Mocis frugalis Fabricius, 1775
Sugarcane Looper
(one synonym : Chalciope lycopodia Geyer, 1837)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

(Photo: courtesy of Donna Tomkinson, Cooroy, Queensland)

These Caterpillars are initially pale green, becoming brown in later instars, with vague stripes along the body, and with narrow black bands between the segments.

close-up of head
(Photo: courtesy of Donna Tomkinson, Cooroy, Queensland)

The caterpillars are missing two pairs of prolegs, and so they move in a looper fashion.

(Photo: courtesy of J.R. Agnew, Australian Sugarcane Pests, Bureau of the Sugar Experiment Stations, Indooroopilly)

The caterpillars feed on plants in the family POACEAE, including

  • various Grasses,

    and are an agricultural pest on:

  • Sugar Cane ( Saccharum officinarum ),
  • Sorghum ( Sorghum bicolor ),
  • Oats ( Avena species ), and
  • Rice ( Oryza sativa ).

    The caterpillars have also been found on plants in other families including

  • Typhonium species ( ARACEAE ),
  • Cyperus species ( CYPERACEAE ), and
  • Glycine species ( FABACEAE ).

    (Photo: courtesy of Donna Tomkinson, Cooroy, Queensland)

    The caterpillars pupate in a sparse white cocoon in a twisted leaf or in the leaf litter.

    naked empty slightly bent pupa
    (Photo: courtesy of Donna Tomkinson, Cooroy, Queensland)

    The pupa is brown with a length of about 2 cms.

    The adult moth is brown with a variable markings including a diagonal dark line with a pale edge across each wing, and a small black dot near the base on the hind margin of each forewing. The wingspan is about 4 cms.

    female with fans extended
    (Photo: courtesy of John Stumm)

    The adult females appear to have hairy fans beside the head which can be opened. These fans probably disperse pheromones to attract males.

    close-up of the underside of the head showing fans and coilded probiscus
    (Photo: courtesy of John Stumm)

    The adult moths have a coiled haustellum under the head, which they can uncoil, and with which they can pierce fruit to suck the juice, and sip nectar from flowers.

    The species is found across Asia and the Pacific, including :

  • Borneo,
  • China,
  • French Polynesia,
  • India,

    as well as in Australia in

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

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

    The eggs are spherical with ribs, and are green with purple markings.

    A similar species, Mocis proverai that has been confused with Mocis frugalis, is found in the Middle East and Africa. It differs mainly in the genitalia.

    Further reading :

    J.R. Agnew (ed.),
    Australian Sugarcane Pests,
    Bureau of the Sugar Experiment Stations (Indooroopilly) 1997, pp. 54-55.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pp. 65, 452.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    VI Glossata, Noctua,
    Systema Entomologiae,
    Flensburgi et Lipsiae : Kortii xxxii, p. 601, No. 45.

    Buck Richardson,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2008, pp. 5, 25.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 144.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 21 September 2008, 25 May 2018, 6 October 2020)