PIERINAE, PIERIDAE, PAPILIONOIDEA
(Photo: courtesy of R.P.Field Museum Victoria)
This Caterpillar initially is pale brown with white hairs, and black head and tail. Later, its body becomes nearly black, with white spots out of which grow white hairs.
It feeds gregariously in a sparse web on various species of Australian Native Cherry ( SANTALACEAE ), including :
as well as various species of Mistletoe ( LORANTHACEAE ), including :
The caterpillar is a problem for growers of plantation Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum hosted against Acacia acuminata) in the wheat belt about 2 hours east of Perth WA. Sandalwood was native to the area until cut out to extinction early in the 1900s. The growers were concerned about their first sandalwood trees seeded in autumn of 2003.
The trees were invaded by the Wood White Butterfly caterpillar (Delias aganippe) with seriously damaging results. This is mostly but not always to the average size tree, not so much on the more vigorous growth bigger trees, and not so much on the smaller trees, although the smaller single stem trees are where the most damage in percentage of foliage terms occurred.
There was also a bad infestation in 2004 in November, and rather than using insecticide the owners of one plantation took to the plantation with gloves and walked the full plantation squashing the caterpillars. An 18 km walk!.
Meanwhile the butterfly is popular with butterfly breeders for commercial release, and the breeding cycle has been extensively studied by Ellen Reid ( Bible Museum, St Arnaud, Victoria).
The caterpillar grows to a length of about 4 cms. It pupates often in a group on a twig of the foodplant. The pupa is attached by a cremaster and girdle, and is mottled brown and white. The eclosing of a male butterfly has been filmed and put on Youtube by Ellen Reid.
The wings have silver-grey the upper surfaces that have wide black margins containing a subterminal band of white spots.
The females have an additional black spot near the centre of each forewing. Underneath both sexes are white, red, yellow, and black.
The butterfly has a wingspan of up to 7 cms.
The eggs are are yellow, ribbed, and bottle shaped with a height of about 1.4 mm. They are laid in clusters on a foodplant.
The species is found over most of the southern half of mainland Australia, including
Further reading :
Michael F. Braby,
Butterflies of Australia,
CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 341-342.
General Illustration of Entomology,
An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of New Holland, New Zealand, New Guinea, Otaheite and other Islands in the Indian, Southern and Pacific Oceans,
Volume 1 (1805), p. 133, and also Plate p. 132.
(updated 7 December 2012, 20 September 2013, 19 March 2015, 10 June 2020)