Doratifera quadriguttata (Walker, 1855)
Four-spotted Cup Moth
(one synonym : Doratiophora lewini Scott, 1864)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Doratifera quadriguttata

These Caterpillars sting. This caterpillar is green with a delicate pattern of pink markings and paired black and pale green spots along its back. The patterned skin is raised into eight knobs: four at the front and four at the back. There is a black spot on each side of the caterpillar between each pair of segments that have knobs.

Red stinging hairs are protruded from the four at the front on the thorax when the caterpillar is disturbed. In this way, this caterpillar can be distinguished from those of other species of Doratifera, which additionally have four sets of stinging hairs on the rear of the abdomen.

Doratifera quadriguttata
(Photo: courtesy of David Akers, Won Wron, Victoria)

Along the sides of the caterpillar are green fleshy spikes, like a skirt. The anterior spikes are reddish. The caterpillars normally keep their head hidden, only rearing up infrequently. The caterpillars move like slugs because their legs are reduced.

Doratifera quadriguttata
(Photo: courtesy of Allan Pratt, Brisbane, Queensland)

The caterpillars have been recorded as feeding on:

  • Wattles ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ),
  • Gum Trees ( Eucalyptus, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Water Gum ( Tristaniopsis laurina, MYRTACEAE ),
  • Brush Box ( Lophostemon confertus, MYRTACEAE ), and
  • Stilted Mangrove ( Rhizophora stylosa, RHIZOPHORACEAE ).

    The caterpillars grow to length of about 2 cms.

    Doratifera quadriguttata
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney

    The pupa is enclosed in a strong woody cocoon, spun between leaves. It is oval with a small cap at one end. When the moth emerges, the pupal case is left in the cocoon, with the cap hinged to one side.

    Doratifera quadriguttata
    (Photo: courtesy of Graeme Cocks, Townsville, Queensland)

    The adults are a uniform brown colour, with a row of two or four or more black dots across each forewing. The moths have a wingspan of about 3 cms. They are very similar to the adults of Doratifera casta, but the caterpillars are entirely different.

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

    The eggs of this species are laid in clusters of 40 or so, and are covered by hair by the mother moth.

    Doratifera quadriguttata
    (Photo: courtesy of Graeme Cocks, Townsville, Queensland)

    The species has been found in

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

    Doratifera quadriguttata
    Doratifera quadriguttata vs Shining Bronze-Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx lucidus)
    Who said these caterpillars sting?
    (Photo: courtesy of Ged Tranter, Brisbane, Queensland)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, figs. 29.2, 52.12, pl. 25.4, pp. 67, 69, 302.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours,
    New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 61.

    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), p. 76.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 104.

    Francis Walker,
    Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 5 (1855), pp. 1117-1118.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 15 November 2012, 18 May 2023)