Opodiphthera astrophela (Walker, 1855)
Emperor Moth
(one synonym : Antheraea simplex Walker, 1855)
SATURNIIDAE ,   BOMBYCOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Opodiphthera astrophela
(Photo: courtesy of Shane Litherland, Gympie, Queensland)

These Caterpillars are black with brilliant green stripes along and across the body. There is a red tubercle tipped with white spines at every junction of the transverse and longitudinal green stripes.

Opodiphthera astrophela
(Photo: courtesy of Faith Hewitt-Treadwell, Wollumbin Creek, New South Wales)

The caterpillars feed on a variety of trees, including:

  • Red Ash ( Alphitonia excelsa, RHAMNACEAE ),
  • Butterwood ( Callicoma serratifolia, CUNONIACEAE ),
  • Australian Teak ( Flindersia australis, RUTACEAE ),
  • Cudgerie ( Flindersia schottiana, RUTACEAE ), and
  • Leopardwood ( Flindersia maculosa, RUTACEAE ).

    Opodiphthera astrophela
    drawing by Harriet and Helena Scott, listed as Antheraea simplex,
    Australian Lepidoptera, Volume 2 (1864), Plate 13,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Australian Museum.

    The caterpillars pupate usually on plants growing below the food tree in a tough oval cocoon held on a twig by silk threads.

    Opodiphthera astrophela
    female
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The female and male adult moths differ: The males are yellower, and the females darker and greyer. Originally they were thought to be different species. Both sexes have a brown eyespot on each wing, as well as two dark lines across each fore wing, and a curved dark line across each hind wing. They have a wingspan of about 8 cms.

    Opodiphthera astrophela
    male, drawing by Harriet and Helena Scott, listed as Antheraea simplex,
    Australian Lepidoptera, Volume 2 (1864), Plate 13,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Australian Museum.

    The species is found in the eastern quarter of Australia, including

  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 15.2, p. 406.

    Peter Hendry,
    Saturniidae,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 51, December 2008, pp. 27-29,
    Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club Inc..

    Harriet, Helena, and Alexander W. Scott,
    Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations,
    Australian Lepidoptera,
    Volume 2 (1869), pp. 11-12, and also Plate 13.

    Francis Walker,
    Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 5 (1855), p. 1255, No. 19.


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    (updated 24 March 2013, 16 June 2014)