Epicoma contristis Hübner, 1823
Yellow-spotted Epicoma
(one synonym : Epicoma tristis Hübner, [1819])
THAUMETOPOEINAE ,   NOTODONTIDAE ,   NOCTUOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Epicoma contristis
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Bundaberg, Queensland)

The early instars of this Caterpillar are gregarious, feeding by day. Later instars are solitary. They occasionally may be seen in procession, each following the silken thread left by the one in front.

The caterpillar is dark grey and hairy. Its head capsule is white with red sides bordered with black. The true legs are red and the prolegs are orange. There is also an orange lateral line along each side, with a row of orange spots above it. The body is speckled with yellow dots.

The caterpillar has been found feeding on the foliage of:

  • She Oak ( Casuarina, CASUARINACEAE ),
  • Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Tea Trees ( Leptospermum, MYRTACEAE ), and
  • Paper Barks ( Melaleuca, MYRTACEAE ).

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 3 cms.

    Epicoma contristis
    cocoon
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Bundaberg, Queensland)

    When the caterpillar is mature, it pupates in a sparse elliptical cocoon amongst the leaves of its foodplant.

    Epicoma contristis
    male, drawing by Jacob Hübner,

    Neuer oder rarer nichteuropäischer Gattungen,
    Zuträge zur Sammlung exotischer Schmettlinge, Volume 2 (1823), Plate 38, fig. 217,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

    The adults have forewings that are dark brown speckled with silver, with two or three rows of pale orange and yellow spots along the termen, and a subterminal. The central area of each forewing has an irregular dark mark with a yellow dot in the middle. The hindwings are dark brown with an orange border. The abdomen is black with orange dorsal spots and an orange anal tuft. The wingspan is about 3.5 cms.

    Epicoma contristis
    male, underside, drawing by Jacob Hübner,

    Neuer oder rarer nichteuropäischer Gattungen,
    Zuträge zur Sammlung exotischer Schmettlinge, Volume 2 (1823), Plate 38, fig. 218,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

    When the moth is threatened, it is inclined to lie down and look dead, with its wings lifted high and the abdomen curved under, displaying this orange tuft.

    Epicoma contristis
    display behaviour
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Bundaberg, Queensland)

    The caterpillars are very similar to those of other Epicoma species. The only superficial difference appears to be the absence of the two long white hairs which grow behind the head of caterpillars of Epicoma species.

    The species is found throughout eastern Australia, including:

  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria, and
  • Tasmania.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 17.18, p. 425.

    Jacob Hübner,
    Neuer oder rarer nichteuropäischer Gattungen,
    Zuträge zur Sammlung exotischer Schmettlinge,
    Volume 2 (1823), p. 9, No. 109, and Plate 38, figs. 217, 218.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria: part 2,
    Tiger Moths and their Allies - Noctuoidea (A)
    ,
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2009, pp. 8-11.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 178.


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    (updated 7 April 2013, 15 December 2015)