the case of the camouflage caterpillar

leaf case moth crawling along a branch of the illyarrie gum tree

On the weekend I found a leaf case moth caterpillar (Hyalarcta huebneri) attached to a lawn chair next to a gum tree in my garden. I put it back on the illyarrie gum tree (Eucalyptus erythrocorys) so it could feed. Case moths are amazing insects and like to get creative with their camouflage. The caterpillars build a silken cocoon and attach bits of leaf or twigs from the food tree for protection. When disturbed they withdraw inside and pull the opening shut [1] as this one did. You can see threads of silk on the left where it was attached to the lawn chair.

after i put the case moth back on the gum tree. threads of silk on the left attached it to the lawn chair

He and she case moth lead very different lives. Females don’t metamorphose into a moth but continue living in the case as an adult and “look like a bag of eggs, with a vestigial head and some tiny legs on one end.” [2] Male case moths have all the fun, flying from food plant to food plant, looking for females to mate with.

case moth feeding on tuart. one stick on the case is longer than the rest

In summers past I found faggot case moths (Clania ignobilis) on the tuart tree (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) in my garden. All individuals of this species construct exactly the same protective cocoon with sticks the same length, except one [1] (shown in the above photo). They got their name because their case looks like a bundle of firewood, the past use of the word, rather than the more offensive newer meaning.

case moth hidden in the cocoon

I love that insects enjoy the gum trees I planted in my garden and I hope I will continue seeing them for many summers to come.

leaf case moth feeding on the illyarrie gum tree

References

  1. Horne & Crawford (2005) Backyard Insects Miegunyah Press: Melbourne (p.175)
  2. Herbison-Evans & Crossley (2014) Hyalarcta huebneri

=^.^=

6 thoughts on “the case of the camouflage caterpillar

  1. i wanna get rid of these Faggot Case Moth they are eating up all my plants and have killed so many plants as they eat up all the leaves I have hundreds of them growing in my garden. plssssss help its an emergency

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