Epicoma contristis Hübner, 1823
Yellow-spotted Epicoma
(one synonym : Epicoma tristis Hübner, [1819])
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Epicoma contristis
(Photo: courtesy of Rog Standen, Mt Eliza, Victoria)

The early instars of this Caterpillar are hairy, and off-white with a black head. They occasionally may be seen in procession, each following the silken thread left by the one in front. The caterpillars are gregarious, feeding nocturnally, and sheltering under leaves by day.

Epicoma contristis
(Photo: courtesy of Rog Standen, Mt Eliza, Victoria)

The later instars are 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.

Epicoma contristis
(Photo: courtesy of Rog Standen, Mt Eliza, Victoria)

The caterpillars have 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
    (Photo: courtesy of Rog Standen, Mt Eliza, Victoria)

    When the caterpillar is mature: it pupates amongst the leaf litter under its foodplant in a fawn elliptical cocoon decorated with larval hairs.

    Epicoma contristis
    (Photo: courtesy of Rog Standen, Mt Eliza, Victoria)

    The adults have forewings that are dark brown speckled with silver, with two rows of pale orange and yellow spots along the termen. The central area of each forewing often has an irregular dark mark with a yellow dot in the middle. The hindwings are dark brown with an orange border. The male moths often have an extra yellowish vaguely triangular mark by the central dark area towards the wingtip of each forewing.

    Epicoma contristis
    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The abdomen is black with orange dorsal spots and an orange anal tuft. The wingspan is about 3.5 cms.

    When a 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
    moth playing dead
    (Photo: courtesy of Rog Standen, Mt Eliza, Victoria)

    The egss are white laid in cluster and covered in hairs. They seem to be laid anywhere, and the caterpillars left to find a suitable food plant hopefully in the vicinity.

    Epicoma contristis
    female with eggs
    (Photo: courtesy of Cathy Devries, Sandringham, Victoria)

    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 other Epicoma species.

    The species is found over much of Australia, including:

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

    Epicoma contristis
    male, underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Graeme Cocks, Townsville, Queensland)

    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.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 7 April 2013, 15 January 2019, 7 July 2020)