey with a series of longitudinal black lines, and with dark patches on the mesothorax and the last abdominal segment. The central dorsal line becomes yellow in later instars .

Spodoptera picta
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, College Street, Sydney, New South Wals)

They are a pest in suburban gardens in Sydney, damaging a variety of species from the Amaryllis family (AMARYLLIDACEAE), including :

  • Kaffir Lily ( Clivea miniata ),
  • Swamp Lily ( Crinum pedunculatum ),
  • Spider Lily ( Hymenocallis littoralis ), and
  • Amaryllis ( Hippeastrum species ).

    Spodoptera picta
    (Photo: courtesy of David Rentz, Kuranda, Queensland)

    The caterpillars eat the leaves often in a group, and then bore rapidly down into the crown of the bulb, creating a mushy soup of caterpillar poo, killing the plant.

    Spodoptera picta
    (Photo: courtesy of David Rentz, Kuranda, Queensland)

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 5 cms. They pupate with no cocoon in the soil near the food plant.

    Spodoptera picta
    (Specimen: courtesy of Daniel Brown, Meadowbank, New South Wales)

    The pupa is brown and has a length of about 2 cms.

    Spodoptera picta
    (Photo: by Debs Raymont, Woolloomooloo, New South Wales,
    courtesy of Boris Branwhite)

    The adult moth is very pretty. The forewings are buff with a pattern of red and black markings. The hindwings are plain buff coloured. The body is brown. The moth has a wingspan of about 4 cms.

    Spodoptera picta
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The eggs are laid in a mass on the underside of a foodplant leaf and covered in pale brown hairs. The mass has a width of about 7 mm.

    Spodoptera picta
    (Specimen: courtesy of Daniel Brown, Meadowbank, New South Wales)

    The species occurs across south-east Asia and the western Pacific, including:

  • Borneo,
  • Hong Kong,
  • Malaysia,
  • Sulawesi,
  • Taiwan,

    and in Australia in:

  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.

    Spodoptera picta
    (Photo: courtesy of Roy Ward)

    We do not have any special ideas for controlling this pest except

  • hunt regularly for egg masses under the leaves, picking such leaves off and destroying them,
  • picking out the caterpillars and taking them for a long walk,
  • spraying plants with a systemic insecticide before the plants are too damaged,
  • digging up and totally destroying badly infected plants, and
  • forking the soil over in the vicinity of the plants, seeking and destroying any pupae found.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pls. 32.6, 32.7, pp. 32, 461.

    Félix Édouard Guérin-Méneville,
    Zoologie,
    Voyage autour du monde sur la covette La Coquille,
    Volume 2, Part 2 (1838), p. 285, and also Plate 19, fig. 7.

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

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, pp. 3, 191.


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    (updated 20 July 2013, 24 April 2017)