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


Austramathes purpurea (Small-Eyed Owlet moth)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Noctuidae
Genus: Austramathes
Species: A. purpurea
Binomial name: Austramathes purpurea
Synonyms: Graphiphora purpurea, Xanthia ceramodes
Common name: Small-Eyed Owlet

Austramathes purpurea is a species of moth in the Noctuidae family and is endemic to New Zealand. It is found in the forests of both the North and the South Islands. It has not been recorded on Stewart Island. Adults can be found on the wing during the months of September until April. They are attracted to lights.
The wingspan of the male Austramathes purpurea is 29 - 37mm whereas the wingspan of the female is 29 - 41mm. They have a strong purplish tinge to their forewings.

New Zealand's distinguished pioneer naturalists George Vernon Hudson (1891-1946) described this species as follows: The expansion of the wings is 1 1/2 inches. The forewings are rich, glossy reddish-brown with several scattered whitish scales; there is a distinct yellow mark on the costa at about one-fourth, forming the beginning of a broken transverse line; the orbicular is small, round and yellowish; the reniform is small, crescentic and yellowish, the space between the orbicular and the reniform is very dark blackish-brown; beyond the reniform there is a conspicuous white mark on the costa forming the beginning of a second broken transverse line; a third shaded line is situated near the termen. The hind-wings are pale brown with a dark spot in the middle, very conspicuous on the under surface.

The caterpillars of this species are green with yellow-orange, black and pink markings. The yellow-orange spots are distinctive to this species. The host plants they feed on is Melicytus ramiflorus (māhoe) and Melicytus lanceolatus (Narrow-leaved mahoe). Pupation is in a strong silken cocoon amongst moss (Hudson 1928; Gaskin 1966b). 

A photo of showing the moth's forewings distinctive reddish-brown colour and the presence of several scattered whitish scales.
 



The caterpillar of Austramathes purpurea.




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