Stick Cocoon Creature

31 May, 2009

Saunders' Case Moth caterpillar in its case
Saunders' Case Moth caterpillar in its case
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: Today I saw a creature in a large cocoon made of sticks. Its head was black and orange, but the rest of it was inside the cocoon. Can you tell me what it was, whether it’s a native species and how it made its spectacular home?

Answer: Thank you for contacting the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum about the creature you saw in a cocoon of sticks. It is difficult for us to give you a definitive identification without seeing a photograph or the animal itself, but the creature you’ve described sounds very much like the native Saunders' Case Moth, Metura elongatus.

Case moths spin their cases out of silk and most species attach leaves, twigs, sand or soil to the outside for protection and camouflage. There are a number of different species and each species builds a distinctive-looking case. However, as individual case moths use whatever materials are available to them, there can be considerable variation in the appearance of cases within a species.

The Saunders' Case Moth is one of the largest species of case moths in Australia – their cases can be as large as 15cm long. Individuals of this species cover their cases with little pieces of twigs. They poke the front end of their bodies out the top of their case to feed, collect case decorations, and cling to surfaces as they move about.

As they grow, Saunders' Case Moths expand their cases from the top (head) end, adding additional twigs as they go. They do this by cutting off appropriately-sized twigs, attaching them temporarily to the top of the case and then disappearing inside to cut a slit where they plan to attach the new stick. This is no mean feat. Case moth cocoons are incredibly tough; cutting a slit for a new stick can take over an hour!

Case moths spend most of their lives in the caterpillar phase; this part of their life cycle can last 1-2 years. As caterpillars, they never leave their cases. However, they can be very mobile, dragging their large cocoons along as they move around. If they feel threatened they can seal off the end of the cocoon, cutting a new opening once the threat has passed. The females continue to live in their cases after they’ve pupated into adult moths, but the males leave their cases after pupation to fly off in search of females.

Comments (132)

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Andrew Robbins 27 September, 2009 20:28
Thanks! This explains exactly what some caterpillar's we found were doing. I can tell the children all about them now.
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Jacqueline 15 February, 2014 21:33
My husband and I are quite excited to have one in our Pomarderis tree, as we don't believe we have seen one since we were kids
caroline 28 November, 2009 00:26
OMG we have just found a case moth on our tent, we didnt realise what it was untill we looked it up, what is the best plan for this as we dont want it on our tent ????
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Discovery centre 2 December, 2009 11:02

Hi Caroline,

If the case moth hasn't moved on yet you could try if you have a pair of tweezers to try and gently hold the very end of the case where it meets the tent and try to apply gentle pulling pressure and see if it will let go. Don't grab the case moth anywhere but at the very end of the case as you may well squash it. Once you have it off, just place it on a nearby tree. Good Luck.

 

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Frances 30 December, 2009 07:51
Hi there, a case moth in it's case had attached itself to my mop. I have tried to relocate it but it doesn't seem happy. The opening has been closed for 24 hours or so. How can i help it? thanks
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Discovery Centre 30 December, 2009 11:51

Hi Frances.  Perhaps follow the instructions for moving the case moth that we have previously posted for Caroline.  Carefully move the case moth and place it in a nearby tree.  Good Luck!

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Royce 11 January, 2010 21:24
HI I'm 6 and found a case moth house. I can't see a moth or caterpiller, could there be something still inside?? I have had it for about a week, with no movement or anything, it came from my friends house.
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Discovery Centre 12 January, 2010 15:51

Hi Royce. If the case hasn't moved for a week it's likely that its previous owner has already flown away!

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Teresa 4 February, 2010 22:13
Hello, my little boy (9) loves to handle case moths. He allows it to walk in its hand and sticks his finger into the cocoon and also feeds it can he get infection from doing this. recently he has had eye infection and it has happended coincidentally when he has been handling the case moth. could you please e-mail a reply please. thank you
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Leslie 15 March, 2013 14:34
I handled a case moth on Tuesday and by Thursday night I had an eye infection, just out of the blue otherwise. I can't help but think it was from handling the case moth, given your son's experience. It is just too much of a coincidence!
Discovery Centre 9 February, 2010 15:10

Hi Teresa,

We are not aware of there being any serious risk of infection resulting from handling case moths. However, there are some caterpillars in other moth families which possess hairs capable of causing irritation. Your son should avoid handling any furry or hairy looking caterpillars or any cocoons that look to have a spiky or hairy appearance, see the link below.

http://medent.usyd.edu.au/fact/caterpillars.htm

I hope your doctor was able to confirm for you the cause of the eye infection and that your son is well.

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martin 29 March, 2010 23:03
hi, I've got a problem with these case moths. I've got literally hundreds of them taking over my front garden. And they stink!! What do you suggest I do please?
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Karen 30 March, 2010 10:18
We have hundreds of these case moths hanging off everything, BBQ, washing, plants, our home. Is there anyway of moving them on, and how long will they hang around if we just leave them. Thanks, any help would be grateful. Karen.
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Discovery Centre 30 March, 2010 11:24

Hi Martin and Karen,

We have never read anything or heard from anyone that these case moths actually smell. The Museum is not involved in control of insects so can't offer advice in this area. The case moths can be highly mobile, so while it sounds like you both have significant numbers at the present it is quite possible that they may move on. We haven't had reports of these caterpillars staying for long periods of time in the one place.

