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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Caterpillar of the Black Slug Cup Moth

I came across this spectacular looking black spiky caterpillar on some eucalyptus leaf while collecting fodder for Koalas in care this week. I haven't seen this caterpillar before and had to take a photo to identify it when I got home.  

The Black Slug Cup Moth (Doratifera casta) is a black and white caterpillar with cream spikes.  Four of the spikes on the thorax produce rosettes of cream stinging hairs if the caterpillar is disturbed (I didn't realize this when taking the pic and obviously I didn't upset it to see this reactive warning).  The caterpillars are named so because they move like slugs and their legs are small.  They are often found on a wide range of eucalyptus trees, bottle brush, water gum, bush box and wattles.  When the caterpillars hatch they feed communally and sit on the leaf surface together, initially only eating the surface layer of the leaf. Later they separate to having a leaf for themselves.  The moth itself, (like most spectacular caterpillars) is a simple brown shiny moth with a wingspan of around 30mm and can be easily mistaken for other cup moths.

These caterpillars, while very pretty, can strip eucalyptus trees until they are almost bare (certainly not a friend to the koala).  I placed this one back in the bush so it can continue on.

J.G.


Black Slug Cup Moth (Doratifera casta) 18/02/15

Black Slug Cup Moth (Doratifera casta) 18/02/15