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Koalas beware

May 8, 2022

It seems that this is the season for large moths to appear. The recent rains have caused the Rain Moths to appear in abundance. Another moth that appears in the April/May timeframe is pictured left – a White-stemmed Gum Moth (Chelepteryx collesi). The smaller male moth is pictured. These moths, found in eastern Australia are big with the female wingspan typically being about 16cm across.

But it is the caterpillar that is fascinating. The caterpillar of the White-stemmed Gum Moth (pictured right) is one of the largest in Australia, up to 12cm long. It feeds on the leaves of various eucalypts and paperbarks. The body is covered in very sharp dark red barbed spines (pictured below) that are strong enough to pierce human skin. When touched they break off and embed themselves in the skin causing pain and localized swelling. The spines are difficult to remove.

Before pupating the caterpillar spins a double-walled silk cocoon attached to the side of a tree or in the crevice of bark. It pushes its spines through the cocoon casing to deter predators from disturbing it whilst pupating.

Who’d want to be a koala with these things in your tree.

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