Moths of the Amazon and Andes
Stinging Lichen moth
Dirphiopsis trisignata FELDER, 1874
Superfamily - BOMBYCOIDEA
subfamily - HEMILEUCINAE
Tribe -
Dirphiopsis trisignata, Villa Rica, Peru  Adrian Hoskins
The genus Dirphiopsis is also known by the synonym Pseudodirphia. It comprises of 42 species, all of which are neotropical in distribution. Dirphiopsis moths are cryptically patterned to resemble dead leaves. Their wings are patterned in shades of brown, and often have dark veins and a dark-edged pale median line on the forewings. In many species there is also a whitish zigzag mark at the end of the discal cell. The abdomen of most species is furry, and yellowish-orange or chestnut in colour.
Dirphiopsis trisignata is found in Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.
This species inhabits rainforest and cloudforest at elevations between about 200-1500m.

The larva of a closely related species Dirphiopsis uniformis, Madre de Dios, Peru  Adrian Hoskins


The huge caterpillar measures over 14 cms in length when fully grown. It bears a quite remarkable resemblance to a lichen-covered stick, but unlike the harmless lichen that it has evolved to mimic, this caterpillar is quite dangerous to touch. The branched spines on its back and sides are capable of delivering a painful sting and can produce a severe skin rash.

Dirphiopsis, Dirphia and Cerodirphia are very closely allied to Lonomia, a genus whose caterpillars can be found clustered in groups of up to 100 on the trunks of trees in Amazonia. There have been hundreds of incidents where people have touched or unwittingly rubbed against groups of them. The effects of a dose from multiple larvae can be extremely dangerous, including massive intercranial haemorrhaging and kidney failure. Lonomia obliqua caterpillars are a frequent cause of death in southern Brazil - 354 people died between 1989 and 2005. The fatality rate is about 1.7% - roughly equivalent to that of rattlesnake bites.

The larva of a closely related species Dirphiopsis uniformis, Madre de Dios, Peru  Adrian Hoskins

Adult behaviour

To be completed.


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