Utetheisa pulchelloides Hampson, 1907
Heliotrope Moth
(one synonym : Utetheisa dorsifusa Prout, 1920)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley
Pat & Mike Coupar

Utetheisa pulchelloides larva
(Photo from: "Flying Colours", Coupar & Coupar, 1992)

The Caterpillars have sparse grey hairs, and are black with orange spots, and have a broken cream broad line along the back, and a narrow broken cream line along each side,.

Utetheisa pulchelloides
(Photo: courtesy of Steve Williams, Moths of Victoria - Part 2, 2nd edition)

The caterpillars feed on various plants from BORAGINACEAE such as:

  • Salvation Jane ( Echium plantagineum ),
  • Octopus Bush ( Heliotropium foertherianum ),
  • Forget-me-not ( Myosotis arvensis ).

    They grow to about 3 cms. The animal then pupates in a loose cocoon spun in the leaf litter on the ground below the foodplant.

    Utetheisa pulchelloides
    (Photo: courtesy of Harold McQueen, Goodna, Queensland)

    The moth looks quite white when it is flying, but at rest, the pretty pattern of red and black spots on the white forewings can be seen. Each hindwing is white with two black spots and an irregular black margin. The moth has a wingspan up to about 3 cms.

    Utetheisa pulchelloides
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The adult moth is superficially similar to Utetheisa lotrix, but there are subtle anatomical differences, and the pattern of red and black spots is different. In particular, there are four or five red spots with grey outlines along the hind margin of each forewing, although the final red tornal spot can degenerate into just the grey outline. Also the males have a fold along the hind margin of each hindwing covered in hairs which appears to hold a pheromone.

    Utetheisa pulchelloides
    (Photo: courtesy of S. McCaffrey and P. Carwardine, Moths of Victoria - Part 2, 2nd edition)

    The eggs are laid singly on a foodplant leaf, often on the midrib.

    Utetheisa pulchelloides
    (Photo: courtesy of S. McCaffrey and P. Carwardine, Moths of Victoria - Part 2, 2nd edition)

    The eggs are white squashed spheres with a microscopic hexagonal grid on the surfsace.

    Utetheisa pulchelloides stamp
    Kiribati 1980

    The species occurs widely in the Indo-Australian region, including :

  • Borneo,
  • Cook Islands,
  • New Zealand,
  • Thailand,

    and much of Australia, including

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Norfolk Island,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    Utetheisa pulchelloides
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    Note that this is a different species from Utetheisa pulchella (Linnaeus, 1758), which occurs mainly in the northern hemisphere.

    The correct genus name is Utetheisa; author Hübner, 1819. Sometimes it is listed as Utethesia, but this is a misspelling made by Moore in 1860.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 19.15, pp. 46, 434.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours,
    New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 35.

    George F. Hampson,
    Annals and Magazine of Natural History,
    Series 7, Volume 19 (1907), pp. 239-240, No. 2086.

    Peter B. McQuillan, Jan A. Forrest, David Keane, & Roger Grund,
    Caterpillars, moths, and their plants of Southern Australia,
    Butterfly Conservation South Australia Inc., Adelaide (2019), p. 153.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 2, 2nd edition,
    Tiger Moths and Allies - NOCTUOIDEA (A)
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2015, pp. 20-21, 28-29.

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

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 17 September 2011, 7 August 2014, 19 January 2016, 14 June 2018, 3 September 2020)