 

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faerie 4 April, 2010 13:47
we have found two of them and wondered what they eat? Id like to keep them for observation for a while..do they need water? so far weve had them two weeks and put lettue and apple, mulberry leaves they dont seem interested. Als last ight one tried to get into the others sack! were they mating or fighting? do they become terrotorial and want to kill the other? thanks
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Discovery Centre 6 April, 2010 14:58

Hi Faerie, Saunders Case Moth larvae feed on tea trees, eucalypts, paperbarks, silver wattle and many other plants including garden ornamentals. The female Saunders Case Moth don't leave their cocoons after pupation, whereas the males emerge from the cocoon and fly to find females to mate with. So if you had 2 caterpillars they would not have been trying to mate. I haven't heard of them being territorial either, so I am not sure what was behind the behaviour that you observed.     

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Cate 30 May, 2013 20:18
several years ago, I started with one case moth cocoon, the next year i had about half a dozen, by the 5th year I had well over a hundred of the little things! Do be careful, they can ring bark your tree. Relocating them nearby doesn't seem to be the answer, as you can see, my tree just kept becomming a harvesting home for them!
Carrie 13 April, 2010 16:35
We have three case moths in our yard that we regularly observed emerging to eat and change position over the last few weeks. All have now moved away from food sources and onto our house walls, and have been dormant and immobile for about 2 weeks. Their cases still seem to be intact and sealed tight at both ends. Could they be pupating, and if so, how long does that stage last? Or could they be females awaiting males? Thanks!
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Discovery Centre 15 April, 2010 11:50

Hi Carrie, apparently the pupation period can last from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the season and weather. After this period if the insects are males the adult moths will emerge to fly off looking for females. If the individuals are females they will remain in their case, (they emerge from pupation as a wingless adult), and wait for males to find them.

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Bernadette 18 April, 2010 18:10
Hi, We've had a case moth cocoon attached to our back step for two weeks. It has never moved, and I can't see an opening at either end. Would it be okay for my daughter to take it to school for show & tell, or would it be best left alone until, an end opens up (moth emerges)? Thanks, Bernadette
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Discovery Centre 22 April, 2010 14:36

Hi Bernadette, if you take it to show and tell make sure you handle it gently and try not to squeeze it as you may damage the insect inside. If you have to apply pressure try to always do this at the very ends of the case. After show and tell you could put it back where you found it, (or nearby), and let the pupation continue.    

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Liz 23 April, 2010 13:38
Yesterday I carefully removed a case moth from one of my roses because I wanted to remove that branch and put it in the green bin. At the time of removal I wasn't sure if there was an insect inside and if there was whether it was alive or not. Actually it seemed to me more that the silk was attached to the stem, rather than the insect 'holding on'. Anyhow, after a couple of hours I noticed it had moved from where I had placed it on a small outdoor table. Poor thing had fallen to the ground, but I guess it wasn't badly hurt as this morning it had attached itself to another rose bush where I balanced it between the leaves last night. But my question is to do with the droppings. I noticed that he/she had left a dropping on the table. Do they do a U-turn inside the case to pick it up and bring it to the entrance to drop it out ?
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Leah 19 March, 2013 15:08
I've kept case moths as pets at different times (but eventually letting them go before they become moths) and I have witnessed the droppings drop out from the bottom of the cocoon. I can't say how this happens but perhaps the caterpillar pushes it out with it's body as the end appears to be only scrunched closed but not woven together.
Discovery Centre 2 May, 2010 14:39

Hi Helen, the pupation period can be a few weeks to a few months, depending on the season and the weather. So if it has only been a couple of days since you saw the larva it is very unlikely that it could have pupated in that time.  

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Lisa Woods 9 May, 2010 19:31
I have what I believe is a Saunders Case moth living on my Camelia tree now for well over 7 - 8 months. I love it and my son (3) and I check on it every morning to see were it has moved. I believe from the notes I have read that it is female as the cacoon is about 15 cm... My problem is that my camelia tree is dying and the leaves are very brittle, I have fed the tree etc to no avail. I don't want to loose my case moth as I have become very attached to it. Can I relocate it to another camelia tree I have in the front yard? Its not quite the same variety of camelia.
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Michael Jeffrey 10 May, 2010 16:03
I have taken a photo of one of these today. Would you like me to send the photos through?It's over 15cm long.
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April 10 May, 2010 20:58
i found one at singleton and id never seen one before so i took it to observe it and then let it out into the garden.. a few days later i found it bak up on my veranda.. it had moved about 5 metres.. how long will it stay and will it go looking for food eventualy
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Discovery Centre 11 May, 2010 10:13

Hi Lisa, don't be too concerned about the case moth. These insects can be quite mobile and if it is not getting the nutrition it requires from the tree it is currently on it will move to a new food source. Enjoy watching her.

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Discovery Centre 11 May, 2010 11:49

Hi Michael - our entomologist would love to see your photos. You can email them to the Discovery Centre at discoverycentre@museum.vic. Thanks!

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Discovery Centre 12 May, 2010 15:23

Hi April, these caterpillars can be quite mobile and you can relax in that the caterpillar should be quite capable of moving to a suitable food source when it feels the need to. It may be ready to pupate which means it will not be moving, so don't panic if this is the case.

