Chrysodeixis eriosoma (Doubleday, 1843)
Green Looper
(one synonym : Plusia adjuncta Walker, 1865)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

In Sydney, the Caterpillars of this species are a particular pest on:

  • Geranium ( Pelargonium x zonale, GERANIACEAE ),

    which they attack by sitting with their hind pairs of legs on the stem under a leaf, and swinging around chewing a piece out of each of the veins under the leaf, causing the leaf to collapse umbrella-like around them.

  • Chrysodeixis eriosoma
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Concord, New South Wales)

    The caterpillars also attack many other garden plants, including:

  • Dahlia ( Dahlia pinnata, ASTERACEAE ),
  • Beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris, FABACEAE ),
  • Coleus ( Coleus blumei, LAMIACEAE ),
  • Spearmint ( Mentha spicata, LAMIACEAE ),
  • the young shoots and fruit of various types of Citrus: e.g. Lemon, Orange, ( RUTACEAE ), and
  • Tomato ( Lycopersicum esculentum, SOLANACEAE ).

    They have also been found feeding on weeds, such as:

  • Cobblers Pegs ( Bidens pilosa, ASTERACEAE ).

    Chrysodeixis eriosoma
    (Photo: courtesy of Boris Branwhite, Central Coast, New South Wales)

    The larvae are green with a number of faint white lines along the animal's length. They also sometimes have black dots along the sides. Some of their ventral prolegs are missing and this makes them move looper fashion, like the caterpillars of GEOMETRIDAE. The caterpillars grow to a length of about 4 cms.

    Chrysodeixis eriosoma
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Concord, New South Wales)

    The pupa is formed under a curled leaf of the foodplant in a sparse cocoon. It is green, often with brown markings which often curiously resemble a face. Pupal duration varies from about a fortnight in summer to about a month in winter.

    Chrysodeixis eriosoma
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The adult moth is dark grey-brown, with bunched hairs on its head which look like a short pair of horns. Males have long orange hair-like scales on either side of the abdomen, which are distinctive for this species, and these are probably the origin of the scientific name, as in Greek, erith = red, and soma = body. On each forewing of males and females is a silvery figure of eight with the two halves separated, unlike the related species Chrysodeixis subsidens in which they are fused together. The absence of a tiny silver 's' on the forewings distinguishes it from another related species: Chrysodeixis argentifera. They all have a wingspan of about 3 cms.

    The chemical identities of the sex attractants (Pheromones) for this moth have been elucidated.

    Chrysodeixis eriosoma
    (Photo: courtesy of Steven Dodge, Nowra, New South Wales)

    The species occurs throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of eastern Asia and the Pacific islands including :

  • Borneo,
  • China,
  • Cook Islands,
  • Hawaii,
  • Hong Kong,
  • India,
  • New Zealand,
  • Papua,
  • South Africa,

    and also in Australia in

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

    Chrysodeixis eriosoma
    full frontal
    (Photo: courtesy of Steven Dodge, Nowra, New South Wales)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 22.2, pp. 65, 460.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours, New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 67.

    Edward Doubleday,
    with Adam White :
    List of the annulose animals hitherto recorded as found in New Zealand with descriptions of some new species,
    in: Ernest Dieffenbach : Travels in New Zealand,
    John Murray, London 1843, Volume 2, p. 285, No. 117.

    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), p. 170.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 166.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (written 12 August 1996, updated 3 June 2018, 4 April 2019)