Trichiocercus mesomelas (Walker, 1855)
(formerly known as Trichetra mesomelas)
THAUMETOPOEINAE,   NOTODONTIDAE,   NOCTUOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@yahoo.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Trichiocercus mesomelas
brown saddles, brown tufts, white lateral hairs
(Photo: courtesy of Robin Sharp, Korong Vale, Victoria)

These Caterpillars have a red or brown tuft with a brown saddle on each segment, and a pencil of dark hairs sticking up forwards from behind the head.

Trichiocercus mesomelas
brown saddles, scarlet tufts, yellow lateral hairs
(Photo: courtesy of John Birks, Martinsville, New South Wales)

The caterpillars have abundant lateral hairs which can be white or yellow.

Trichiocercus mesomelas
empty coccoon, showing hole through which the moth exited
(Photo: courtesy of Robin Sharp, Korong Vale, Victoria)

The caterpillars pupate in a cocoon covered in frass and debris, attache to the underside of a leaf of the foodplant.

Trichiocercus mesomelas
female
(Photo: courtesy of Ian McMillan, Imbil, Queensland)

The adult moths have white or brown wings, sometimes with a scattering of black speckles. For females, the head and thorax are covered in hair which is dark brown on top shading to pale brown at each side, and a black hairy abdomen.

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

Males have totally white hair on the head, thorax, and abdomen. The moths have a wingspan of about 4 cms. Both sexes readliy lose hair from the thorax revealing brown shiny skin.

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

When threatened: the moths lie down and curl the abdomen under the body. This display is perhaps 'playing dead'.

Trichiocercus mesomelas
male, threat display, showing undersides of wings
(Photo: courtesy of Robin Sharp, Korong Vale, Victoria)

The species has been found in Australia in

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


    Further reading :

    Francis Walker,
    Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 4 (1855), p. 845, No. 1.


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    (written 12 November 2014, updated 28 November 2020)