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Chris 23 May, 2010 11:27
i have a Saunders case moth but i don't know whether it is a male or a female how can i tell the difference?
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lucy farmer 23 May, 2010 23:27
I'd just solved a mystery. It is case moth caterpillars that have been devastating my fruit trees. I initially suspected possums, and then parrots, but walking outside after dark with a torch I found literally dozens of caterpillars dragging their cocoons around an apricot tree which has barely a leaf left. I've collected about 25 - including an extremely large cocoon with an occupant as fat as my thumb - and have been feeding and observing them in a couple of jars. They are extraordinary and fascinating creatures and if I shine a torch on their jars, it seems to attract them as if responding to moonlight. However, on a practical note, would appreciate advice for protecting my orchard? They have also stripped a number of recently-planted native seedlings in my back yard. Thanks. Lucy
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Discovery Centre 25 May, 2010 10:53

Hi Chris, I don't believe you can determine the sex of Saunders Case Moth in the larval form. You need to wait until after pupation at which point the winged adult male moth emerges from the cocoon while the wingless adult female remains inside.

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Finn Chiodo 28 April, 2014 09:40
hello i found a case moth on the floor outside my school, i picked it up and brought it inside and im not sure how to tell if it is alive and where to put it during the rest of my day at school
Discovery Centre 25 May, 2010 11:08

Hi Lucy, unfortunately the Museum is not involved in control of insects so we are not well placed to provide advice on this subject. You could try an Internet search for 'control of case moths' or maybe your local nursery or garden centre may be able to assist you.

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Coz 29 May, 2010 12:41
We've been fascinated watching one inch up our window. It makes a silky substance from its mouth side to side, then uses this like a rung in a ladder to climb up, then makes another & so on. I can see a super-long track up the window pane. Fascinating creatures!
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Nadina 14 June, 2010 15:39
We are very grateful to finally know what these case moths are called. My son (9) has a keen interest in these cocoons. We are wondering what the male moth looks like so we can identify it. Also does the female ever leave the cocoon or does she remain flightless?
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Brett 14 June, 2010 21:34
I have a saunders case moth cruising around my carport. it is quite large 10-15cm, my problem is that it has hung itself of the back tire of my car. I want to relocate it but am not sure what I should do with it, if it is pupating should I try to re-hang it on a tree, or will it be right on the ground or laying flat? How can I tell if it is actually pupating? I will check if its still there in the morning but can they rest in one spot for an extended period. Also if it is a male whats the best way to catch it coming out of pupation and emerging from the cocoon?
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Discovery Centre 15 June, 2010 14:03

Hi Nadina, the female does not leave the case after pupation, only the male develops wings and can fly. This website, Saunders' Case Moth will show you images of the mature male moth.

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Discovery Centre 15 June, 2010 15:54

Hi Brett - It would be best to relocate the Moth by hanging it in a sheltered area (tree etc) not far from where it was found. If it isn’t pupating it can easily find its way back to the foliage where it originated. There is no easy way to know for sure if pupation is occurring short of destroying the case, so it would be best just to leave it where it is. If it doesn’t move for an extended period of time pupation may be occurring, in which case the only way to catch it if it is a male would be to place the case into a dry aerated container and check it each daily. We hope this helps!

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Lucy 20 June, 2010 17:36
I've been keeping about 20 case moth caterpillars in containers in the kitchen and have been feeding them regularly. However, I've noticed while none appeared to have died, their brilliant orange and black markings have faded and they are now a much duller, darker colour. Could this be a consequence of the different conditions indoors? None of them has pupated either - although the largest caterpillar is the size of my thumb.
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Amanda 21 June, 2010 10:09
What a great site. Thank you so much!
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Discovery Centre 22 June, 2010 15:40

Hi Lucy, unfortunately we can't give a definitive answer on this one as the Live Exhibits Department have not had experience with keeping and rearing this particular species. One of the staff there has said that he is aware that some other brightly coloured caterpillars do lose colour before pupating. He has also seen some brightly coloured caterpillars lose colour before dying when kept in captivity too. 

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Chris 5 July, 2010 15:37
Thanks For The Help!! My Saunders Case Moth has opened up its cocoon and part of the Caterpillars body dropped off. The Caterpillar then resealed its cocoon and hasn't moved since. Is this a natural occurance or is it the Caterpillar dying??
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Discovery Centre 12 July, 2010 11:51

Hi Chris, I have asked the staff in Live Exhibits regarding your case moth caterpillar and they are not sure about the behaviour you have observed. We have not raised this species at the Museum and so have not had experience in watching it progress through pupation. Sorry we couldn't be of more assistance. Maybe someone else will add a comment if they have seen similar behaviour.

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Gemma 10 August, 2010 18:04
Hi. My name is Gemma and i am 7 years old. I found a cocoon in my backyard and wasn't sure what it was but have learned alot from all these comments. I have a couple more questions though. How long do they grow? How long can they live without food? Do they need water? Do they have droppings like my silk worms? Mine keeps going back into its cocoon when we are noisy - can it see or is it scared of the noise?
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Boggabilla Central School Year 1 class 13 August, 2010 09:19
Thankyou for telling us about our new school pet. We thought it had fallen from a tree and needed our protection for a few weeks. Now we have to rethink. Btw, is ther any interesting help you would like from our class?
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Discovery Centre 13 August, 2010 12:20

Hi Boggabilla Central School Year 1 class, I am glad that the information on our website was of interest to you and helped you to learn about what you had found. As you can see we have received a large number of comments and questions about the case moth. The Museum is not currently rearing this species but other readers of this website may be interested in anything you find out about the case moths you are finding and looking after. So please feel free to post any interesting or unusual actions or behaviours that you think other readers may find useful. 

