Olive-backed Orioles foraging on the ground

To: "Dr Richard Nowotny" <>, <>
Subject: Olive-backed Orioles foraging on the ground
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 00:53:47 +1000
There have been many comments on the Canberra birds list about cuckoos feeding 
on the ground on caterpillars recently. Most of the discussion was about the 
identity of the caterpillars. As below. I would think that if there are lots of 
these or another similar one about, they would entice orioles to the ground.


By way of summary I'm forwarding a message about the Apina callisto caterpillar 
we're seeing and whose habits Rosemary has described so beautifully.

There is also info on another caterpillar we may find in numbers in our 
grasslands in Spring.



Dear COGs,

This Spring there have been numerous people interested in the caterpillars so 
prevalent in native grasslands and disturbed areas.

They are the larvae of Apina callisto, sometimes called a pasture day moth, and 
belong in the family Noctuidae and the subfamily Agaristinae.

The larvae feed over winter on herbaceous plants (daisies, cape weed and the 
like) in the grasslands becoming large and noticeable in September when they 
will dig into the soil to pupate. They remain as a pupa in the soil over the 
summer and the adult moths emerge about the first week of April. The adult 
moths are day flying and fly rapidly over the grasslands in full sunshine. The 
females lay their eggs on bare soil, rubbing each egg into the soil and coating 
it with dust.

The large numbers this Spring are possibly partially the result of the rains of 
late February producing some green feed for the larvae when they hatched.

The moth is found very widely across southern Australia in semi-arid areas with 
Canberra close to about the eastern limit of its range.

Pictures of adult moths may be viewed on or go to  and select Noctuidae and then Agaristinae.

There are two grassland species with larvae which can occur in large numbers in 
Spring, the other is Pterolocera sp. in the family Anthelidae which feeds as a 
larva on grass but is only found in relatively undisturbed native grasslands 
dominated by Austrodanthonia or/and Austrostipa. It is not in Kangaroo-grass 
grasslands. This has a very hairy larva and is probably not the one most COG 
members are seeing.

Attached is a photo recently sent to me of the larva of Apina callisto to 
compare with those you remember seeing.


Ted Edwards

CSIRO Entomology

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