Syntherata janetta (White, 1843)
(one synonym : Antheraea disjuncta Walker, 1865)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley & Sue Rostas

Syntherata janetta

This Caterpillar starts as one in a row of eggs. The eggs are white or pale green, oval, and have a diameter of about 0.5 mm.

Syntherata janetta

The young caterpillars are yellow and have stiff hairs all over.

Syntherata janetta

Later instars become olive green with tubercles (scoli) each of which has a cluster of short stiff hairs. The scoli are also green except in the 3rd instar, in which they become red.

Syntherata janetta
Drawing by the Scott Sisters, listed as Antheraea janetta
Australian Museum Watercolour AMS193/60,
courtesy of the Australian Museum

The caterpillars have been found feeding on the foliage of a variety of trees such as :

  • White Mangrove ( Avicennia marina, ACANTHACEAE ),
  • Pepper Tree ( Schinus molle , ANACARDIACEAE ),
  • Celery Wood ( Polyscias elegans, ARALIACEAE ),
  • Camphor Laurel ( Cinnamomum camphora, LAURACEAE ),
  • Billy Goat Plum ( Planchonia careya, LECYTHIDACEAE ),
  • Olive ( Olea europaea, OLEACEAE ),
  • Yellowwood ( Podocarpus spinulosus, PODOCARPACEAE ),
  • Cheese Tree ( Glochidion ferdinandi, PHYLLANTHACEAE ),
  • Obstinate Ash ( Alphitonia pomaderroides , RHAMNACEAE ),
  • Red Mangrove ( Rhizophora stylosa, RHIZOPHORACEAE ),
  • Queensland Apple ( Timonius timon, RUBIACEAE ), and
  • various types of Citrus: e.g. Lemon, Orange, ( RUTACEAE ).

    Syntherata janetta
    (Photo: courtesy of Cory Robert Dale)

    The caterpillars can grow to a length of about 10 cms.

    Syntherata janetta
    (Photo: courtesy of G. Brooks, Tinnanbar, Queensland)

    The caterpillar pupates in a stiff oval cocoon on the food plant or nearby structure.The cocoon varies in colour depending on the foodplant. On Celery Wood, they are silver. On Camphor Laurel they are golden.

    Syntherata janetta
    (Specimen: courtesy of Anna Piper, Sydney, New South Wales)

    There is a considerable variation in the coloration of adults of this species.

    Syntherata janetta
    (Photo: courtesy of Cory Robert Dale)

    The basic adult moth is yellow with two zig-zag brown or pink lines across each wing. The forewings each have a small transparent dot in the middle. The males have hooked tips to the forewings. In this way they differ from those of the related species Syntherata escarlata.

    Syntherata janetta
    (Photo: courtesy of Evan Harris, Ipswich, Queensland)

    However, the wings often have grey areas, which may extend across the whole of the upper surface of the wings. The moth typically has a wingspan of 14 cms.

    Syntherata janetta
    coloured variant : larva found and raised on
    Camphor Laurel ( Cinnamomum camphora, LAURACEAE )
    (Photo: courtesy of Cory Robert Dale)

    The species occurs in

  • New Guinea,

    and in the northern half of Australia, in

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales, as far south as Newcastle.

    A picture of this caterpillar appears in a book of paintings on Moths and Butterflies by Helena and Harriet Scott - paintings done around 1850s-1860s while living on Ash Island in the Hunter estuary. There it is under its older name Antheraea janetta.

    Syntherata janetta
    (Photo: courtesy of Scott Gavins, Fraser Coast, Queensland)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pls. 15.5, 15.7, 28.14, pp. 406-407.

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

    Buck Richardson,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2008, pp. i, 10, 34.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 194.

    Harriet Scott,
    Scott Sisters Butterfly and Moth Drawings 1840-1860,
    Australian Museum Watercolour AMS193/60,
    Antheraea janetta.

    Adam White,
    Descriptions of apparently new species and varieties of insects and other annulosa, principally from the collection in the British Museum,
    Annals and Magazine of Natural History,
    Volume 12 (1843), pp. 344-345, No. 8.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, pp. 6, 162.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 15 November 2012, 13 November 2017, 7 July 2019, 8 November 2020, 21 April 2022)