Anthela acuta (Walker, 1855)
Common Anthelid
(one synonym : Darala excisa Walker, 1855)
ANTHELINAE ,   ANTHELIDAE ,   BOMBYCOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Peter Marriott & Stella Crossley

Anthela acuta
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

This Caterpillar is brown and hairy with a brown head capsule and a white adfrontal area. Its head looks as though it has two large brown eyes. Its hairs are in tufts of brown and white, with a longer pair of tufts on the thorax. There is a double row of white spots (verrucae) all along the back, except on the last three segments, they are pink. The pair of white spots on the thorax are larger than those on the abdomen.

Anthela acuta

The species has been little studied, and the one name is probably being used to cover a number of similar species. Their Caterpillars appear to differ in the number and placing of the pink spots. The race illustrated here feeds on:

  • various Grasses ( POACEAE ),

    Another race in which the Caterpillar has all white spots (and no pink ones) has been found feeding on:

  • Musk Daisy Bush ( Olearia argophylla, ASTERACEAE ),
  • various Wattles ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ), and
  • Miniature Date Palm ( Phoenix roebelenii, ARECACEAE ).

    In Tasmania, Caterpillars of what appear to be the same species only accept :

  • English Oak ( Quercus robur, FAGACEAE ), and
  • European Beech ( Fagus sylvatica , FAGACEAE ).

    Anthela acuta
    later instar
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The caterpillar appears to be prone to attacks by a red mite.

    Anthela acuta
    caterpillar attacked by red parasites
    (Photo: courtesy of Janelle Menzies, Glenquarry, New South Wales)

    The caterpillar when mature grows to a length of 5 cms. It pupates in a double-walled cocoon in the debris on the ground. The cocoon has a length of about 3 cms.

    Anthela acuta

    The male moth is basically buff colored. The fore wings each have two brown spots and a thin brown line running parallel to the margin. The hind wings have a sparse row of brown dots running along an arc parallel to the margin. However variants frequently occur that have various degrees of dark blotching, as well as having a background colour varying from orange to fawn and even a greenish colour. All varieties of males have a wing span of about 3 cms.

    Anthela acuta

    Anthela acuta
    Males
    (Specimens: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The females look completely different. They are much bigger, having a wing span of about 5 cms. However they have the same coloration: basically buff with a pattern of darker lines.

    Anthela acuta
    Female
    (Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

    Specimens have been taken all down the eastern part of Australia, for example in Bundaberg, Sydney, and Melbourne. In Melbourne, adults may be found most months of the year.

    Anthela acuta
    Female underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

    The caterpillar starts life as an irregular row of buff coloured eggs each with a length of about 1 mm. They are laid, often in a row, on the leaf of a food plant.

    Anthela acuta

    We have counted the number of adults that we encountered in each month of the year in Sydney and in Melbourne. There seems to be two generations per year in Sydney, but only one in Melbourne:

    area JanFebMarAprMayJun JulAugSepOctNovDec
    Sydney
    -
    -
    7
    19
    11
    1
    -
    4
    10
    10
    -
    1
    Melbourne
    37
    25
    17
    4
    -
    4
    2
    4
    20
    41
    45
    42

    The species has been found in

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


    Further reading :

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours, New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 25.

    Peter Hendry,
    The Anthelidae,
    Metamorphosis Australia Issue 50 (September 2008), pp 27-31,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 1, Silk Moths and Allies - BOMBYCOIDEA,
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2008, pp. 16-19.

    Paul Zborowsky and Ted Edwards
    A Guide To Australian Moths, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2007, p. 156.


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    (updated 26 April 2013, 2 February 2014)