Wheeleria spilodactylus (Curtis, 1827)
(previously known as Pterophorus spilodactyla)
PTEROPHORINAE,   PTEROPHORIDAE,   PTEROPHORIOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Debbie Matthews & Stella Crossley

Wheeleria spilodactylus
(Photo: courtesy of John Weiss, Ian Faithfull, and Nicole Freeman
of the Keith Turnbull Research Institute, Frankston, Victoria)

The Caterpillar feeds on plants in LAMIACEAE including:

  • Black Horehound ( Ballota nigra ), and
  • White Horehound ( Marrubium vulgare ),

    About 100 eggs are laid by the female moth, which hatch in a few days. The baby Caterpillars bore into the developing shoots of the food plant, and work their way down onto more mature foliage. After a few weeks, they pupate, and after another few weeks, the adult moths emerge.

    Wheeleria spilodactylus
    (Photo: courtesy of Halina Steele, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory)

    The moth is white with variable faint brown markings, and has spiny legs and multilobed wings.

    Wheeleria spilodactylus
    underside
    (Photo courtesy of Michael Bedingfield, Thawa, Australian Capital Territory)

    Starting in 1993: the species was introduced deliberately into Australia from France in order to control the Horehound weeds. These weeds have flowers with a curved spiny calyx, and develop into burrs as the fruit ripens. These burrs cause problems in the wool industry because they lodge in the fleeces of sheep.

    The Horehound Plume Moth is endemic to Europe, including

  • Spain, and
  • United Kingdom,

    but now may also be found in

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

    Wheeleria spilodactylus
    drawing by John Curtis, listed as Pterophorus spilodactylus
    ,
    British Entomology, London, 1827, Vol. 6, Plate 161,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.


    Further reading :

    John Curtis,
    Illustrations and descriptions of the genera of insects found in Great Britain and Ireland,
    British Entomology,
    London, 1827, Vol. 6, Plate 161.


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    (updated 17 July 2010, 28 May 2018)