Metura elongatus (Saunders, 1847)
Saunders' Case Moth
(one synonym : Oiketicus saundersii Westwood, 1854)
PSYCHIDAE ,   TINEOIDEA
  
Don Herbison-Evans
( donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Metura elongatus

These Caterpillars live and pupate in a silken shelter, which they initially cover with bits of leaf. As they grow larger, they attach parallel short twigs sparsely over the surface.

Metura elongatus
(Photo: courtesy of Evan Harris, Ipswich)


(Photo: courtesy of Rebekah, Bathurst, NSW)
They have been found feeding on a wide variety of plants, including :

  • Flaxleaf Fleabane ( Conyza bonariensis ASTERACEAE ),
  • Cypress ( Cupressus, CUPRESSACEAE ),
  • Australian Heath ( Epacris, ERICACEAE ),
  • Hanging Flax Lily ( Dianella brevipedunculata, IRIDACEAE ),
  • Silver Wattle ( Acacia dealbata, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Pine ( Pinus, PINACEAE ), and
  • Cotoneaster ( Cotoneaster, ROSACEAE ).

    They are very adept at repairing their case with silk if it is damaged, and when threatened, seal the front opening until the danger is past, when they cut it open again.

    The caterpillar is also adept at climbing, even on glass surfaces. It does so by attaching a series of bars of silk to the surface it wishes to climb, and using them like rungs on a ladder.

  • Metura elongatus
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian McMillan, Imbil, Queensland)

    Only the head and thorax have a chitinous armour. This is brightly coloured in black and orange. The animal keeps its unprotected off-white abdomen inside the case at all times.

    Metura elongatus
    case cut open to reveal the shy Caterpillar inside
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The case can grow to a length of 12 cms or more. The caterpillar pupates within its silken case, which it usually hangs up on a wall, fence, or tree. The pupation period can be a few weeks to a few months, depending on the season and the weather.

    Metura elongatus
    pupa in the case
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The female adult has no wings, so she remains in her case after emergence from the pupa. She is white with a brown head, and has a length of about 3 cms.

    Metura elongatus
    female adult
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian Sims)

    The male has wings and emerges completely from the case, and flies off. He is strikingly marked, with black wings, a orange hairy head, and a black and orange banded abdomen. The wings are short, and the abdomen is long and prehensile, presumably to facilitate reaching into the silken case of a female for copulation. He has a wingspan of about 3 cms, and a similar body length.

    Metura elongatus
    male adult moth
    (Photo: courtesy of Chris Triggs, Campbelltown, NSW)

    The species occurs in the eastern half of Australia, including

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


    male adult moth
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian Sims)

    The life history was illustrated by Arthur Bartholomew in 1867.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 19.2, pp. 179,180.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours, New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 82.


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    (updated 17 September 2011)