Uraba lugens Walker, 1863
Gum-leaf Skeletoniser
(one synonym : Coesa viduella Walker, 1866)
NOLINAE ,   NOLIDAE ,   NOCTUOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Uraba lugens
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

This Caterpillar wears a hat! The hat consists of the accumulated skins of previous moults. Separate skins are each marked by a ridge in the 'hat'.

Uraba lugens
(Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)

After hatching, the Caterpillars feed gregariously, initially between the rows of eggs. As they grow they sit side by side, and just consume the surface of the leaf they are feeding on, leaving a skeleton of veins behind. Final instars are solitary.

Uraba lugens
(Photo: courtesy of Peter Marriott, Moths of Victoria: Part 2)

The hairs on the caterpillars cause severe itchy spots on sensitive people.

The species is also an arbicultural pest on trees in the family MYRTACEAE, such as:

  • Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus ), and
  • Brush Box ( Lophostemon confertus ),

    as well as

  • Silver Birch (Betula pendula).

    The Caterpillar appears yellow, although it is actually brown, but it has a double row of yellow spots along its back, and smaller yellow spots and lines along its sides. It is covered by very fine delicate long white setae. It lacks the first pair of ventral prolegs. It grows to a length of about 2 cms.

    Uraba lugens
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)

    The Caterpillar spins a tough boat-shaped cocoon in which it pupates. It incorporates fragments of its surroundings into its cocoon, which assist with its strength and camouflage. Those pupating on a cement wall actually pried off bits of sand and cement, and covered their cocoons with them.

    Uraba lugens
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    After about a month, the grey adult moth emerges It has a filigree pattern of dark lines on the forewings. The wingspan is about 3 cms. The males and females are similar.

    Uraba lugens
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)

    The eggs are laid in neat rows on a leaf of a foodplant.

    Uraba lugens
    (Photo: courtesy of Peter Marriott, Moths of Victoria: Part 2)

    The species occurs in:

  • New Zealand,
    as well as most of Australia, including:
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    The pest is suspected of thriving on plants fertilised with Nitrogen, which have leaves containing high amino-acid concentrations. The major pheromones are known. Various methods of control are being investigated, including

  • various parasitoids, and
  • selective insecticides.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, figs. 47.18, 54.8, pp. 67, 457.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours,
    New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 77.

    Janet D. Farr,
    Biology of the gumleaf skeletoniser, Uraba lugens Walker (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), in the southern jarrah forest of Western Australia,
    Australian Journal of Entomology,
    Volume 41, Part 1 (January 2002), pp. 61-69.

    Peter Hendry,
    Gum-leaf Skeletonizer- Uraba lugens (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae),
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 59 (December 2010), pp. 18-20,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 2,
    Tiger Moths and Allies - NOCTUOIDEA (A)
    ,
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2009, pp. 30-33.

    Francis Walker,
    Tortricites & Tineites,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 28 (1863), p. 449, No. 1.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 177.


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    (updated 1 March 2011, 18 September 2013, 28 January 2014)