Cup Moths (Family Limacodidae)
The larvae of Doratifera stenora form tight clusters on the leaves of Spotted Mangrove, Rhizophora stylosa. Sir Joseph Banks was stung by these caterpillars at Bustard Bay in 1770. He described them as ‘wrathful militia’. The larva of Doratifera vulnerans with its clusters of stinging spines expanded. These cupmoth caterpillars are sometimes called ‘Chinese junks’. The caterpillar of a species of Calcarifiera that feeds on wattles (Acacia spp.). The tough, gumnut-like cocoon of Doratifera ochoptila. An adult cup moth, Doratifera stenora
The colourful, sluglike larvae of cup moths can deliver a painful sting and are among the few venomous caterpillars. They usually have many short spines, either scattered over the body, or in dense, expandable clusters on tubercles. Each spine is hollow and filled with venom produced by a gland at the base. On contact with skin the tip of the spines break as they penetrate the skin, injecting the venom.
The Medical Entomology Department at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Westmead Hospital has more information about the clinical aspects of cup moth caterpillar stings.
Sir Joseph Banks was the first to record cup moth caterpillars in Australia. On Captain James Cook’s first voyage to Australia he was stung by them in the mangroves at Bustard Bay near the present-day town of 1770 in central Queensland.
Cup moths get their common name from the tough cocoons spun by the caterpillars when they pupate. These are often attached to the twigs of eucalypts. The adult moth emerges from the cocoon by pushing out a circular cap. The now empty cocoon closely resembles a eucalypt ‘gumnut’.
There are numerous Australian cup moth species whose caterpillars feed on a wide range of plants including eucalypts, paperbarks, wattles, guava and apricot trees and mangroves.
The adult moths are stout-bodied and rather drab.
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