By: Michael Fox


In June 2013 a young neighbour Liam knocked on my door with an moth caterpillar in a box. A Large Anthelid Moth – Anthela canescens caterpillar.


I learnt a lot studying Liam’s caterpillar particularly about defense mechanisms. The Anthela canescens has non-envenomating (no venom) hairs that produce a mechanical irritation on contact. The hairs are fragile and easily dislodged from the caterpillar, they adhere to the surface of skin when the caterpillar is contacted.

Other moth caterpillars like the curious Mottled Cup Moth caterpillar Doratifera vulnerans have more active defenses with venomous spines they deploy along their sides like a galleon running out its canons. The venom is not dangerous but does pack a sting if you brush against the caterpillar.

So I was pleased to find a Large Anthelid Moth yesterday. So I now know what Liam’s caterpillar would grow into.


Large Anthelid Moth plumose antennae



I was fascinated by the moth’s “furry” plumose antennae.




Close-up showing antennae hairs




“There are many variations in both the shape and the amount of bristles in plumose antennae. In moths, the plumose antennae of the males act as chemoreceptors and enable them to detect pheremones given off by the female. The hairs on each antenna significantly increases the receptive surface area so that even the most minute chemical changes in the environment can be detected.”

University of Sydney Biological Sciences 

I have updated the Flora & Fauna files.

Check what other moths are found in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.



By: Michael Fox

Anthela canescens 2 - 8 June 2013

Large Anthelid Moth – Anthela canescens
(head to left)

I am often asked what keeps me with the huge job of engaging our community in restoration of Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

Today I realised that one thing that keeps me going is the sense of achievement when a young neighbour knocks on my door with a native snail or today a moth caterpillar in a box. When I was Liam’s age I was inspired by David Fleay’s nature notes in the Courier Mail, so I feel honoured to have to opportunity to help another young naturalist.

Anthela canescens - feet & prolegs - 8 June 2013

True legs and prolegs

I have added this new specimen to Flora and Fauna of Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve crediting Liam.

Every time I find a new animal or plant, or have them arrive at my door, I learn something new as I work through identification and take close-up photos.

Anthela canescens - feet close - 8 June 2013

Prolegs gripping plastic box

Brisbane Insects (see photos of moth) and Lepidoptera Butterfly House are two valuable sites for identification of moths and butterflies.

My wife took one look at this specimen and said it looks like a Chinese Shih Tzu … all hair and attitude.

Anthela canescens - wiskers - 8 June 2013

Black spine like hairs

Macro-photos of the caterpillar legs shows the dramatic difference between the true legs attached to the thorax near the head and the prolegs attached to the abdomen. The prolegs look like large pads for gripping while the true legs look like something from a science fiction monster.

A close up photo of the hairy monster showed clusters of black spine like hairs growing out of bright yellow balls. These non-envenomating (no venom) hairs produced a mechanical irritation on contact. The hairs are fragile and easily dislodged from the caterpillar, they adhere to the surface of skin when the caterpillar is contacted. (Uni Sydney Department of Medical Entomology – Caterpillars)

The addition of Liam’s specimen means we now have twenty seven different moths photographed and identified and living in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.