Psalidostetha banksiae (Lewin, 1805)
Banksia Moth
(also known as Danima banksiae)
NOTODONTINAE,   NOTODONTIDAE,   NOCTUOIDEA
  
Don Herbison-Evans
donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Danima banksiae
early instar, magnified
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

This Caterpillar is spectacular in appearance. Early instars are brown with white spots and yellow markings, and sparse thick black hairs. They have have a large head, and fleshy tail horn.

Danima banksiae
late instar, relaxed posture
(Photo: incognito, Queensland)

Later instars lose many of the thick hairs, have a relatively smaller head capsule, and the body has 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 last abdominal segment, behind which the abdomen is swollen and grey-blue in colour.


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 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.

Danima banksiae
late instar, threat posture
(Photo: courtesy of Narelle Muller, Mildura, Victoria)

When threatened, the caterpillar also projects a pair of fleshy organs from under its prothorax. These are dark red and forked at the tip.

Danima banksiae
late instar, threat posture
(Photo: courtesy of Narelle Muller, Mildura, Victoria)

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

  • Candle Flowers ( Banksia ),
  • Needlewood ( Hakea ),
  • Spider Flowers ( Grevillea ), and
  • Western Holly ( 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 forewings of the adult moths vary in colour from grey to brown, with black markings and white speckles. The forewings and thorax are covered with dust-like white speckles. The thorax also has a conspicuous pair of white spots.

    Danima banksiae
    female
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The prothorax is white, and the rest of the thorax is black. The abdomen is orange with a dark grey anal tuft. The females have grey hindwings. The males have yellow hindwings. The moths have a wingspan of about 6 cms.

    Danima banksiae
    male
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    When disturbed: the moth 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.

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


    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.


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    (updated 1 August 2010, 1 April 2017, 1 October 2019, 5 May 2020)