Young processionary caterpillars emerging from the egg mass, which is made from their mother’s abdominal tuft scales (white fluff). These caterpillars are in their 2nd instar stage and will later build a nest. They continue to live socially until their final stages of being a caterpillar!
3rd instar processionary caterpillar cohort feeding on Acacia fimbriata. The younger stage caterpillars feed during the day and older stages feed at night. The black spot on the abdominal surface are tightly packed with urticating microscopic hairs (setae). These setae are only found from 3rd instar larvae onward and progressively increases in density and surface area until the last larval stage (8th instar). Even though these caterpillars are small (~6mm) they will cause an allergic reaction if the setae comes in contact with exposed skin surfaces.
Older stage processionary caterpillars on a ‘gum’ tree (Corymbia tessellaris), one of the main host plants. Processionary caterpillars that feed on Corymbia tessellaris have a tree-hugger nest, which can be difficult to spot since it is well camouflaged. Windy conditions like this can be a hazard since setae can become airborne – always wear protective clothing if you are handling or going near these caterpillars.
Older stage processionary caterpillars travelling in a procession to feed on the leaves of their host Acacia sp. tree. The caterpillars were coated with pink fluorescent dust to increase visibility.
Two female moths newly emerged from their pupal case. The wings look deformed but that is because air hasn’t been pumped into the wings yet. In a few hours the wings will expand fully and the moths will be ready to fly, mate, and find a suitable host tree to lay her eggs (see next video). These female moths emerged from pupae of ground-nesting caterpillars, you can tell by the white coloured anal tuft scales (compare next video).
Female moth covering her eggs with anal tuft scales to protect them from predators and the environment. The anal tuft covers 1/3 of the female’s body and she will use all of it to cover her eggs. This moth emerged from a pupa of a tree-hugger nesting caterpillar, you can tell by looking at the colour of the egg mass. If the egg mass is golden like this one it was a tree-hugger, trunk or canopy caterpillar and if it is white it’s a ground nesting caterpillar (see previous video).