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


Cebysa leucotelus (Australian Bagmoth)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Psychidae
Genus: Cebysa
Species: C. leucotelus
Binomial name: Cebysa leucotelus
Synonyms: Pitane dilecta Walker, Sezeris conflictella, Oecinea scotti Scott, Cebysa leucoteles.
Common name: Australian Bagmoth, Lichen bag moth

The Australian bagmoth is found in New Zealand and the southern half of Australia. It was first established here in New Zealand in the 1981. It was first found in Auckland but has now spread throughout most of the North Island. Being an Australian species they prefer a warm/drier climate. 

The female is a unusual moth (8 mm length) that looks like a large ladybird. She is unusual as her wings never fully expand so she cannot fly and can only make short hops. She has developed long legs so she can just run on the ground. The females are a metallic blue with orange/yellow patches. Her antennae have white tips.
Males are normal moths (16 mm wingspan, 8 mm length). They are a brown and cream colour and are speckled in colour. They do not have the metallic colours of the female. Their wings are fully developed and can fly normally. 
The adult moths emerge in late summer/autumn having spent the summer aestivating as prepupae in their larval bags. Females give off their come hither pheromone mid afternoon so around 3pm you one might see a small aggregation of males fluttering around, usually at ground level indicating that there’s a female somewhere nearby. 
Male and female moths never eat, and live only long enough to mate and produce eggs.

The larvae (caterpillar) like the other bag moths in the family Psychidae forms an untidy protective bag to live just. They are usually seen on to rocks walls, fences, houses but mainly on the ground. They drag their bag around with them with only only the head and thorax are protruding. They feeding on minute algae, moss and lichen. The bag is quite flat in cross section, up to 12mm long and about 8mm at its widest in the middle. The larvae has an off-white abdomen and a brown head and thorax which are protected by a hard chitinous shell, the abdomen is soft.
They are active right through the winter and get to maximum size in late spring early summer when they disappear until adult emergence. There’s a single generation per year.

Thanks to John Early, Curator Entomology at the Auckland War Memorial Museum for some of the above text.
Thanks also to Nature Watch members who kindly gave me permission to use their photos. 

Male (left) and female (right) moths of the species Cebysa leucotelus. Photographed at Rotorua 8 March.


A male and female have climbed a blade of grass. 


The flighless female moth. Notice the white tipped antennae. The long blue thing pointing forward is not a probosscis because they do not have one, it is her right front leg. Photographed at Palmerston North 12 March. 


The female moths 
terminal segments of the abdomen have been modified to form an long ovipositor used for depositing eggs.

A male moth with no metallic sheen and its saw-edged antennae. Photographed South Head road, Auckland 15th March


The underside of a male moth. 


The untidy case of the larvae.