Cup-like cocoons of Mottled Cup Moth ( Doratifera vulnerans ) showing empty pupal skins.
In Australia, these moths are named 'Cup Moths' from the shape of their pupal cocoon. The cocoon usually has a hard round shape, and is attached to a twig of the food plant. When the moth emerges, a lid is severed from the rest of the cocoon shell, leaving a little cup-shaped receptacle behind. The cocoon closely resembles the shape of a gum-nut, the fruit of a Gum Tree ( Eucalyptus, MYRTACEAE ), on the leaves of which many species of this family feed.
In the USA, members of this family are called 'Slug Moths' because the Caterpillars have reduced true legs, and have no prolegs. They progress using the complete underside of the body, as a slug does.
In Australia, they are also called 'Spitfires', 'Battleships' or 'Warships'. This is because many species of the Caterpillars carry pockets of stinging spines, which are everted when the animal is disturbed, and sting anyone accidentally brushing against a tree leaf on which it is sitting. Despite this protection, the caterpillars are still attacked by other carnivorous insects
The shape of the caterpillars has also given them the common name 'Chinese Junks'. The Caterpillars are inclined to sit by day happily exposed on the leaves of their foodplant, as they have a bright warning pattern or coloration. Their shape, coloration and perhaps their slow progression has led to another of their common names: 'Bondi Trams'.
Many of the moths in this family are inclined to sit on a twig with wings closed over the back, like a tent. Their wingspan is such that this posture makes the wing margins hang down below the twig, quite overlapping it.
The 115 named Australian species in LIMACODIDAE are :
Thosea penthima : Billygoat Plum Stinging Caterpillar
Frequently Asked Questions about Caterpillars
(updated 28 May 2013, 17 September 2013, 13 October 2013)