Tiracola plagiata (Walker, 1857)
Cacao Armyworm
(one synonym : Agrotis plagifera Walker, 1857)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Tiracola plagiata
(Photo: courtesy of Ian Common, from Moths of Australia)

This Caterpillar is smooth and mottled black, with yellow patches on the sides of the abdomen near the front and the back. There is a hump on the tail. The last instar is green. The caterpillars are an international pest, attacking fruit, particularly:

  • Banana ( Musa acuminata, MUSACEAE ),

    and they also feed on other agricultural crops and weeds, including :

  • Richmond Birdwing Vine ( Paraistolochia praevenosa, ARISTOLOCHIACEAE ),
  • Striped Cucumber ( Diplocyclos palmatus, CUCURBITACEAE ),
  • Yam ( Dioscorea species, DIOSCOREACEAE ),
  • Cacao ( Theobroma cacao, MALVACEAE ),
  • Red Cedar ( Toona australis, MELIACEAE ),
  • Gum Tree young sucker growth ( Eucalyptus, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Inkweed ( Phytolacca octandra, PHYTOLACCACEAE ),
  • Purslane ( Portulaca oleracea, PORTULACACEAE ),
  • Coffee ( Coffea arabica, RUBIACEAE ), and
  • Tomatillo ( Physalis ixocarpa, SOLANACEAE ).

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 5cms. It pupates in a sparse cocoon in the soil. The pupa is brown with four spines at the tip of the abdomen, and has a length of abbout 3 cms.

    Tiracola plagiata
    (Photo: courtesy of Donald Hobern, Blackheath, New South Wales)

    The adult moths are brown, with a dark patch on the costa of each forewing. The hindwings that are plain brown fading toward the bases. The moths have a wingspan up to 5 cms.

    Tiracola plagiata
    Norfolk Island, 1976

    This species may be found mainly in south-east Asia and the south Pacific, including

  • Borneo,
  • Cook Islands,
  • Fiji,
  • India,
  • Mexico,
  • New Guinea,
  • Rapa Island,
  • Sri Lanka,
  • Taiwan,

    and the northern two-thirds of Australia including

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales, and
  • Norfolk Island.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 49.17, p. 465.

    Ron May,
    A recent noctuid to Toowoomba, Qld- the Banana Fruit Caterpillar Tiracola plagiata (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae),
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 60 (March 2011), p. 12,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Hilton Selvey,
    The first record of the noctuid Tiracola plagiata feeding on Paraistolochia praevenosa,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 55 (December 2009), pp. 22-24,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    M.E. Temperley,
    Life history notes on the banana fruit eating caterpillar (Tiracola plagiata Walk.),
    Queensland Agricultural Journal,
    Volume XXXIII, part 4 (April 1930), pp. 551-561.

    E.L. Todd and R.W. Poole,
    The American species of the Tiracola plagiata Walker complex,
    Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington,
    Volume 82, pp 396-400.

    Francis Walker,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 11 (1857), pp. 740-741, pg. 347.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 14 April 2013)