Lactura sapotearum (Swainson, 1851)
(formerly known as Physicampa sapotearum)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

(Photo: courtesy of Lyn Ford, Dorrigo, New South Wales)

The Caterpillars of this species have built in balloons. There are two large white patches on each side of the body, and when the caterpillar is disturbed, these are inflated. It also then exudes a very sticky substance. Otherwise the animals are grey with two tubercles on the back of each segment.

(Photo: courtesy of Lyn Ford, Dorrigo, New South Wales)

These are yellow on most segments except in early instars they are red on the middle two segments. There are two red or yellow horns on the prothorax and on the last abdominal segment.

(Photo: courtesy of John Lahey, Brisbane, Queensland)

The caterpillars feed openly by day on plants in SAPOTACEAE including

  • Black Apple ( Planchonella australis ), and
  • Yellow Boxwood ( Planchonella pohlmaniana ).

    (Photo: courtesy of John Lahey, Brisbane, Queensland)

    They pupate in crevices of the bark of the food tree in stiff white cocoons.

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

    The adult moth has red forewings with dark veins, and with yellow markings along the costa, and at the wingtip and tornus. The hindwings are plain scarlet. The abdomen is also scarlet. The males are rather paler than the females. The wingspan is about 4 cms.

    (Photo: courtesy of Dianne Clarke, Mapleton, Queensland)

    The species occurs in

  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.

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

    This species was originally described by Alexander Scott in the manuscript of a book based on the drawings of his daughters: Harriet and Helena, to be published in three volumes. The whole book was reviewed pre-publication by their friend William Swainson in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', with some brief descriptions of the species covered in the book, including Physicampa sapotearum. Sadly Alexander never managed to get Volume 3 printed, so the honour of first describing this species in print goes to William Swainson.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia, Melbourne University Press, 1990, pls. 7.21, 24.14, 24,15, p. 298.

    Peter Hendry,
    At the Light Trap,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club
    Newsletter, Issue 48 (March 2008), pp. 9-11.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 100.

    Alexander Walker Scott, Harriet Scott, and Helena Scott,
    Physicampa sapotearum Scott, and Brachyptila vitulina Donovan,
    Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations,
    Volume 3 (1840-1869), Plate 30.

    William Swainson,
    Review: Australian Lepidoptera and their Transformations, by Harriet, Helena and A.W. Scott,
    Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 1851, p. 2.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 17 December 2011, 7 July 2018, 21 April 2022)