Chelepteryx chalepteryx (R. Felder, 1874)
White Stemmed Wattle Moth
(one synonym: Darala cupreotincta Lucas, 1892)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Chelepteryx chalepteryx
early instar
(Photo: courtesy of David Akers, Won Wron, Victoria)

Initially this caterpillar is black with long hairs, and with pairs of yellow warts along the back. Later instars are brown with pale spots, and a pale line along the back. The caterpillar is covered in dense hairs and bristles, which may cause severe irritation if handled.

Chelepteryx chalepteryx
(Photo: courtesy of Peter Street, Sydney, New South Wales)

The head looks as though it is black with brown sides, and seems to have a white face with a flat brown nose.

Chelepteryx chalepteryx
close-up of head
(Photo: courtesy of David Akers, Won Wron, Victoria)

It has been found feeding on:

  • Wattles ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ), and
  • Gymea Lily ( Doryanthes excelsa, AMARYLLIDACEAE ).

    and in captivity has accepted

  • Native Cherry ( Exocarpus cupressiformis, SANTALACEAE ),
  • Sour Bush ( Choretrum candollei, SANTALACEAE ), and
  • Pine ( Pinus, PINACEAE ).

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    (Photo: courtesy of David Akers, Won Wron, Victoria)

    The caterpillar grows to a length of 7 cms. It pupates in a cocoon, often under bark or in a crevice such as under the eaves of buildings.

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    (Photo: courtesy of David Akers, Won Wron, Victoria)

    The cocoon is also covered in bristles which can penetrate the skin and break off, causing pain and irritation.

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian McMillan, Imbil, Queensland)

    The adult moth is large, with a wingspan up to 10 cms. It is brown with darker markings, and a pair of small spots on each forewing.

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    (Photo: courtesy of Susan Foyle)

    The hindwings are red toward the base, and have a black submarginal castellated marking. The sexes are similar, except that the male has stronger markings than the female, and the antennae are feathery.

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    (Photo: courtesy of Julian Robinson, Milton, New South Wales)

    The hindwings are normally covered, but are dramatically displayed when the moth is disturbed. The moth sometimes adopts an asymmetrical posture, with the abdomen bent under the wings.

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    Male, showing asymmmetric posture
    (Photo: courtesy of Neil Ramsay, New South Wales)

    The species occurs over much of the eastern Australia, including:

  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory, and
  • Victoria.

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    eggs being laid, magnified
    (Photo: courtesy of Peter Marriott, Moths of Victoria: Part 1)

    The eggs are oval and speckled brown, each with a pale circled dark spot at one end. The eggs are laid in an untidy cluster.

    Chelepteryx chalepteryx
    Male, underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Paul Kay, Anglesea, Victoria)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 13.1, p. 394.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours,
    New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 28.

    Rudolf Felder,
    Zoologischer Theil: Lepidoptera,
    Reise der Osterreichischen Fregatte Novara,
    Band 2, Abtheilung 2 (5) (1875), p. 3, and also Plate 98, fig. 10.

    Peter Hendry,
    The Anthelidae,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 50 (September 2008), pp 27-31,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Thomas P. Lucas,
    On 34 new species of Australian Lepidoptera, with additional localities,
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland,
    Volume 8 (1892), pp. 75-76.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 1,
    Silk Moths and Allies - BOMBYCOIDEA
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2008, pp. 20-21.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 4 March 2013, 13 July 2023)