Amata annulata (Fabricius, 1775)
(previously known as Zygaena annulata)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Amata annulata larva
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

This Caterpillar hatches from a furry mass of eggs laid on a leaf of a foodplant. The caterpillar is black and is covered with stiff black hairs. It feeds on a wide variety of vegetative products, including :

  • foliage of herbaceous plants, such as
         Japanese Knotweed ( Persicaria capitata, POLYGONACEAE ),
  • petals of flowers, such as
         Roses ( Rosa odorata, ROSACEAE ), and
  • fruit of plants such as
         Black Nightshade ( Solanum nigrum, SOLANACEAE ),

    and grows to a length of about 3 cms. When fully grown, the caterpillar seeks a sheltered spot, where it forms the brown pupa in a sparse white cocoon.

    Amata annulata
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The moth is rather wasp-like. Its wings are basically black, with yellow translucent spots on each wing. The moth has transverse black and yellow bands on its body. It has a wingspan of about 4 cms. The hind wings are only about half the span of the forewings.

    Amata annulata
    (Photo: courtesy of Rose Zhang, Sydney, New South Wales)

    The moths are rather laid back fliers, wafting more than flying around backyards. They are unusual for a moth species in that they fly in daylight hours, usually morning and evening.

    Specimens have been taken in

  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • South AUstralia, and
  • Western Australia.

    Amata annulata
    mating pair
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    When flying, the adult moths regularly emit ultrasonic clicks. The evidence suggests that this behaviour warns bats that the moth is distasteful and/or poisonous to eat, just as the bright black and orange wing pattern warns possible daytime predators of the same thing.

    Amata annulata
    Amata annulata

    drawings by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Dechauffour de Boisduval,
    Plate VII, fig. 8 and Plate VIII, fig. 2 respectively,
    Essai sur une Monographie des Zygénides, suivi du Tableau Méthodique, des Lépidoptères d'Europe, 1829,
    images courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library,
    digitized by University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Library.

    Generally in the genus Amata: the female has a fatter body than the male, but a smaller wingspan.

    Further reading:

    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Dechauffour de Boisduval,
    Essai sur une Monographie des Zygénides, suivi du Tableau Méthodique, des Lépidoptères d'Europe, 1829,
    Plate 7, fig. 8 and Plate 8, fig. 2

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Historiae Natvralis Favtoribvs,
    Systema Entomologiae,
    1775, p. 551, No. 4.

    Michael Pennay,
    When the flashing lights don't work, use a siren?
    The Australasian Bat Society Newsletter,
    Number 20, April 2003, pp. 49-51.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 7 November 2011, 15 November 2017, 7 March 2020, 7 July 2021)