Home > Factsheets > Kawakawa looper - Cleora scriptaria

 

Kawakawa looper - Cleora scriptaria

By N A Martin (2016, revised 2017)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Insecta
Order:
Lepidoptera
Family:
Geometridae
Subfamily:
Ennominae
Scientific Name:
Cleora scriptaria (Walker, 1860)
  • Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on leaf of kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae); note the holes in the leaf made by caterpillar feeding.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on leaf of kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae); note the holes in the leaf made by caterpillar feeding. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
Back to top

Common Names

Kawakawa looper, Kawakawa moth, Kawakawa Looper moth, Grey Evening Moth
Back to top

Synonyms

Tephrosia scriptaria Walker, 1860
Scotosia stigmaticata Walker, 1862
Scotosia panagrata Walker, 1862
Barsine panagrata (Walker, 1862)
Selidosema panagrata (Walker, 1862)
Angerona menanaria Walker, 1963
Epirranthis antipodaria Felder, 1875
Hyperythra arenacea Butler, 1879
Hyperythra desiccate Butler, 1879

Back to top

Taxonomic Notes

This moth is probably not a true Cleora.
Back to top Help

Biostatus and Distribution

This endemic moth is found throughout New Zealand. The green or brown caterpillars feed on young leaves of its favoured host plant, kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae) and other native trees and shrubs in native ecosystems, parks, gardens and forests.

Conservation status: Widespread, not threatened.

Back to top

Life Stages and Annual Cycle

Caterpillars are found all year. The moths can also be found throughout the year.

Moths
The moths are about 10-15 mm long with a wing span of 30-55 mm. The appearance of the moths is very variable, hence the many synonyms (alternative scientific names). Moths have mottled yellow-brown, brown or blackish forewings with irregular cross-lines and scalloped edges; in darker forms, there are often yellowish patches on the wing. There is usually a conspicuous more or less kidney-shaped spot near the middle of each forewing; this spot may be white, grey or black, but is always outlined in black. In the daytime the moths rest on tree trunks and amongst dead leaves and dead tree fern fronds, their colouring and scalloped wing margins proving good camouflage.

The moth has two pairs of wings and three pairs of legs. The head has two dark compound eyes, two long antennae and a long rostrum that is normally coiled up. It is uncoiled when the moth feeds on nectar in flowers.

The newly emerged female moth emits a pheromone (mixture of volatile chemicals), that attract the male moth. Male moths have feathery antennae that have a large number of sensory cells for detecting chemicals in the air. After mating the moth lays between 40-50 eggs.

Eggs and caterpillars
Eggs are laid on leaves or stems of host plants in clusters of 3-12, and are pale green and cylindrical.

The caterpillar chews its way out of the egg. It feeds on young leaves. The young caterpillar is pale green, with a dark and/or white stripe down each side and usually makes holes in the centre of a leaf. The caterpillars grow by changing skins, moulting. They tend to orientate themselves along leaf veins and edges of leaves and lie flat against the leaf, where they are well camouflaged. They often become pale brown as they grow, and in later instars tend to hide between leaves or in crevices on the plant during daytime. An early entomologist, Hudson, reports in his 1928 book, that in winter he found caterpillars hiding in old burrows of puriri moth, Aenetus virescens (Hepiallidae). Caterpillars reach 30-40 mm long.

Like a typical looper caterpillar, it has three pairs of true legs on the thorax (middle part of body) and two pairs of prolegs (false legs) at its rear end. The caterpillar walks by looping along. It first brings its rear end up towards its front and holds on with its prolegs. Then it stretches forwards and holds on with its true legs while it again brings its rear end forwards, repeating the process. If disturbed, the caterpillar may drop from the leaf suspended on a silk thread.

Pupae
When the caterpillar is fully grown, it descends to the ground and hides in the litter. It may create a cell in the loose debris on the soil. The caterpillar moults into a pupa. The pupa is brown with two slender processes at the end of the abdomen (the cremaster). The pupa splits on its dorsal side when the moth is ready to pull itself out. The newly emerged moth climbs up onto a support and hangs while the wings expand and harden.

  • Male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); upper side left, underside right.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); upper side left, underside right. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the body setae. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the body setae. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the body setae and the two pairs of prolegs (false legs).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the body setae and the two pairs of prolegs (false legs). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the lateral pale stripe.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
    Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the lateral pale stripe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
  • Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the lateral pale stripe.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
    Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the lateral pale stripe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
  • Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the lateral pale stripe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
    Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the lateral pale stripe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
  • Large brown caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Large brown caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Prepupal caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Prepupal caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupae of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupae of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Tail end of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the two fine projections (cremaster) at tail end of pupa. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Tail end of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the two fine projections (cremaster) at tail end of pupa. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
Back to top

Recognition

The appearance of adult Kawakawa looper moths, Cleora scriptaria, is very variable. They have mottled brown wings with irregular lines and scalloped edges. There may be a pair of white dots near the front edge (costa) of the forewings. There is no white dot near the halfway point along the outer margin of the forewing. The start and endpoint of a black scalloped line on the forewing is also diagnostic. It starts on the front edge (costa) of the wing at about 2/3rds its length and then curves round and ends on the dorsal margin of the wing well beyond the halfway point.

