Magpie Moth – Nyctemera annulata – Mokarakara

Stu MacPherson sent in this photograph

Stu MacPherson sent in this photograph

Thanks to Stu MacPherson for this photograph of the Magpie Moth sharing Ragwort with a bumble bee, also of larvae (below) on Ragwort:

Magpie Moth larvae

The information below was compiled by Norm Twigge.

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Lepidoptera
Superfamily
Noctuoidea
Family
Arctiidae
Genus
Nyctemera
Species
annulata
Description
A native, day-flying velvety black moth with white spots on all four wings, with orange and black-banded body. Has a weak fluttering flight of short distances only. Wingspan about 40 mm. Often mistaken for a butterfly. An almost identical Australian moth (Nyctemera amica), found in NZ, has slightly larger white spots on the wings, and in some areas has been found interbreeding with the native moth to produce hybrids.
Abundance
Reasonably common
Distribution
Widespread
Reproduction
Quick mating period, with eggs being laid two hours later.
Male/female
There is no colouration or wing marking differences between sexes.
Host plant(s)
Ragwort, rangiora, cineraria, groundsel
Egg
The eggs are laid in batches, hemispherical and glossy yellow, becoming dark just before hatching in 6-7 days.
Larva
Commonly known as ‘woolly bears’, the caterpillars are black and hairy with reddish lines along their length. Reach about 40 mm in length.
Pupa
The black pupae are spotted with yellow and enclosed in silken cocoons, often in ground refuse, under loose bark or in crevices.
Metamorphosis - Adult
The complete cycle to adult takes 6-7 weeks
Predators
Praying mantis, wasps
Parasites
The Australian self-introduced white spotted Ichneumon wasp (Echthromorpha intricatoria) attacks the pupae, while two species of tachinid flies attack the larvae
Interesting notes
Both caterpillar and moth are poisonous to lizards and birds, the shining cuckoo being an exception.
References
New Zealand Insects and their story – R Scharell; Common Insects in New Zealand – D Miller; The Butterflies and Common Moths of N.Z. – DE Gaskin. Notes compiled by Norm Twigge