Hyalarcta huebneri (Westwood, 1855)
Leaf Case Moth
(one synonym : Psyche nuda Wallengren, 1861)
PSYCHIDAE,   TINEOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Hyalarcta huebneri
(Photo: courtesy of Oscar Brown, Port Hedland, Western Australia)

These Caterpillars live in a silken case, to which they attach bits of leaf and/or twigs to cover it completely. One was given coloured strips of aluminium foil in its enclosure, and it seemed quite willing to attach those to its case too.

Hyalarcta huebneri
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

The caterpillars seem to feed on the leaves of nearly any plant. They have been found on plants from such families as:

  • ASTERACEAE,
  • FABACEAE,
  • GERANIACEAE,
  • MYRTACEAE,
  • PINACEAE,
  • RUBIACEAE, and
  • SANTALACEAE.

    The case can grow to a length of up to 5 cms.

    Hyalarcta huebneri
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

    Only the head and thorax have a protective chitinous skin. The caterpillar keeps its unprotected abdomen permanently in its case.

    Hyalarcta huebneri
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

    The caterpillar pupates inside its case. When a male adult is ready to emerge, he pushes the pupa out of the back end of the case. When a female is ready to emerge, she does so inside the case.

    Hyalarcta huebneri
    Adult female
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The adult female is wingless, and stays within her case. Her emergence from her pupa is however signalled by the extrusion of a large amount of fluffy silk from the case. She looks like a bag of eggs, with a vestigial head and some tiny legs on one end. She has a length of about 1 cm.

    Hyalarcta huebneri
    Adult male
    Photo: courtesy of Buck Richardson, from
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art

    The male has wings that are bluish and transparent, a black body, and orange antennae. He has a wingspan of about 2 cms.

    Hyalarcta huebneri
    (Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, New South Wales)

    The male can extend his abdomen and reach it into the end of a female's case for copulation.

    Hyalarcta huebneri
    Adult male with abdomen extended
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian McMillan, Imbil, Queensland)

    The species is found over most of mainland Australia, including:

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


    male, drawing by John O. Westwood, listed as Oiketicus hubneri,

    Descriptions of some species of Lepidopterous insects belonging to the genus Oiketicus,
    Proceedings of The Zoological Society of London, Volume 22 (1854), Plate XXXVII, Fig. 1,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Natural History Museum Library, London.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, figs. 19.9, 51.6, p. 180.

    N.W. Heather,
    Life history and biology of the Leaf Bagworm, Hyalarcta huebneri (Westwood) (Lepidoptera: Psychidae),
    Australian Journal of Entomology,
    Volume 14 (1975), pp. 353-361.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 184.

    John O. Westwood,
    Descriptions of some species of Lepidopterous insects belonging to the genus Oiketicus,
    Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London,
    Volume 22 (1854), p. 228,, and Plate 36, fig. 1.


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    (updated 12 September 2012, 23 September 2017)