Pholodes sinistraria (Guenée, 1857)
Sinister or Frilled Bark Moth
(previously known as Lophodes sinistraria)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Pholodes sinistraria larva
black and white form
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

The early and late instars of this Caterpillar are coloured quite differently. When small, they are black with arcs of white spots between the segments.

Pholodes sinistraria larva
red form of caterpillar
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

Later instars are red then pale brown with black dots and black-edged white spots.

Pholodes sinistraria larva
brown form of caterpillar
(Photo: courtesy of Steve Solomons, Gosford, New South Wales)

The caterpillar is a true looper, with only two pairs of prolegs. When disturbed, the caterpillar sways slowly from side to side.

Pholodes sinistraria larva
head close-up
(Photo: courtesy of Harold McQueen, Goodna, Queensland)

The caterpillar is sometimes a pest on :

  • Macadamia Nuts ( Macadamia integrifolia, PROTEACEAE ),

    but has been found feeding on a wide variety of plants from other familes, including:

  • Senna ( Cassia, CAESALPINIACEAE ),
  • Castor Oil (Ricinus communis, EUPHORBIACEAE ),
  • Avocado ( Persea americana, LAURACEAE ),
  • Wattles ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Lemon-scented Tea Tree ( Leptospermum petersonii, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Roses ( Rosa odorata, ROSACEAE ),
  • Mandarin ( Citrus unshiu, RUTACEAE ), and
  • Camellia ( Camellia japonica, THEACEAE ).

    Pholodes sinistraria pupa

    The caterpillar pupates without a cocoon under the soil, taking up to a year for metamorphosis. The pupa is dark brown and has a length of about 1.5 cms.

    Pholodes sinistraria male
    (Photo : courtesy of Evan Harris, Ipswich, Queensland)

    The adult moths have a wide wingspan (male 5 cms., female 6 cms.) for their body length : 1.5 cms. The wings have scalloped edges, and wavy patterns of light and dark brown. The overall colour is quite variable, sometimes being nearly black all over. The moths normally rest with wings flat, and all four wings exposed.

    Pholodes sinistraria female
    female adult
    (Photo: courtesy of Jeff Keyes, Sportsman Creek Wildlife Refuge, New South Wales)

    The female moths especially have a conspicuous pale bar across the part of the costa of both forewings, extending also across the thorax. The females also have thread-like antennae

    Pholodes sinistraria
    underside of female
    (Photo : courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

    The male moths often only have some white spots on the leading edge of each forewing. The males have feathery antennae.

    Pholodes sinistraria eggs

    The eggs are pale green and ellipsoidal. They are laid in flat groups of up to 50 on the leaves of foodplants.

    Pholodes sinistraria
    head of female
    (Photo : courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

    The moth occurs along most of the eastern side of Australia including:

  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania.

    Pholodes sinistraria male
    male, showing underside
    (Photo : courtesy of Donald Hobern, Aranda, Australian Capital Territory)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, figs. 36.3, 36.4, pp. 67, 367.

    Achille Guenée,
    Uranides et Phalénites,
    in Boisduval & Guenée: Histoire naturelle des insectes; spécies général des lépidoptères,
    Volume 9, Part 9 (1857), p. 212, No. 318, and Plate 10, fig. 5.

    Peter Hendry,
    Have you seen this moth?,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 55 (December 2009), pp. 27-28,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Marilyn Hewish,
    Moths of Victoria: Part 7,
    Bark Moths and Allies - GEOMETROIDEA (D)
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2016, pp. 18-21.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours, New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 50.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 21 January 2013, 18 November 2022)