Persectania ewingii (Westwood, 1839)
Southern Armyworm
(one synonym : Persectania evingi Hampson, 1905)
HADENINAE ,   NOCTUIDAE ,   NOCTUOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Persectania ewingii
(Photo: courtesy of Les Gregory, near Wollongong, New South Wales)

This Caterpillar can vary in colour from buff, brown, or greeny brown, to dark grey, and has a dark stripe down the back split by a narrow paler stripe, and a lighter stripe along each side. It is very similar to the caterpillar of Mythimna convecta, although the adults are quite different.

Persectania ewingii
(Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)

The caterpillar is an agricultural pest, causing damage to pastures and crops, such as

  • Barley ( Hordeum species, POACEAE ),
  • Garden Peas ( Pisum sativum, FABACEAE ), and
  • Flax ( Linum usatissimum, LINACEAE ).

    It causes special damage by chewing through the stems, severing the seedheads.

    Persectania ewingii
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Harris, Morwell Park, Victoria)

    In February 2017 near Wollongong, New South Wales, the caterpillars were very abundant in the local pastures. and were present in such numbers that they invaded houses and covered the local bitumen road making quite a mess as vehicles ran over them.

    In August 1980 near Narrandera also in New South Wales, the caterpillars were very abundant in the local pastures. Four weeks later the adults were present in such numbers that they invaded houses, causing some inhabitants to evacuate, and leaving the walls coated with wing scales. They even invaded Melbourne at the same time along with Bogong Moths. The two species entered homes and cars and were a nuisance generally.

    Persectania ewingii
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Harris, Morwell Park, Victoria)

    The adult moth has fawn forewings streaked with white, giving them a silky appearance The hindwings are buff, darkening to the margin, with dark veins. The moths have a wingspan of about 4 cms.

    Persectania ewingii
    female, underside
    (Photo: copyright of Brett and Marie Smith, at Ellura Sanctuary, South Australia)

    The underside shows a large black spot under the wingtip of each hindwing. The females, but not the males, have a row of black dashes each side under the abdomen.

    Persectania ewingii
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The species occurs mostly in the south and east of Australia, but has been found in:

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria,
  • South Australia,
  • Western Australia,
    and often migrates across the Bass Strait to
  • Tasmania, and even
  • Macquarie Island.

    Persectania ewingii
    drawing by John O. Westwood, listed as Noctua ewingii
    ,
    Observations upon the natural history of two species of Lepidopterous insects of Van Dieman's Land,
    Transactions of the Entomological Society of London,
    Volume 2 (1839), Plate XX, fig. 1,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, figs. 50.1, pp. 43-44, 65, 466.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours, New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 73.

    K.F. Helm,
    Migration of the armyworm Persectania ewingii moths in spring and the origin of outbreaks
    Australian Journal of Entomology, Volume 14, Issue 3 (September 1975), pp. 229236.

    John O. Westwood,
    footnote to T.J. Ewing:
    Observations upon the natural history of two species of Lepidopterous insects of Van Dieman's Land,
    Journal of Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London,
    Volume 2 (1839), pp. liv-lvi, and also
    Transactions of the Entomological Society of London,
    Volume 2 (1839), Plate 20, fig. 1.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths, CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 198.


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    (updated 14 April 2013, 17 March 2017)