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Discovery Centre 14 August, 2010 10:37
Hi Gemma. The moth cases can grow to approximately 12cm long and if the moths feel threatened, by noise for example, they will seal of the end of their cocoon until the danger has passed. As to your other questions, these would largely depend on where the moth is in its lifecycle and its health, along with the availability of food and water. Unfortunately, as this isn’t a species that the museum has raised we cannot provide definitive answers to these questions.
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Lucy 27 August, 2010 18:26
I plucked a number of case moth caterpillars off my fruit trees in mid May and have been keeping and feeding them ever since in a container. Surprisingly, almost all have survived, including the biggest specimen which measures approx 10cm. None has pupated and I guess the captive conditions have extended their lifespan and altered their life cycle? Can anyone shed any light on this?
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Julz 2 September, 2010 14:34
I've had a coouple of these in a plastic aquarium for a few months feeding them the ornamental garden plant I found them on as well as some eucalypt leaves and other species I read they enjoy. Mum was gonna kill them so I caught them. Over Winter they have not come out at all. Do they hibernate or are they dead?
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Discovery Centre 5 September, 2010 12:04

Hi Julz, I think you'll find that some others have asked similar questions, this was our response: apparently the pupation period can last from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the season and weather.

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Brooke 25 September, 2010 18:20
I have had a cocoon for abour 2 years and just recently about last week i found 7 mini cocoon's which are the babies, when will the adult female emerge,which has been hanging over her nursery for the last one year and hasnt moved but still sticking to the top of the garage roof outside, and any more details like how many years will it take for the mini ones to grow to the size of the mum which is about 17-18 cms long .
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Discovery Centre 30 September, 2010 09:42
Hi Brooke, the Saunders Case Moth can spend 1 - 2 years in the caterpillar stage. The females remain in the case even after pupation; it is only the males who emerge from the case and can fly. If you have a case that has not moved for a year it is likely that it is no longer occupied.
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Sam 10 October, 2010 12:12
Hi, I have a box hedge and one of the bushes is dying. When looking up close I discovered the dying bush is absolutely covered in case moth cases - there must be 500 or more. Im pretty sure they are the culprits killing the hedge, will they move on soon and eat everything else in the garden? Do I need to go about getting rid of some of them/all of them? What is the best way to do that?
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Discovery Centre 12 October, 2010 15:02

Hi Sam, if the insects are still on the bush are you able to take a couple of good quality images and email them to discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au so we can attempt to see what species they are and provide some information.

 

 

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Isabella 11 December, 2010 09:28
Hi mt name is Isabella and i am 9. A couple of weeks ago my Dad found a Saunders Case Moth under a tree. Our grade is learning about mini beasts so i took it into class. It became the class pet. One day it woke up at 6 in the morning witch was different because it normally wakes up later in the day. It didn't wake up later that day either and it still hasn't came out since. Would you be able to tell me if it is transforming into a moth or if it is dead. Thank you
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Tania Morrison 16 December, 2010 08:50
This info has been very helful We found one in our bck yard in Qsland we followd it around ..No-one seemed to know what it was ..I found your one pictured here & got very excite as this is it The Native Saunders Case Moth..Thank You for your help..Tania
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Discovery Centre 16 December, 2010 09:28

Hi Isabella, they are great insects to watch. The Museum has not reared this species before but apparently the pupation period can last from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the season and weather. After this period if the insects are males the adult moths will emerge to fly off looking for females. If the individuals are females they will remain in their case, (they emerge from pupation as a wingless adult), and wait for males to find them. Good Luck with your case moth.

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Judy Gray 16 December, 2010 11:56
I have been trying for 2 years to find out what these damn things are. And have just found out today their name, so I immediately googled and found this site. I loathe them. I live in Altona Meadows and have 4 beautiful mature mop top trees in my back yard. Last year they demolished half of each tree, I I had thousands of the damn things, hanging around like bats/vultures and now they are coming back. At the moment I am trampling on them to kill them. They are like a nightmare to me and I am going to a nursery today to get a killer for them.
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Anne Lawson 31 December, 2010 14:08
I was delighted to see a male moth on a jacaranda tree while I was walking yesterday. It seemed out of proportion, with a long abdomen and small wings. I think they are quite fascinating creatures and I love the way they use different sticks and leaves to make their bags.
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Rebecca 31 December, 2010 20:34
I have 2 Case Moths. One emerged without wings, just the colorful head and a dark body. I presumed it to be a female and put it out near where I found it, thinking it was looking for a male. I saw it the next daymin the same place I found it. I got its cocoon and it seemed almost as if it wanted to go back inside. Now I can not find it. I feel awful to have interfeard but I find them so interesting. I found another one on the road, it must have fallen from a tree. I put it outside near the front door. It moved at an amazing pace and was happy to have made it to the guttering. Today in Melbounre it was 40c. So I used tweezers and moved it out of the heat. Got home from work and couldn't find it. I was so upset, (recently lost an 18 yr old dog) I think the Case Moth has helped in my grieving. Anyway I could not find it. So decided it must have gone out looking???? I had a bucket with plants growing in it and frequently pour water to flush out any mozzies. Low and behold there was my case Moth, wet but not completly. Now nearly dried out. I know they sleep at night and will move generally about twice a day. My observations.. I have some fasinating photos and videos. Wish I could att. Still don't understand why mine came out. Without wings and was still the same way a few days later. Praying that my wet one will live to amaze me another day/week/month/years????
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Anita 7 February, 2011 14:56
I have had a case moth living in my yard for 3 wks now and it has been immobile for 1week. Just today the caterillar came completely out of its case and it hasn't changed. Why would the caterpillar come out if its not ready yet? I am worried about my little friend.
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Discovery Centre 10 February, 2011 15:46

