Summary Top

Grass anthelid is a strikingly hairy caterpillar that feeds on grasses and can damage all cereals. Larvae often feed on grasses and numbers usually build up in pastures; consequently inspect the edges of susceptible paddocks of cereal crops. It is considered a minor, restricted and irregular pest widely distributed across southern Australia.

Associated with roadside vegetation or neighbouring pastures and can move into crops in late winter/early spring.

Occurrence Top

The grass anthelid is a widely distributed Lepidopteran native to Australia and found in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia. It is considered a minor and restricted pest that occurs irregularly.

Description Top

Larvae of this genus are sometimes called “woolly bear caterpillars”. They are brown with black, fawn and yellow markings and covered with tufts of stout hairs. The hairs can sometimes cause skin irritation. They can grow to 50 mm in length. Male moths are buff fawn with brown markings and have large feathered antennae and a wingspan of 30-40 mm. Female adults are approximately 20 mm, dark brown in colour, hairy and flightless with only vestigial wings. Little is known about the taxonomy of the Pterolocera genus.

Grass anthelid caterpillars collected from wheat. Photo by SARDI
Grass anthelid caterpillars collected from wheat. Photo by SARDI

Lifecycle Top

Grass anthelids have one generation per year. Caterpillar numbers increase in winter in grasslands or pastures before invading crops. The later instar larvae are the most damaging to crops. Grass anthelid larvae spin a dark brown cocoon in a vertical shaft in the soil. The emergence exit is just below the surface in the form of a silk tube leading to the surface. Adult female moths are flightless.

Behaviour Top

In situations where anthelid densities are high, caterpillars will form a frontal band moving across a pasture leaving it completely bare behind them.

Similar to Top

Unlikely to be confused with other caterpillars that damage cereal crops because of their conspicuously hairy appearance.

Crops attacked Top

All cereals and grass pasture.

Damage Top

When grass anthelids move into the edges of cereal crops in late winter/early spring they can cause defoliation of plants.

Larva attacking cereal. Photo by SARDI

Monitor Top

Little is known about this pest. To monitor, inspect the edges of susceptible paddocks adjacent to grasslands, pastures or roadside vegetation, especially in late winter/early spring.

Economic thresholds Top

There have been no thresholds developed.

Management options Top


With little known about this pest, the only known control is the use of pyrethroid insecticides that provide effective control (Bailey, 2007).

Acknowledgements Top

This article was compiled by Bill Kimber (SARDI).

References/Further Reading Top

Bailey PT. 2007. Pests of field crops and pastures: Identification and Control. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, Australia.

Henry K, Bellati J, Umina P and Wurst M. 2008. Crop Insects: the Ute Guide Southern Grain Belt Edition. Government of South Australia PIRSA and GRDC.

Date Version Author(s) Reviewed by
January 2015 1.0 Bill Kimber (SARDI) Garry McDonald (cesar)

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