Elachista catarata (Meyrick, 1897)
(also known as Atachia catarata)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

typical leaf mine of
Elachista catarata
in Carex appressa
showing frass stacked
inside at the top
(Photo: courtesy of Lauri Kaila, from Elachistine Moths of Australia)

caterpillar magnified, side view
(Photo: courtesy of Lauri Kaila,
Elachistine Moths of Australia)

The Caterpillar of this species is grey, smooth, long, and thin, with a pointed head. The caterpillar has a vague pale line along the back, accompanied along each side by a vague dark line.

caterpillar magnified, dorsal view
(Photo: courtesy of Lauri Kaila, from Elachistine Moths of Australia)

The caterpillars have been found feeding on plants in CYPERACEAE, including

  • Tall Sedge ( Carex appressa ), and
  • Drooping Sedge ( Carex longebrachiata ).

    The caterpillars bore downwards into a leaf of their foodplant creating a translucent mine, initially white but later becoming brown, between the upper and lowers skins of the leaf. The mine is initially narrow, and broadens as the caterpillar matures boring further downwards. The frass is accumulated at the top of the mine. The caterpillar grows to a length of about 1 cm. The mine reaches a length of up to 20 cms.

    naked pupa
    (Photo: courtesy of Lauri Kaila,
    Elachistine Moths of Australia)

    When the caterpillar is mature: it exits the mine and forms a naked pupa, usually facing head downwards, attached to the midrib of a leaf by a silk girdle and some hooks on the underside of the pupa. The pupa is brown with a dark line each side of the back.

    (Photo: courtesy of CSIRO/BIO Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The adult moths have dark brown wings, with a variable number of white spots on each forewing. The moths have a wingspan of about 8 mms.

    The species has been found in

  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory, and
  • Tasmania.

  • Further reading

    Lauri Kaila,
    Elachistine Moths of Australia: (Lepidoptera: Gelechioidea: Elachistidae),
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Vol. 11,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2011, pp. 17, 20, 53, 54, 61, 83-86, 256, 260, 291, 310, 311, 389,
    including Plates 3.5, 3.6, 19.1, 34.1; Figs. 62, 63, 123, 124, 336

    Edward Meyrick,
    Descriptions of Australian Microlepidoptera XVII Elachistidae,
    Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales,
    Series 2, Volume 22, Part 2 (1897), p. 338, No. 78.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (written 2 July 2017, updated 16 July 2017)