Hi Anita - A Case Moth caterpillar will remain in its case for several weeks if not months as it feeds and grows. Sometimes they will  apparently close off the case for a few days and then move on to feed elsewhere. It’s only when the caterpillar is finished feeding that it permanently seals off the case to pupate within. If it turns into a male it will, after pupating, leave through the bottom of the case and go off in search of a female. The females are wingless and so emerge from the pupa and remain within the case for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, the caterpillars are heavily parasitised by tiny black wasps, which take a heavy toll. In order to follow the fate of this particular caterpillar you’d need to monitor its progress closely as most of the action occurs unseen within the case.

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Maria 7 March, 2011 09:59
I have over (at least) 50-100 of these caterpillas on my native bushes. They have almost eaten the entire bushes- they are quickly spreading to other plants in my garden. I dont want to kill them at all- but I am sad they are killing all of my garden- can I relocate them some where safe where they will be free to eat what ever they like. I can grab them easily- just dont know what to do with so many? Can any one help.
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Discovery Centre 8 March, 2011 15:55
Hi Maria, this link is to a site with a list of the plants the caterpillars feed on. If you have nuumbers of any of these plant species near you and permission to do so you could try releasing some of the caterpillars there.
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Ella 15 March, 2011 14:43
hello, i have just found a case month on the stairs at my school and my friend and i have put it in a box. It fell of the stairs and has a stick over the hole i am worry!!! i was coming out though.please help!:(
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Karel 15 March, 2011 15:17
I have observed alarva living in small streams in the Snowy Mountains in a case made of fragmants of mica and quarta.I know it is not a casemoth but would be grataful,if you can tell me it's name.I think it is some kind of lacewing but am not sure.Thank you.
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Kate C 15 March, 2011 16:11
Hi Karel, sounds like you've found a caddis fly larva. http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/infosheets/caddis-flies/
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Discovery Centre 16 March, 2011 16:59
Hi Ella, probably the best thing to do is release it in the school grounds somewhere protected. It has probably crawled in from outside or come in on someone's clothes, so the vegetation it was feeding on is not likely to be far away. 
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Discovery Centre 18 March, 2011 13:38

Hi Karel, It sounds like a caddisfly and it could be in the family Limnephilidae, which has quite large larvae and is really only seen above about 1000m.  If you have an image, send it in and we get the Entomology staff to take a look.

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Dale 24 March, 2011 19:11
hey i was wondering,we found Stick Cocoon Creature crawling on our front steps my kids wanna keep it in a jar as i told them it was a butterfly's cacoon, but i was wrong...they still think a butterfly is gonna come out, could they keep it or just leave it where it is?
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Discovery Centre 2 April, 2011 17:17

Dale - The creature is a Case Moth (probably Oiketicus elongatus). Case Moth caterpillars build a silken case which they often line with short twigs, and they live in this case and carry it around throughout the caterpillar stage, enlarging it as they grow. The caterpillar will poke its head out to feed, and when not feeding retreats back into the case and seals up the entrance.

If you want to keep it, you can feed it cut branches from a range of plants in the garden to see which one it likes best.

When it is finished feeding and ready to pupate, it seals up the case permanently and turns into a pupa. It will stay like this for several months and emerge as an adult in the spring. Males are small brown moths and fly away as soon as they emerge, but females are wingless and remain in the case throughout their adult lives.

