T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Caterpillar of the Tropical Armyworm moth (Spodoptera litura)

Kingdom:   Animalia 
Phylum:        Arthropoda 
Class:        Insecta 
Order:    Lepidoptera 
Family:      Noctuidae 
Genus:        Spodoptera 
Species:    S. litura 
Binomial name: Spodoptera litura 
Synonyms: Noctua litura, Noctua histrionica, Noctua elata, Prodenia ciligera, Prodenia tasmanica, Prodenia subterminalis. 
Common names: NZ Tropical Armyworm moth, Oriental Leafworm Moth, Cluster caterpillar moth, Cotton leafworm moth, Tobacco cutworm moth, Tropical armyworm moth. 

Spodoptera litura is a Noctuid moth and is an agricultural pest. It is found in the Indo-Australian tropics. It is also established on most Polynesian islands where it occurs in a variety of island forms. In New Zealand it is known only in the North Island, causing sporadic damage in Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Manawatu regions. The moths are strongly attracted to lights.

Spodoptera litura has grey to reddish-brown forewings with a complex pattern of creamy streaks and paler lines along the veins. The hind wings are greyish white with grey margins. It is a mid-size moth with a length of 15-20 mm and the wingspan from 30-38 mm. 
The female lays 100-300 eggs in masses on the upper surfaces of leaves and then covers them with hair scales from her body. The egg masses are 4-7 mm in diameter and cream to golden brown. They hatch in 3-5 days. It takes about 25 days from egg to moth. There can be 3 generations per year. The larvae and pupae overwinter in burrows in the soil.
The caterpillars (50 mm in length) are variable in colour starting a pale green and turning dark green to brown to grey, with black and white markings on the back. There are two conspicuous longitudinal yellow stripes along the back and sides. They feed on a wide range of plants and been recorded from over 40 mostly dicotyledonous plant families. This international pest can strip broadleaf plants such as clover, lucerne, plantain and chicory They also feed on many garden plants including lettuce, cabbage, kumara, beetroot, silverbeet, beans, fuchsias, strawberry, celery, tomatoes and sweetcorn. It takes about 25 days from egg to moth. There can be 3 generations per year. The larvae and pupae overwinter in burrows in the soil.]

A photo of a Spodoptera litura caterpillar with its distinctive colouration.

The caterpillar's moth

Moth resting with wings held against its body.

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/