Paraepermenia santaliella Gaedike, 1968
Quandong Moth
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

(Specimen: courtesy of Elizabeth Gordon-Mills, Normanville, South Australia)

This Caterpillar is a pest, feeding on various plants and crops in SANTALACEAE such as

  • Sweet Quandong ( Santalum acuminatum ), and
  • Australian Sandalwood ( Santalum spicatum ).

    The caterpillar is initially pale yellow with a dark brown head. The last instar however is red with a pale brown head. Over a period of about three weeks, it grows to a length of about 6 mms. It feeds on the flowers, and the flesh and seed of the developing fruit.

    cocoon and pupa
    (Specimen: courtesy of Elizabeth Gordon-Mills, Normanville, South Australia)

    The damage the caterpillars do to the fruit makes it drop off before it is ripe. The caterpillars then exit the fruit after it has dropped to the ground in this way. They crawl maybe one metre or more to find a nice little crevice somewhere, usually on a dead twig or leaf, or they can crawl up the trunk of the tree a short way and pupate in a crevice of the rough bark. The pupa is formed in a sparse cocoon. Initially the pupa is brown with green wings, later turning completely brown. Its length is about 3 mm. The pupal stage lasts about 9 days.

    cocoon and pupa
    (Specimen: courtesy of Elizabeth Gordon-Mills, Normanville, South Australia)

    The adult moth has grey speckled wings, each with a fringe of hairs along the hind margin that is as large in area as the wing itself.

    adult natural posture
    (Specimen: courtesy of Elizabeth Gordon-Mills, Normanville, South Australia)

    In its resting posture, the moth has the wings wrapped along the body. The moth has a wingspan of about 8 mms. The moths live about a week, unless they can feed on nectar, which extends their lives up to about three weeks.

    The eggs are laid in masses, and are pale yellow and oval, with a length of about 0.3 mm. The female moth has been observed to lay up to 85 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are laid in and on flowers and buds of a foodplant, and hatch in about 6 days. The young caterpillars start boring into the fruit, and disappear inside in about 1/4 hour after hatching.

    There are normally three distinct generations each year, with caterpillars present during :

    (1) December, January and February (summer),
    (2) June and July (winter), and
    (3) September and October (spring).

    The species occurs in

  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • South Australia, and
  • the south of Western Australia.

    Methods of controlling the pest have been studied by Kaye Ferguson, Department of Applied and Molecular Ecology, at the University of Adelaide. Some possible control agents are:

  • collecting and destroying fallen fruit,
  • application of Tebufenozide after hatching and before the Caterpillars enter the fruit,
  • application of Dimethoate (a broad-spectrum organophosphate insecticide), and
  • using diatomaceous earth which will kill the caterpillars when they walk across it, as the spines of the fossil diatoms penetrate their skin,
  • the natural egg parasitoid wasp (a Trichogramma species, TRICHOGRAMMATIDAE ),
  • the natural larval parasitoid wasp (a Chelonus species, BRACONIDAE ).

    cocoon of a parasitic Chelonus wasp
    (Specimen: courtesy of Elizabeth Gordon-Mills, Normanville, South Australia)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 30.3, p. 321.

    Kaye Louisa Ferguson,
    The Quandong Moth, Paraepermenia santaliella. (Lepidoptera: Epermeniidae),
    Ph. D. Thesis, Department of Applied and Molecular Ecology, Univeristy of Adelaide, 2001.

    Reinhard Gaedike,
    Revision der Epermeniidae Australiens und Ozeaniens,
    Pacific Insects,
    Volume 10 (1968), pp. 613-614.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 31 June 2007, 9 April 2017)