Neola semiaurata: is a member of the Notodontoidea family and is known as the Nonodontid Wattle Moth or more simply as the Wattle Moth.
When we first sighted this insect we thought that a double-headed caterpillar had been discovered. On closer examination we realised that the structure at the lower end of the caterpillar was a “pseudo-head” that came complete with eye-spots to confuse predators. When upset the caterpillar raises both its head and tail. This is when the eye-spots are revealed. Normally they are hidden under folds in the skin.
The Wattle Moth caterpillar grows to a length of about six centimetres and is pink-brown with decorative spots. The body is covered with short hairs. Avoid touching this insect as the hairs may cause skin irritation.
Neola semiaurata, as the common name implies, feeds on Acacia or Wattle foliage. We have observed caterpillars feeding on Acacia baileyana “purpurea”, Acacia filicifolia and Acacia spectabilis. The caterpillar illustrated was feeding on the foliage of Acacia spectabilis. The larvae have also been observed on a Dodonaea viscosa (Hop Bush) plant.
The larvae pupate in cocoons in the ground litter at the base of the food plant.
The moth is not as attractive as its caterpillar. The fore-wings are speckled, dark grey with pale orange hind-wings. The adult has a wingspan of about six centimetres.
The Wattle Moth occurs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
The caterpillar is a spectacular insect and is usually solitary. They do very little damage to plants so no control is necessary. In 15 years, at Yallaroo, we have only observed three Wattle Moth Caterpillars.