Achaea janata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Castor or Croton Caterpillar
(one synonym : Ophiusa ekeikei Bethune-Baker, 1906)
CATOCALINAE ,   NOCTUIDAE ,   NOCTUOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Achaea janata
(Photo: courtesy of Carol Lockyer, Brisbane)

These caterpillars hatch from blue spherical eggs, each about half a millimetre across, laid singly on the food plant.

Achaea janata

The Caterpillars are initially brown with a black and white head, a red knob on the tail, and a black mark on the back of the second abdominal segment. The spiracles on each side of the abdominal segments are black. In the last instars, the brown turns to bluish-grey, and the point on tail turns black. The underside and legs become orange.

Achaea janata
(Photo: courtesy of Don Gardner, Murphy's Creek, Queensland)

The first pair of prolegs of the caterpillars is degenerate, and so the caterpillars move in a looper fashion.

The caterpillars are a pest on:

  • Noni ( Morinda citrifolia, RUBIACEAE ), and
  • Rambutan ( Nephelium lappaceum, SAPINDACEAE )

    and a pest at times on

  • Castor Oil Plants ( Ricinus communis, EUPHORBICEAE ),
  • Tamarind ( Tamarindus indica, CAESALPINIACEAE ), and
  • Hoop Pine seedlings ( Araucaria cunninghamii, ARAUCARIACEAE ).

    Specimens have also been found feeding on many other plants, including :

  • Croton ( Codiaeum variegatum, EUPHORBICEAE ),
  • Grey Mangrove ( Avicennia marina, ACANTHACEAE ),
  • Orchid Trees ( Bauhinia species, CAESALPINIACEAE ),
  • Green Rose ( Aeonium canariense, CRASSULACEAE ),
  • Soybeans ( Glycine max, FABACEAE ),
  • Cotton ( Gossypium hirsutum, MALVACEAE ),
  • Wattles ( Acacia species, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus species, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Three Corner Jack ( Emex species, POLYGONACEAE ),
  • Macadamia Nuts ( Macadamia integrifolia, PROTEACEAE ),
  • Roses ( Rosa odorata, ROSACEAE ),
  • Lychee ( Litchi chinensis, SAPINDACEAE ),
  • Puncture Vine ( Tribulus species, ZYGOPHYLLACEAE ),

    Achaea janata
    cocoon under a leaf
    (Photo: courtesy of John Moore, Karratha, Western Australia)

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 5 cms. They pupate in a white cocoon between leaves and stems of the foodplant.

    Achaea janata
    pupa
    (Photo: courtesy of Don Gardner, Murphy's Creek, Queensland)

    The adult moth has forewings that have a pattern of light and dark brown.

    Achaea janata
    (Photo: courtesy of Don Gardner, Murphy's Creek, Queensland)

    The hind wings are black with three white spots along the margin, and an inner unbroken white band. The moth has a wingspan of about 6 cms. The pheromones of the species have been studied. A number of control measures have been proposed.

    Achaea janata
    (Photo: courtesy of John Moore, Karratha, Western Australia)

    The adult moth is known to feed on fruit juice, and is suspected of piercing fruit to obtain it.

    Achaea janata
    (Specimen: courtesy of Dawn Bishop, Bundaberg, and
    the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The species occurs in :

  • Borneo,
  • Cook Islands,
  • Hawaii,
  • Japan,
  • New Guinea,
  • New Zealand,
  • Seychelles,
  • Taiwan,

    as well as most of Australia including:

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

    Achaea janata
    Cocos Islands
    1982


    Further reading :

    David Carter,
    Butterflies and Moths,
    Collins Eyewitness Handbooks, Sydney 1992, fig. 46.10, p. 259.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 46.10, p. 453.

    Wesley Jenkinson,
    Moths photographed at Obum Obum,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 73 (June 2014), p. 31,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 527, No. 184.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 195.


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    (updated 30 May 2013, 30 December 2013)