Spilosoma canescens (Butler, 1875)
Light Ermine or Dark-spotted Tiger Moth
(also known as : Ardices canescens)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Spilosoma canescens larva

This, like most Spilosoma Caterpillars, is dark and hairy. The hairs are uniformly brown over the whole body. It has a yellow line down the back, and a brown head.

It eats various herbaceous plants. We have found it feeding on:

  • Cobblers Pegs ( Bidens pilosa, ASTERACEAE ),
  • Sunflowers ( Helianthus annuus, ASTERACEAE),
  • Dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale, ASTERACEAE ),
  • Hollyhocks ( Alcea rosea, MALVACEAE ),
  • Plantains ( Plantago species, PLANTAGINACEAE ), and
  • Roses ( Rosa odorata, ROSACEAE ).

    Spilosoma canescens pupa
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    It grows to a length of about 3 cm., then leaves the foodplant, and looks for a dry spot in the soil surface debris, where it forms its cocoon and pupates

    Spilosoma canescens
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The moth has white wings with brown flecks. The markings on the wings is interesting, because the pattern and degree of marking differs even between animals reared from the same brood of eggs.

    Spilosoma canescens
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The thorax is white (unlike that of Spilosoma glatygni, which has a black thorax under white hairs). The legs and the upper surface of the abdomen are bright red. Underneath the abdomen is buff and brown.

    Spilosoma canescens
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The eggs are white and laid in a patch on a leaf.

    The species is found over much of Australia, including:

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

    Further reading :

    Arthur G. Butler,
    Revision of the genus Spilosoma and the allied groups of the Family Arctiidae,
    Cistula Entomologica,
    Volume 2 (1875), p. 29.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 44.1, p. 435.

    L.C. Haines,
    Tiger Moths of the County of Cumberland, New South Wales,
    Proceedings of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales,
    April 1969, pp. 59-61, pls. VIII-IX.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 2,
    Tiger Moths and Allies - NOCTUOIDEA (A)
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2009, pp. 28-29.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 16.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 183.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 22 May 2013)