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Margaret Wass 1 June, 2011 14:58
We have found one of these amazing, titivating cocoons. It had been attached to the clothesline and fallen off. We brought it inside and sticky taped it so it was suspended from the jar but that didn't hold. We could see it moving so figured that a moth would soon come if we kept an eye on it but to our surprize we saw a part of a large caterpillar partly emerge and climb out along the camelia branch we had put in there. OUr curiousity was aroused even more. We thought to google Gum Emporer Moth but found out that is wasn't this creature. So googled "moth chrysalis's of Australia"....At last our questions have been answered. Thanks for the website. Now we all know what it is.
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Sophie 2 June, 2011 18:47
In my class a child brought in a pet case moth. It has been a class pet for a couple of weeks and I think it is such an amazing creature. One day my teacher put it on a tree because she thought it was dying but during lunch we quickly discovered that our pet named quick sticks had been climbing up the tree and he was camouflaged amazingly. About a week later my friend found quick sticks had been climbing up the window . When my teacher saw him she got such a fright that she screamed. So we went outside and rescued him and now he's our class pet again.
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Allan Briggs 3 June, 2011 18:54
Thank you for this very informative page about Saunder's Case Moths. I had the pleasure of observing one for the first time in my life yesterday and today and was just fascinated by what this weird and mysterious creature actually was. Thanks to some friends, I know and I was given this link to find out more. Thanks so much, what an amazing creature, the country really is full of them!
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Robyn 22 September, 2011 14:14
I think this page is amazing! It has explained perfectly exactly what I was looking at this morning on a wooden fence by our driveway. The Saunders Case Moth that is there is about 15cm long, (the case that is), and amazing to watch. It also explains the other, littler ones I have seen in the the past. Thank you
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Cheryl Williams 1 October, 2011 16:16
I have just found a Saunder's case moth and wasn't sure what it eats. I am going to give it to a parent in my school community who has a passion for them and wants the experience of keeping one for a while. This is a very informative site about these insects.
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Fiona 11 February, 2012 10:22
Yay Thank-you! This page has answered all our questions about this awesome exciting lovable 'stick insect' creature that we feel lucky to have in our backyard!
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Susan 25 February, 2012 16:59
Finally, an answer to our pests! Last year we had 2 that were approx 10cm long hanging from our verandah roof. This year, we have approx 100 5cm long all over our Thyme plants (that no longer have foliage) they are making their cocoons from the sticks from the thyme plants once they have demolished the foliage.
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Chris&jaime 8 March, 2012 08:07
We have put a cocoon in a jar hoping to see the moth emerge. Overnight little pellets have appeared - does this happen if the moth is in pupation?
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Discovery Centre 9 March, 2012 10:34
Hi Chris & Jaime, if the pellets are frass, (caterpillar poo) then it doesn't sound like it is pupating yet. It sounds like it is continuing to feed or is still processing and excreting a recent meal. Once they enter the pupation stage they cease feeding. 
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Rose 6 May, 2012 15:15
Hi my name is rose, i have a case moth on my brick wall its been there for avery ong time and is very small (5-7) . It hasnt moved so is it dead?
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Discovery Centre 6 May, 2012 15:28
Hi Rose, it is possible that the caterpillar inside may have died. But it may also be that the case moth is pupating. See replies to Carrie on 15th April 2010 and Anita on 10th February 2011 for further information.
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Maryanne Stokes 16 May, 2012 16:09
I have about 50 of the case moth they have invaded my ground cover wattle and are eating untill there are only sticks, they are also on my house car and steps. Do not know where to remove them or not. They are getting more and more each year. Do I let them go one cause they are endangered, or they are common. Please let me know.Thankyou Maryanne Stokes.
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Discovery Centre 18 May, 2012 14:49
Hi Maryanne, we don't know of any Australian species of case moths that are endangered.
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Beverly 19 May, 2012 15:28
I found a Saunders Case Moth on a hardenbergia plant (badly eaten). I check on him a couple of times a day to make sure he is OK. I watch him eat in the early evenings - black and gold head - chewing voraciously. Noise is a bother to him and he will dart back down into the bag and pull the 'drawstring' very tight. He isn't very mobile but has become lost once and had to be returned home. I will try to have eucalyptus leaves for him as well as the hardenbergia. He is such a delight!
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Shona 31 May, 2012 22:10
I came across one of these fabulous little guys on my drive way today, and I was completely amazed. I hadn't seen one before, and I was mesmorised. Such gorgeous things, I really love them! I snapped a few pictures of my little guy, and then moved him out of the way of my car. Having no idea what it was, I came across this page and read up on them. I really wanna see if my guy is actually a guy, or a female, but I don't want to keep it in captivity or anything. Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say is thanks for educating me!
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Discovery Centre 1 June, 2012 10:30
Hi Shona, we're really glad you like your case moth and that the information was of use to you.
Oscar 5 June, 2012 17:36
I'm 6yrs old and I found a case moth on our outside chair. I thought it was a giant cucumber stuck to a weird creature! Thank you for letting us know what it is.
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Maryanne Stokes 9 June, 2012 16:51
are the case moth cocoon rare or are they common. I have a least 30 around my native garden
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Discovery Centre 9 June, 2012 17:01
Hi Maryanne, these interesting native insects can be quite common; some people on this page have reported quite considerable numbers in their gardens.
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Michael 11 June, 2012 21:15
Hi, I live in brisbane, and have noticed these orange looking cocoons (i think) in our house. Also we noticed on the ceiling in our kitchen primarily these little white looking insects. I am just wondering if these are some type of moth insect and some type of moth caterpillar.
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Discovery Centre 12 June, 2012 10:30

Hi Michael,
Unfortunately we cannot identify insects from a description alone. You can submit photographs through our Identifications  service.

Beverly 15 June, 2012 22:12
Our Saunders case moth has taken a trip to the beam that holds up the verandah. He has attached himself to the beam and now is nowhere near food and the attachment is like a frog's foot (splayed out). Thank you for all the information that we have to identify and make some suppositions on. How long might it be before Henry/Henrietta emerges?
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Discovery Centre 16 June, 2012 09:44
Hi Beverly, please see our reply to Carrie above (15 April 2010) for an answer.
sherry 5 August, 2012 23:57
I live in sw fl. my screens are always full of case moth cacoons. just cleaned about 15-20 of them off last nite and this a.m. there are 3 more. is there thing i can do to make them stop?
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Deano 8 September, 2012 12:15
I'm in Brisbane and have found one on our fence, I was just wondering when are these moths most mobile, as I would like to capture some footage? i.e.: When do they feed?
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Discovery Centre 8 September, 2012 14:02
Hi Deano, Saunder's Case Moth is not a species that the Museum is rearing at present. A search online did find one site based in Queensland who said that they kept the larval stage of this species for a few weeks and that it fed every day around evening.
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Ron 13 September, 2012 17:42
Ok. I love the fauna especially when they are featured in Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie. Now, how do I kill the little buggers before half the trees in the neighborhood disappear. I figure you guys must know since you know so much other stuff about them. Cheers
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sherry 23 September, 2012 11:37
Is there anything I can spray omit my screens so they can't attach? Like maybe Pam cooking spray? Im really tired of picking them off every other day
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Harry 25 November, 2012 01:24
Hi, I keep case moths in a large container with 3 spiny leaf insects. Will the case moth be disturbed by the 3 spiny leaves? Pls answer as I care the well being of the animals under my care. (I keep them together because they feed on the same food source; gum leaves)
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Discovery Centre 29 November, 2012 13:27

