Acyphas semiochrea (Herrich-Schaffer, [1855])
Omnivorous Tussock Moth
(one synonym : Euproctis leucomelas Walker, 1855)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Acyphas semiochrea
(Photo: courtesy of Ian Common, from Moths of Australia)

This Caterpillar is basically brown and hairy, with coloured markings, including yellow spots on the thorax, and a dorsal row of pale patches along the abdomen.

Acyphas semiochrea
(Photo: courtesy of Peter Koch, Tolderol Game Reserve, South Australia)

The head has a pair of black hair pencils, like a pair of hairy horns. The caterpillar also has a hairy tail, and a red dorsal gland on each of the two penultimate abdominal segments.

Acyphas semiochrea
(Photo: courtesy of David Akers, Won Wron, Victoria)

The caterpillar has a broken yellow line along each side, and the underside is green.

Acyphas semiochrea
(Photo: courtesy of Alison Milton, The Pinnacle, Australian Capital Territory)
The caterpillar is known to feed on:

  • Bush Peas ( Pultenaea, FABACEAE ),
  • Wattles ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Boobialla ( Myoporum, MYOPORACEAE ),
  • Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Sour Bush ( Choretrum, SANTALACEAE ),
  • Hop Bush ( Dodonaea, SAPINDACEAE ), and
  • Salt Cedar ( Tamarix, TAMARICACEAE ).

    The caterpillar is a pest in South Australia on:

  • Monterey Pine ( Pinus radiata, PINACEAE ), and
  • Lignum ( Muehlenbeckia florulenta, POLYGONACEAE ).

    On the Lignum: the caterpillar eats the outer bark, stripping the stems.

    Acyphas semiochrea
    (Photo: courtesy of Jesse & Peter Koch, Tolderol Game Reserve, South Australia)

    The caterpillar pupates in a doubly-tapered off-white cocoon on a twig.

    Acyphas semiochrea
    (Photo: courtesy of Peter Marriott, Moths of Victoria: Part 2)

    The adult female moth is white, and has an orange tuft on the tail.

    Acyphas semiochrea
    Male with yellowish tuft on thorax, and dark wing margins
    (Photo: courtesy of Peter Marriott, Moths of Victoria: Part 2)

    The male moths are white, sometimes with a dark mark at the tornus of each forewing, sometimes with a grey mark at the wingtip of each forewing, and sometimes with a broad dark band along the margin of each forewing. Sometimes the hairs around the thorax are yellowish. Sometimes the black skin of the thorax and/or abdomen shows through between the white hairs. The antennae appear to be darker than those of the similar Acyphas chionitis. The moths have a wingspan of about 3 cms. It is possible that the one name is being used for more than one species.

    Acyphas semiochrea
    Male with black thorax
    (Photo: courtesy of Peter Marriott, Moths of Victoria: Part 2)

    The eggs are laid in a cluster almost anywhere. They are covered by the female with brown hairs from her body.

    Acyphas semiochrea
    moth on it's cocoon
    (Photo: courtesy of Peter Koch, Tolderol Game Reserve, South Australia)

    The species occurs across most of Australia, including:

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

    Acyphas semiochrea
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 43.13, pp. 70, 429-430.

    Gottlieb August Wilhelm Herrich-Schäffer,
    Sammlung neuer oder wenig bekannter aussereuropäischer Schmetterlinge,
    Verzeichniss der in diesem Werke gelieferten Arten nach Reihenfolge ihrer Veroffentlichung,
    Series I, Volume 1, Part 7 (1855), pp. 18, 70, 82, and also Plate 68, fig. 390.

    Peter B. McQuillan, Jan A. Forrest, David Keane, & Roger Grund,
    Caterpillars, moths, and their plants of Southern Australia,
    Butterfly Conservation South Australia Inc., Adelaide (2019), p. 151.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria: Part 2,
    Tiger Moths and their Allies - Noctuoidea (A)
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2009, pp. 16-19.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 11 April 2011, 22 May 2018, 15 November 2019, 4 October 2020, 30 December 2021)