Psalidostetha banksiae (Lewin, 1805)
Banksia Moth
(also known as Danima banksiae)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Danima banksiae
(Photo: incognito, Queensland)

This Caterpillar is spectacular in appearance. The head capsule and the body are brown with a white dorsal line. There are white patches on the thorax, white diagonal lines on the abdomen, and white dots all over. There is a black dorsal horn on the eighth abdominal segment, behind which the abdomen is swollen and grey-blue in colour.

Danima banksiae
early instar, magnified
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

Early instars appear to have a disproportionately large head, yellower markings, and sparse thick black hairs. Later instars lose many of the thick hairs.

late instar relaxed posture
(Photo: courtesy of Bruce Anstee, Riverstone, New South Wales)

The caterpillar lies along a twig or leaf when feeding and resting.

Danima banksiae
late instar display posture
(Photo: courtesy of Margaret Humphrey, Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

When disturbed, the caterpillars head and thorax are raised so that the true legs are pointed forwards. The rear end may also be raised, and then the body is 'U' shaped, with the prolegs pointing backwards. This 'U' shaped posture is assumed when the foliage around the caterpillar is moved. When threatened, the caterpillar also projects an osmeterium from under its prothorax. This is dark red and is forked at the tip.

Danima banksiae
late instar threat posture
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of various members of the plant family PROTEACEAE, including:

  • Candle Flowers ( Banksia ),
  • Needlewood ( Hakea ),
  • Spider Flowers ( Grevillea ), and
  • Dryandra.

    The caterpillar grows to a length of 6 cms.

    It pupates in a cocoon in the ground litter. Specimens which pupated in November in Melbourne emerged as adults four weeks later.

    Danima banksiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)

    The fore wings of the adult moths vary in colour from grey to brown, with black markings and white speckles. The hind wings are cream and orange. The fore wings and thorax are covered with dust-like white speckles. The thorax also has a conspicuous pair of white spots.

    Danima banksiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Margaret Humphrey, Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The prothorax is white, and the rest of the thorax is black. The abdomen is orange with a dark grey anal tuft. It has a wingspan of about 6 cms.

    Danima banksiae
    (Specimen: courtesy of The Australian Museum)

    The male moth when disturbed adopts a characteristic posture. It lifts the wings, and curves the abdomen underneath the body, displaying rings on the abdomen and red structures near the tail.

    Danima banksiae
    Male moth display posture
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)

    The eggs are white and dome shaped, and laid on the surface of a leaf of the food plant. Eggs laid in April in Melbourne took six days to hatch.

    The species is found over the whole of Australia, including:

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

    Further reading :

    David Carter,
    Butterflies and Moths,
    Collins Eyewitness Handbooks, Sydney 1992, p. 247.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pls. 17.2, 29.14, p. 420.

    Margaret Greenway,
    The tale of Two Travelling Caterpillars,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 63 (December 2011), pp. 18-20,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    John William Lewin,
    Prodromus Entomology,
    Natural History of Lepidopterous Insects of New South Wales,
    London : T. Bensley (1805), p. 10, and also Plate 9.

    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), pp. 4-5, 143.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria: part 2,
    Tiger Moths and their Allies - Noctuoidea (A)
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2009, pp. 8-9, 14-15.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 176.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 1 August 2010, 1 April 2017, 1 October 2019)