Here’s another photo from deepest, darkest Ashby, near Maclean. Peter asked me to ID this strange leafy thing (all the photos of the lichen monster below are Peter’s). I initially thought it might be some sort of lichen fruiting body, but he said it definitely moved around so was probably an insect. A quick request to the Queensland Museum revealed something interesting.
It’s the caterpillar of a moth of the genus Enispa.
Dr Christine Lambkin, Curator of Terrestrial Biodiversity (Entomology), identified it for us. In 2012 she had written an article about it the Entomological Society of Queensland News Bulletin (Lambkin, C. L., Edwards, E. D. & Buckingham, C. ( 2012) Another Enispa (Walker) (Lepidoptera: Erebidae: Aventiini) for Brisbane? News Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Queensland 40, 40-42).
One had been brought into the museum by a member of the public and at that stage its exact ID was unknown, although it was clearly a caterpillar of some kind. The only way to be sure was to feed it, let it grow to maturity and see what it turned into. The eventual pupa hung suspended off a leaf and produced a brown moth. If you can track down the article, you will see a photo of both pupa and moth. (Sorry, I can’t reproduce those photos here as they are copyrighted.)
The entomologists at the museum concluded that ‘it was an unnamed but recognised species of Enispa found from Brisbane to Maclean’. These caterpillars are thought to ‘feed on lichens, the larvae camouflaging themselves with a covering of lichen fragments that are used later to form their cocoons’.
Mazza in Copmanhurst recently sent me photos of some other larvae, this time casemoths.
Once again, it’s impossible to tell what it is unless you feed it (noticing what it eats in the wild) until it pupates and turns into a moth. You can see photos of quite a variety of other Australian casemoths here. I’ve posted a photo of a different casemoth before.
It’s another case (sorry!) of a small thing that produces big interest.