White Stemmed Gum Moth Caterpillar: Stinging Caterpillar from Australia

Spitfire Grub?
Location: Canberra
January 25, 2012 9:54 pm
Woud you please identify this bug, found in a dwarf snow gum on 26 January 2012 at 1100.
Signature: Bill Reid

White Stemmed Gum Moth Caterpillar

Hi Bill,
After some searching, we determined that your caterpillar is a member of the family Anthelidae.  According to the Encyclopedia of Life:  “a small family of moths restricted to Australia, New Guinea and the adjacent Aru archipelago. At present the family comprises 74 species in 8 genera described from Australia (Edwards and Fairey 1996) and 20 species from new Guinea in one endemic genus and one genus shared with Australia. However, numerous distinct species have already been identified as undescribed in museum collections such as the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC).”  Some taxonomists consider them to be closely related to the Lappet Moths and Tent Caterpillars.  We eventually identified your caterpillar as
Chelepteryx collesi, the White Stemmed Gum Moth on the Butterfly House website where we learned that “This Caterpillar is a great hazard to people climbing Gum trees. Scattered over its skin are tufts of long stiff reddish hairs, which are strong enough to penetrate human skin. When they do, they are very painful, and difficult to remove because they are barbed and brittle.”  Another bit of information from Butterfly House is:  “It is also one of the largest Caterpillars in Australia, growing in length to about 12 cms. Some trees where they may be found most years in Leichhardt are known by local school-children as ‘sausage trees’ because the Caterpillars look from the ground like sausages growing in the trees.”

Hi Daniel
Thank you so much for this information.  I have many friends here and overseas that are interested.
A great service that you provide.
Best wishes
Bill Reid

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