Aenetus ligniveren (Lewin, 1805)
(one synonym: Phloiopsyche venusta Scott, 1864)
Splendid Ghost Moth
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Aenetus ligniveren
drawing by Harriet Scott, listed as Phloiopsyche venusta
Australian Lepidoptera, Volume 1 (1864), Plate 2,
image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Australian Museum.

The eggs of this species are laid on the bark of a foodplant. The young Caterpillars when they hatch, bore horizontally into the the stem and then downwards to make a vertical tunnel in which they live. They cover the opening with a mess of silk and wood fragments. These Caterpillars are off-white, with a dark brown hairy head, and a brown thorax. The back of each abdominal segment has two pale brown dashes They emerge at night to feed on bark, and have been recorded attacking plants in various genera in MYRTACEAE including

  • Acmena,
  • Bottlebrush ( Callistemon ),
  • Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus ),
  • Tea Trees ( Leptospermum ),
  • Lophostemon, and
  • Paperbarks ( Melaleuca ),

    as well as :

  • Olearia ( ASTERACEAE ),
  • Prostanthera ( LAMIACEAE ),
  • Wattle ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Pomaderris ( RHAMNACEAE ),
  • Apple ( Malus pumila, ROSACEAE ),
  • Dodonaea ( SAPINDACEAE ), and
  • Elm ( Ulmus, ULMACEAE ).

    Aenetus ligniveren
    (Photo: courtesy of Pam Jackson, Hesket, Victoria)

    The caterpillars pupate in their tunnel near the opening, with the head uppermost. The adult moths emerge in early summer.

    Aenetus ligniveren
    (Picture: by E.H. Zeck,
    from "Forest Insects of Australia" by W.W. Froggatt,
    Forestry Commission of New South Wales, 1923)

    The male adult moth has green forewings, with a series of white diagonal stripes across each one. The hindwings are a shiny pale grey colour. The abdomen is mauve where the wings cover it, but the end segments are green. He has a wingspan of about 5 cms.

    Aenetus ligniveren   Aenetus ligniveren
    (Photo: courtesy of Sean Cleal, Sydney)

    The female adult moths differ from the males. The females are larger and have brown wings, with variable green patches on the forewings. They have a wingspan of about 7 cms.

    Aenetus ligniveren
    (Picture: by E.H. Zeck,
    from "Forest Insects of Australia" by W.W. Froggatt,
    Forestry Commission of New South Wales, 1923)

    The species occurs in:

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

    Aenetus ligniveren
    Male, showing underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Laura Levens, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pls. 2.10, 2.11, pp. 67, 147.

    Axel Kallies,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 6,
    Ghost Moths - HEPIALIDAE and Allies
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2015, pp. 12-13, 14-15.

    John William Lewin,
    Prodromus Entomology,
    Natural History of Lepidopterous Insects of New South Wales,
    London : T. Bensley (1805), p. 17, and Plate 16.

    Harriet, Helena, and Alexander W. Scott,
    Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations,
    Australian Lepidoptera,
    Volume 1 (1864), pp. 5-6, Plate 2.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 8 December 2012, 17 June 2014)