Herpetogramma licarsisalis (Walker, 1859)
Sod Webworm
(one synonym : Botys pharaxalis Walker, 1859)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Herpetogramma licarsisalis
note the silk thread: this specimen has just landed on another leaf after dropping from its piece of grass
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

Early instars of this Caterpillar are light green, with a pale brown head with dark markings. Later instars are darker with pairs of dark warts on each segment along the back.

Herpetogramma licarsisalis
(Photo: courtesy of Rod Elder, Queensland Beef Industry Institute)

The Caterpillars feed on a wide variety of Grass species ( POACEAE ), and can cause severe damage to pastures and lawns. Each Caterpillar lives in a tube made of leaves of its food plant, lined with silk, at the soil surface. When disturbed, it can wriggle violently backward, and if possible drop on a silken thread. It grows to length of about 2 cms.

Herpetogramma licarsisalis
(Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

The adult has fawn wings with rows of indistinct dark spots. It has a wingspan of about 2 cms.

Herpetogramma licarsisalis

The moth has a characteristic posture when at rest. It sits with its wings flat, and half open, with the hind wings half covered by the fore wings, and with the abdomen curved up.

Herpetogramma licarsisalis underside
(Photo: courtesy of Graeme Cocks, Townsville, Queensland)

The moth is found over much the world, including

  • Cook Islands,
  • Hawaii,
  • Indonesia,
  • Malta,
  • New Zealand,
  • Turkey,
  • United Kingdom,

    as well as in Australia in

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.

    It is often the commonest moth found in Sydney. It has been the object of study by Andrew Ward at the University of Queensland.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,BR> Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 33.18, pp. 66, 356.

    Francis Walker,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 18 (1859), p. 686, No. 242.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,BR> CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 133.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 4 November 2010, 27 January 2013)