Imperial Fruit Sucking Moth
(one synonym : Phyllodes meyricci Hampson, 1913)
CALPINAE, EREBIDAE, NOCTUOIDEA
John Moss & Stella Crossley
(Photo: courtesy of Neil Hewett, Cooper Creek Wilderness, Queensland)
This spectacular Caterpillar is mainly brown or grey, with diagonal shading and thin wiggly white lines. There is a variable black, yellow, and red mark each side of the first abdominal segment.
The final abdominal segments are elongated with a big black mark outlined in white underneath. The legs and prolegs sometimes have red markings.
If molested, the caterpillar bends its head downwards beneath the raised front portion of its body, stretching the skin on its dorsum, revealing what appears to be a pair of large, blue-black 'eyes' and a double row of white teeth-like markings: a most remarkable effect which would be sufficient to startle any potential avian, reptilian or mammalian predator.
The caterpillar has a final instar that is about 12 cms long. The caterpillar feeds on vines from the plant family MENISPERMACEAE, such as :
As well as the spectacular appearance of the larva, the pupa is also similarly endowed, exhibiting what resembles transparent circumferential panels on every abdominal segment. It is difficult to imagine what function this serves, considering that the larva usually encloses itself in a thin silk cocoon, woven loosely into dead leaves on the ground.
The adult moth has forewings that are chocolate brown and leaf-shaped, with an irregular white mark near the middle. In females the white mark is often less visible.
When at rest, the forewings cover the hindwings in a 'steep, peaked roof' shape, and the insect disappears from view. Any potential predator sees what appears only to be a dead leaf: a good example of leaf crypsis.
The hindwings are black with a large pinkish-red central area, white spots along the edges. The expanded forewing size of the northern subspecies adult varies from 13 to 17 cms. The southern subspecies is smaller.
The species occurs as several subspecies across the south-west Pacific, including
and in Australia: the subspecies meyricki Olliff, 1889, is found in
The moths feed on the juice of fruit that has been damaged in some way, although they do not damage fruit themselves as they do not have the saw-like haustellum found in other genera of CATOCALINAE.
Further reading :
Ian F.B. Common,
Moths of Australia,
Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 21.8, p. 454.
Descriptions of new Species of Lepidoptera, chiefly from Central America,
Annals and Magazine of Natural History,
Series 6, Part 2 (1888), p. 241.
Lois Hughes & John Moss,
Fruit-piercing Moths - Night Raiders,
Issue 67 (December 2012), pp. 7-8,
Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.
Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 148.
Don P.A. Sands,
Conservation Status of Lepidoptera, assessment , threatening processes and recovery action,
The Other 99%. The Conservation and Biodiversity of Invertebrates,
Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW,
1999, pp. 388-393.
Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
A Guide to Australian Moths,
CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 15.
(updated 1 April 2011, 18 April 2017, 7 April 2022)