Abantiades atripalpis (Walker, 1856)
Bardee or Bardy or Bardi Grub, and Rain Moth or Waikerie
(formerly known as Trictena atripalpis)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

(Photo: courtesy of Fiona Murdoch, University of Ballarat)

This Caterpillar is a great favorite of fishermen, being a great bait for fishing. The common name of "Bardee","Bardi","Badee", or "Bargi" grub is more strictly the larva of the beetle Bardistus cibarius, although Bardi is also used generally for the larvae of Cerambycid Beetles, as well as various ground dwelling and wood boring moth larvae, including that of Abantiades atripalpis. They all make good bait for fishing.

The caterpillars of this particular species live in tunnels in the ground where they feed on the roots of adjacent Australian native trees, such as :

  • Belah ( Casuarina pauper, CASUARINACEAE ), and
  • Red Gum ( Eucalyptus camaldulensis, MYRTACEAE ).

    empty pupal case
    (Photo: courtesy of Dianne Clarke, Cunnamulla, Queensland)

    The caterpillars pupate in their tunnel. They partly extrude their pupa from the tunnel for the adult moth to emerge.

    empty pupal case sticking out of the mouth of the tunnel
    (Photo: courtesy of Joel Catchlove, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia)

    When the adults take off, they leave the empty pupal case sticking out of the ground.



    (Photos: copyright of Brett and Marie Smith, at Ellura Sanctuary, South Australia)

    The moths have grey-brown wings, often with two ragged silver flash markings across each forewing. The forewings often also show intricate sinuous patterns of pale lines. The wingspan of the males can reach 16 cms. That of the females can reach 23 cms.

    The adult females deposit large numbers of eggs. Indeed, this species holds the World Fecundity Record, for the greatest number of eggs being deposited by a non-social insect. One dissected female had 44,100 eggs. It is thought that the eggs are laid in flight, just being scattered across the ground.

    The moths have tripectinate antennae.

    head, showing tripectinate antennae
    (Photo: courtesy of Robin Sharp, Victoria)

    The moths are famous for being able to predict rain. In some areas in autumn, the moths appear on only one night each year, yet all appear together in droves, and always just a few hours before a major downpour in that area. Perhaps the rain helps wash the scattered eggs into crevices in the ground, as well as dormant seeds to germinate, so that after the eggs hatch: the young caterpillars can easily find roots on which to feed.

    (Photo: courtesy of Ethan Beaver, Cherry Gardens, South Australia)

    The species is found across the whole southern half of Australia, including:

  • southern Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    male, underside
    (Photo: copyright of Brett and Marie Smith, at Ellura Sanctuary, South Australia)

    Many people have wondered about rearing the caterpillars commercially. This could be possible if one could catch a gravid female, and provide the larvae with an artificial food medium, perhaps like the bark/clover/carrot diet used by Rachel A. Allan et al. for rearing Wiseana copularis.

    male (nearer) and female (further)
    (Photo: courtesy of Lorraine Jenkins, Port Lincoln, South Australia)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 17.1, p. 149.

    Axel Kallies,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 6,
    Ghost Moths - HEPIALIDAE and Allies
    Entomological Society of Victoria,
    2015, pp. 12-13, 24-25.

    Peter B. McQuillan, Jan A. Forrest, David Keane, & Roger Grund,
    Caterpillars, moths, and their plants of Southern Australia,
    Butterfly Conservation South Australia Inc., Adelaide (2019), pp. 36-37.

    Thomas J. Simonsen,
    Splendid Ghost Moths and their Allies,
    A Revision of Australian Abantiades, Oncopera, Aenetus, Archaeoaenetus and Zelotypia (Hepialidae),
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Volume 12,
    CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, 2018, pp. 43-46, 48, 51, 54-55, 58, 60, 92-95, 196, 217, 237, Plate 17: figs. A, B, C, Plate 45: fig. F.

    Francis Walker,
    Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 7 (1856), p. 1577, No. 3.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 42.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 3 September 2013, 20 June 2018, 31 March 2019, 27 April 2022)