Agarista agricola (Donovan, 1805)
Joseph's Coat Moth
(one synonym : Agarista picta Leach, 1814)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Agarista agricola
early instar, magnified
(Photo: courtesy of Peter Hendry, Sheldon, Queensland)

The Caterpillars of this species initially are brown and green with sparse spiky hairs. Later instars develop black and white alternating bands along the body, with deep orange bands on the mesothorax and on the last abdominal segment. The caterpillars at this stage have sparse black hairs with white club tips, and the head and feet become orange.

Agarista agricola
(Photo: courtesy of Ros Runciman of Yeranda at Barrington Tops, New South Wales)

The caterpillars feed on various vines from the VITACEAE family:

  • Australian Native Grape ( Cissus opaca ),
  • Slender Grape ( Cayratia clematidea ), as well as
  • Cultivated Grape ( Vitis vinifera ).

    Agarista agricola
    late black and orange instar
    (Photo: courtesy of Iain Macaulay, taken at Byron Bay, New South Wales)

    The white bands change to orange in later instars, before pupation. The caterpillars grow to a length up to 7 cms.

    Agarista agricola
      Agarista agricola
      Agarista agricola
    forming the cocoon
    (Photos: courtesy of Annie Rowe, South Maclean, Queensland)

    The caterpillars usually pupate in a cocoon on a branch. They spend hours chewing bark into small pieces with which they cover their cocoon as it is formed.

    Agarista agricola
    common natural posture, with head downward.
    (Photo: courtesy of Carol Gainsford, Brisbane, Queensland)

    The adult moths are black with red, white, blue, and yellow patches. They often rest on vertical surfaces with head downward.

    Agarista agricola
    Female: wingspan 7 cms.

    Agarista agricola
    Male: wingspan 5 cms.
    (Specimens: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The females are larger and have a large white area at the base of each forewing.

    Agarista agricola
    mating pair
    (Photo: courtesy of Sjoerd de Roos, Pokolbin, New South Wales)

    The moths often fly in the daytime, leading observers to think they are butterflies. When resting, they often face downwards.

    Agarista agricola
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The species has been found in:

  • Papua,

    and is also found in Australia in:

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales, and
  • Victoria.

    Agarista agricola
    Yemen 1980

    Further reading :

    David Carter,
    Butterflies and Moths,
    Collins Eyewitness Handbooks, Sydney 1992, p. 266.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, p. 464.

    Edward Donovan,
    General Illustration of Entomology,
    An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of New Holland, New Zealand, New Guinea, Otaheite and other Islands in the Indian, Southern and Pacific Oceans,
    London (1805), p. 145, and also Plate on p. 144.

    Amanda Johnston,
    From a Wetland Garden,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 62 (September 2011), pp. 21-22,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Lois Hughes,
    Joseph's Coat Moth (Agarista agricola),
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 55 (December 2009), pp. 1, 4-5,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Lois Hughes,
    In the garden,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 78 (September 2015), pp. 37-38,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 12 October 2012, 6 February 2024)