Case Moths feed intermittently, as do Spiny Stick Insects, so there is plenty of time throughout the day (and night) for both species to get their fill. Case Moths feed on a range of plants with other insects regularly disturbing them - including other Case Moths when they are present in high numbers - so you don't need to be particularly concerned about the wellbeing of either species.

Hailey 1 December, 2012 11:22
Hi,I found one of these case moths on our letterbox - it moved itself around our letterbox then fell on the ground. I had to pick it up and move it otherwise it would have got run over. So I picked it up gently and put it in the garden. However, now its gone back inside the cacoon and hasn't moved for 24 hrs, and I haven't seen it come out again. Does that mean its gone or could it still be in there? Also, does it turn into a moth or a butterfly? Thanks for the help
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Fof 31 January, 2013 00:36
Thank you for a really brilliant site. I have come across Saunder's Case Moth both here in NSW and Qld. A beautiful and fascinating insect to watch as a larvae now all I need is to observe the imago form. Thank you.
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Nina 5 March, 2013 22:08
Hi there, There is a case moth currently living in my boyfriend's front yard. The other day I had to pick him up and move him because he decided to lie on the driveway, so I'm considering moving him inside and keeping him in an old fish-tank so he'll be safer, but my boyfriend thinks that it might lessen his quality of life, not being in nature and having space to roam. Would a roughly 30x15cm2 tank with native flora from the garden he lives in it and some water be a suitable temporary home for this little fella till he/she grows up and is ready to mate (at which time I'll release it)?
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Discovery Centre 8 March, 2013 12:44
Hi Nina, thanks for your question.  Case Moth caterpillars feed on a wide range of both native and introduced plants, so they are quite at home in the average garden. It will live quite happily in a tank of that size, but you do need to make sure that it is feeding on at least one of the plants offered. You can do this by watching what type it feeds on, or by looking for chewed leaves as evidence of feeding.  When fully grown, the caterpillar will seal off the top of the bag and pupate inside. This may take several months, depending on temperature. If it emerges into a female moth, it will be wingless and will remain in the bag its entire life. Females rely on the winged males to find them and reach into the bag to mate with her.  Although it doesn't need a lot of space to roam, an easier method is to place it back in the front yard where it will look after itself.
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Fiona 21 March, 2013 20:44
Thank you so much for this site and for all of the great information you've provided regarding my Palm Tree Pet aka Saunder's Case Moth. I found mine living on a small bushy palm tree in my garden a few months ago and have been trying to find out exactly what it was. I think "he's" absolutely amazing and so cute. Just last night I watched him attach a new stick to his house and I was in awe. Like some of the other's who have commented here, I check on him a few time a day and go out each night to watch him come out and eat. If he's a boy, I hope he's ok when he becomes a moth (which I would love to see) because he's in my courtyard which has cat netting over the top. I hope that he'll be able to find one of the spots big enough to get out. I don't want to move him out of the courtyard because I know he's safe there and I can check on him at night. Note: My cats old and are in no way a threat to him in the courtyard....they get into frouble for chasing lizards!
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Sara 26 May, 2013 09:51
I found one a couple of months ago, and he makes a great pet for the kids. This morning I came to check on him and he was completely out of his cocoon. He looked like he was doing something to the cocoon, perhaps making it bigger? I have read that they never fully come out. Is this abnormal behaviour for him? Also do they need water? We have a container with dirt at the bottom and we put freshly cut leaves in every couple of days.
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Julie 3 July, 2013 00:09
I have also made a case moth our pet. Ive put him in a largish container and he feeds on gum leaves, but I'm just not sure if I should provide a continuous supply of water. From time to time I put in a few ml, just in case it needs to drink. But I'm unsure if it simply gets all its water from the leaves, although gum leaves do appear very dry. Please advise me on the water requirements of my little case moth.
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Discovery Centre 5 July, 2013 15:10
Hi Julie, the larvae do not need to drink water; they get all the nutrients and moisture they need from the leaves they feed on. 
michelle 12 July, 2013 10:19
well i had a case moth cocoon living on the wall in my garden and i was wondering if the same time next year more case moths will come and live there in the future years to come???????????????????????????????
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Discovery Centre 13 July, 2013 13:37
Hi Michelle, if your case moth survives to become an adult and there are others in the area, there is no reason not to think that they will mate and that you may have case moths in the future.
Annette 21 July, 2013 03:11
I have a bunch of case moth cocoons on my Japanese Weeping Maple tree. Will they both or kill it. If so, what is the best way to get rid of them? Last year was the first year that it had them.
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Lily 6 August, 2013 16:09
Thank you for putting this information onto the website. We have a case moth in our front garden and we saw its head coming out. I am going to write about it for homework. From Lily (age7)
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Discovery Centre 7 August, 2013 10:28
Hi Lily, what a great subject to pick for an assignment. Good on you and best of luck with your work.
Leah Hall 11 September, 2013 10:25
We had a case moth as a pet that we believed went into metamorphis stage earlier this year. The case seemed to get heavier during this time which is why I thought it had not died. First thing yesterday I discovered the moth buzzing around on the kitchen floor. It is now back in a secure home. I've read some very old books transcripts that say it only lives a few days. Is this known to be true today? The tail grows longer when it is buzzing or when it feels a breeze and looks like a furry earwing at the end of it's tail only in it's elongated state.
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Discovery Centre 11 September, 2013 16:33
Hi Leah, it is hard to find research that gives a definitive answer on this one but we suspect that the male Saunders Case Moth probably only lives for a week or so.  
Colin 15 November, 2013 11:16
Thanks very much for posting this information. It was amazing to find something so strange, Google it and find that someone has taken the trouble to publish information about it! Thanks :-)
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julie 12 December, 2013 19:02
We have been looking after a case moth for the past few months,observing it daily and feeding it gum leaves. However, for the past two weeks it has been inside its case and hasn't come out. How long do they take to pupate? What time of year do they pupate? Or is it dead?
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Discovery Centre 13 December, 2013 14:27
Hi Julie, please see the replies to Carrie on 15th April 2010 and Anita on 10th February 2011 for further information.
Amelia 19 March, 2014 11:46
Thanks so much for putting up so much information ... Been a gold mine for my boys and myself. Found a case on a walk to the park today and been trying to work out what we saw!
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Sharon 1 April, 2014 07:45
I had never seen one until a couple of years ago...didn't see any last year but now we have nine of these hanging from various places in our back yard. They have been there for quite a few weeks (couple of months) and I could see they were getting fatter. Some are beginning to expel the black and orange caterpillar casing from the bottom end now. I am trying to be patient and am excited to see what happens next - hoping I don't miss it! I have taken loads of photographs and video of their journeys around the yard and hope to be around with my camera when they emerge.
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Jodie 11 April, 2014 20:43
Hello! We (me & my 5 year old son) found a case moth and watched it for a few days and it attached itself to a plant. We missed it hatch but brought the empty cocoon inside the house. After about 4 very ordinary days, the novelty of the cocoon was wearing off, until yesterday it moved from where we put it on the bench to other end. Tonight while cooking dinner we saw a very small caterpillar poke it's head out! Does moth lay egg in the cocoon before it leaves? It was very empty when we had it inside!! Now it's back out in the garden :)
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Discovery Centre 15 April, 2014 12:36
Hi Jodie, the female Saunders Case Moth is wingless and doesn't leave her case as an adult. In species of case moth where the females are wingless or have very reduced wings the eggs are laid in the case as you thought. Upon hatching the caterpillars will leave to search for food and start to construct their own case which they will enlarge as they grow. 
Asya 22 May, 2014 17:57
Hi! My mum and I came home today and found a large Case Moth on our garage door! At first we were terrified and didn't know what to do with it, but then I detached it with a stick and put it in a big container to show my dad when he gets home. We measured it and it is 17cm long!! Any ideas what to do with this Moth after my dad looks at it? Should we put it on a random tree? Also, if I place a leaf or something in front of it in the container, will it eat it? Thanks.
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Discovery Centre 23 May, 2014 14:21

