Saunders Case Moth: Cocoons In My Garden

cocoon Melbourne garden

Saunders Case Moth Metura elongatus

What do they look like?

Usually all you see is the cocoon. But if you know your Melbourne garden well, you will find that the cocoon moves frequently – not necessarily while you are watching, but over a few days.

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For most mothsr and butterflies the cocoon is just a temporary shelter while they turn from caterpillar to adult. But this moth is different. The female never develops wings, and never leaves her cocoon. She can live in there for 2 years! When she moves only her front half comes out of the cocoon and she drags it along behind her.

If she feels disturbed she will quickly retreat inside the cocoon.

The males are not often seen. He does eventually leave his cocoon as a moth with wings, and then flies around for a short time until he can find a female. He mates with her through the cocoon, then dies soon after. He’s quite an extraordinary-looking moth, with a long fuzzy abdomen banded in orange and black, and short black wings that don’t look big enough to carry him.

If you see one in your garden, don’t worry. They are not voracious and don’t destroy plants. If you want to prune a bush and the case moth is in the way, don’t wait for her to move on. Just snip off that branch, move her to a more suitable spot. You can’t pull the cocoon off the branch – its very strong and you might hurt her.

What do they eat?

They feed on a wide variety of Australian native and introduced plants, including Eucalyptus (gum-trees), Epacris (native heath) and Silver Wattle Acacia dealbata.

Where do they live?

They are common in the suburbs of Melbourne and Werribee.

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How are they going?

Not known.

Read more about Saunders Case Moth here:

http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/psyc/elongatus.html

See great pictures here: https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:07c53617-7d4b-4256-9c96-f6f84d64afcd#gallery

Other creatures you could confuse them with:

The case moth family Psychidae is huge – 180 species in Australia, and over 1000 worldwide. So if you see a similar cocoon, but with a different arrangement of sticks on the surface, it may be worth taking a picture.

This is part of a series “What’s In My Backyard? Flora & Fauna around Melbourne & Geelong, Victoria Australia” run by Koala Clancy Foundation in response to COVID-19. Koala Clancy Foundation is a koala-focussed charity based around the You Yangs, Victoria. A large part of our mission is local education, about koalas and all their animals and plants that live with them. Due to the coronavirus we can’t conduct our regular, educational Koala Conservation Days, so we are bringing that information online.

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