Aposematic colours may warn predators that an individual or species is chemically defended and unpalatable. This study examines a diurnal Australian whistling moth, Hecatesia exultans (Noctuidae, Agaristinae) where adults, although cryptic at rest, display their bright orange, yellow and black colouration in flight. Aposematically coloured larvae feed mainly on Cassytha, a parasitic vine that contains aporphine alkaloids. Alkaloids isolated from the plants and moths were analysed for the presence of these compounds. While alkaloids were found in the stomach and frass of 18 moth larvae, no alkaloids were present in the body and similarly no alkaloids were detected from 65 adult male moths collected from three widely separated populations. We conclude that the larvae and adults do not sequester alkaloids. Lycosid spiders and singing honeyeaters (Lichenostomtus virescens) were used to assess the palatability of H. exultans adults. The spiders and the birds consumed all adult moths. Adult moths appear to avoid predation by employing quick flights with rapid changes of direction and, while the adults are brightly coloured, they are not chemical defended.
|Publication status||Published - 2003|