Hi Asya,

 It would be best to relocate the Moth by hanging it in a sheltered area (tree etc) not far from where it was found. If it isn’t pupating it can easily find its way back to the foliage where it originated.

margot hitchcock 12 June, 2014 14:45
I watched a case-moth crawl up my brick wall yesterday - the same as in your photo. I videoed it and would like to do the same when it emerges from its case as a moth.. do you know how long that will take please..?
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Discovery Centre 17 June, 2014 12:45
Hi Margot, after pupation the female will be a wingless adult who will not leave the protection of the case. If you have a male he may remain in the case for up to 2 years before pupation after which he will emerge as winged adult and leave in search of females.  
Bernadette 26 June, 2014 08:03
I have been observing a case moth for 6 months ,it has lived in the same area of the garden for all that time. Now it seems to want to move and I find it at the other side of the garden. Is it looking for an other case moth or for a change of diet? I don't want to lose track of it so I keep bringing it back. is this stressful for it? Also I have many photos of it on the move would the Discovery centre like some of them?
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Discovery Centre 2 July, 2014 14:14
Hi Bernadette, as long as you are careful not to squeeze or pull on the cocoon it shouldn't cause too many problems, (as you can appreciate the cocoon is very well made but the abdomen of the caterpillar inside is quite fragile). Good question as to why the caterpillar keeps moving. As you suggest it may be moving to a different food source, or looking for a place to pupate possibly. If it keeps returning to the same place you might be better viewing it in the location the larva keeps gravitating to. It won't be looking for another case moth; after pupation winged males emerge and go looking for a female, while the wingless females remain in the cocoon. Thank you for the offer of the images but we do have quite a number of this species.  
Greg 25 October, 2014 12:34
I am in Victoria and have hundreds of these case moths in my garden and they are eating and killing the conifers and other plants, so how do you actually get rid of them once and for all.
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