Alice Springs Desert Park

ASDP Butterflies & MothsBanksia Moth – Caterpillar Caper White Butterfly Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus ssp sthenelus) Day Flying Moth / Mistletoe Moth Heliotrope Moth (Utetheisa pulchelloides) Noctuinae (Caterpillar) Processionary Caterpillar

At certain times of the year, one of the insect species that is seen in the desert park and around Central, is the Australia Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae).

A fairly large caterpillar, growing up to 6 cms long, this caterpillar is quite beautiful in appearance. The head capsule and body are a shade of brown to yellowish-brown (sometimes almost caramel in colour). The sides of the body have different size white patches and dots along the length, and a white patch at the other end. There is a white line along the top length of the body.

Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae), Alice Springs Desert Park NT
Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae), Alice Springs Desert Park NT

There is colour variation through the different instars, in particular the early instars are more yellow then white. The early instars appear to have large heads, and sparse thick black hairs, losing many of the thick hairs in subsequent instars lose. The caterpillar grows to a length of 6 cms.

The larvae are found feeding on the leaves of Banksia, Grevillea, Hakea and Dryandra. Pictured here, the caterpillar is feeding on the Long Leaved Corkwood (Hakea lorea).

Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae), Alice Springs Desert Park NT
Banksia Moth caterpillar feeding on Long Leaved Corkwood, Alice Springs Desert Park NT

The caterpillar have the habit of curling back the head end when disturbed (possibly a defence posture). The head and thorax are raised so that the “true legs” (caterpillars have 3 pairs of “true legs” that are attached to the thorax) are pointed forwards.

The other legs are known as “prolegs”. The Psalidostetha banksiae have 5 pairs of prolegs, that are used for walking and clinging. The last pair of prolegs (on the abdominal segment) are known as “claspers”.

Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae), Alice Springs Desert Park NT
Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae), Alice Springs Desert Park NT
Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae), Alice Springs Desert Park NT
Banksia Moth caterpillar (Psalidostetha banksiae), Alice Springs Desert Park NT

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Hexapoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Informal: Pterygotes
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Unranked: Ditrysia
  • Superfamily: Noctuoidea
  • Family: Notodontidae
  • Subfamily: Notodontinae
  • Genus: Psalidostetha
  • Species: Psalidostetha banksiae

Footnote & References

  1. Psalidostetha banksiae, iNaturalist, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/859879-Psalidostetha-banksiae
  2. Psalidostetha banksiae (Lewin, 1805), Atlas of Living Australia, https://bie.ala.org.au/species/https://biodiversity.org.au/afd/taxa/6c6df706-601f-4649-a989-5887a76c22db
  3. Psalidostetha banksiae (Lewin, 1805), Banksia Moth, Coffs Harbour Butterfly House, http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/noto/banksiae.html
  4. Banksia moth, Psalidostetha banksiae (Danima banksia), Agrobase, https://agrobaseapp.com/australia/pest/banksia-moth

ASDP Butterflies & MothsBanksia Moth – Caterpillar Caper White Butterfly Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus ssp sthenelus) Day Flying Moth / Mistletoe Moth Heliotrope Moth (Utetheisa pulchelloides) Noctuinae (Caterpillar) Processionary Caterpillar

ASDP InsectsASDP Ants ASDP Opisthopsis sp ASDP Bees Amegilla chlorocyanea Bee Braunsapis sp Exoneurella eremophila Bee Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) Mating Lasioglossum (Homalictus) ASDP Beetles Bush Cockroach (Ellipsidion humarale) Snout Beetle (Lixus) Transverse Ladybird ASDP Butterflies & Moths Banksia Moth – Caterpillar Caper White Butterfly Chequered Swallowtail (Papilio demoleus ssp sthenelus) Day Flying Moth / Mistletoe Moth Heliotrope Moth (Utetheisa pulchelloides) Noctuinae (Caterpillar) Processionary Caterpillar ASDP Diptera Bee Fly (Australiphthiria sp) Bee Fly (Ligyra cingulata) ASDP Hemiptera / Heteroptera Crusader Bug (Mictis profana) Ground Shield Bug ASDP Orthoptera ASDP Katydid (Taeniomenae) ASDP Wasps Potter Wasp Torymus Chalcid Wasp ASDP Tropidoderus gracilifemur

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Alice Springs Desert ParkFauna Flora Nature Theatre Nocturnal House