Kawakawa looper moths could be confused with both Gellonia species (large umber, Gellonia dejectaria and small umber, Gellonia pannularia). Both umber moths can usually be distinguished from Kawakawa loopers by the presence of a white spot halfway down the outer margin of the forewing (no such spot in the kawakawa looper moth). In the umber moths, the black scalloped line on the upper side of the forewing that begins on the front edge (costa) of the wing at about 2/3rds its length curves round and ends halfway along the rear edge (dorsum). The equivalent line in the kawakawa moth ends on the dorsal margin of the wing well beyond the halfway point.

Kawakawa looper caterpillars are typical loopers with only two pairs of prolegs (false legs) at their hind end. They are variable in appearance. The caterpillars are mainly green, but can be brown. They tend to have a pale stripe down both sides and younger caterpillars may also have a dark lateral stripe. Unlike many looper caterpillars, those of the Kawakawa looper tend to lie flat on leaves rather than stand up like sticks.

Kawakawa looper is the most common caterpillar to make holes in leaves of kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae). Some leafrollers (Tortricidae) also make holes in kawakawa leaves but these species always web leaves together to create shelters for themselves. Holes in kawakawa leaves that are not webbed together shows that Kawakawa looper are living in the habitat.

  • Upper side of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); on the forewings the absence of a white spot halfway along the outer margin of the forewing and the start and end points of the black scalloped line (black arrows) distinguish this species from Gellonia species.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Upper side of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); on the forewings the absence of a white spot halfway along the outer margin of the forewing and the start and end points of the black scalloped line (black arrows) distinguish this species from Gellonia species. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Upper side of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the white spot near the front edge (costa) of the forewing (red arrow) (this spot sometimes grey or black) and absence of a pair of white spots halfway along the outer margin of the forewing. Also note the start and end points of the black scalloped line (black arrows) distinguish this species from Gellonia species.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Upper side of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the white spot near the front edge (costa) of the forewing (red arrow) (this spot sometimes grey or black) and absence of a pair of white spots halfway along the outer margin of the forewing. Also note the start and end points of the black scalloped line (black arrows) distinguish this species from Gellonia species. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Upper side of large umber, Gellonia dejectaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), moth; on the forewing, note the white spot (red arrow) and position of the start and end of the black scalloped line (black arrows), that distinguish this species from the Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Upper side of large umber, Gellonia dejectaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), moth; on the forewing, note the white spot (red arrow) and position of the start and end of the black scalloped line (black arrows), that distinguish this species from the Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of small umber, Gellonia pannularia (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), moth. The arrows point to the scalloped black line that is absent in the large umber.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of small umber, Gellonia pannularia (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), moth. The arrows point to the scalloped black line that is absent in the large umber. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small umber, Gellonia pannularia (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), moth.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small umber, Gellonia pannularia (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), moth. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Typical leaf damage to kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), by caterpillars of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Typical leaf damage to kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), by caterpillars of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf; note the green colour and the white lateral line.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf; note the green colour and the white lateral line. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on stem of kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on stem of kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the green colour and the white lateral lines.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the green colour and the white lateral lines. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the dark green colour and the white lateral lines.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the dark green colour and the white lateral lines. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
  • Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the white lateral lines.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
    Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the white lateral lines. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Foof Research
  • Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
Back to top

Natural Enemies

Parasites and parasitoids
A mermithid nematode (Mermithidae) has been found infesting a caterpillar and six parasitoids have been reared from caterpillars and pupae. One of these is a fly, Pales feredayi, (Diptera: Tachinidae), while the others are wasps. Two wasps have distinctive pupae. The larva of Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) lives in a caterpillar. When the wasp larva is fully grown it leaves the caterpillar, attaches a thread to the leaf, then drops on this thread and weaves it about itself until it forms a pea like cocoon. The larva of a second wasp, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) also lives in the caterpillar, which it kills before it is fully grown. The caterpillar is made to hold onto the leaf by its front legs and the wasp pupates inside the caterpillar skin. It looks as if the front end of the caterpillar is glued to the leaf while the body projects out like a stick.


Table: Natural enemies of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), from Plant-SyNZ database (10 December 2016). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability IndexBiostatus
Mermithidae sp (Eelworm)Mermithida: Mermithidaeparasite5endemic
Cardiastethus consors White, 1879 (Sucking bug)Hemiptera: Anthocoridaepredator4endemic
Cermatulus nasalis (Woodward, 1837)Brown soldier bug (Sucking bug)Hemiptera: Pentatomidaepredator4native
Aleiodes declanae van Achterberg, 2005 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Braconidaeparasitoid10endemic
Casinaria sp. (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidaeparasitoid7unknown
Diadegma sp. (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidaeparasitoid7unknown
Meteorus pulchricornis (Wesmael, 1835)Basket-cocoon wasp (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Braconidaeparasitoid10adventive
Pales feredayi (Hutton, 1901) (Fly)Diptera: Tachinidaeparasitoid10endemic
Rogas sp. (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Braconidaeparasitoid6endemic
Zealachertus binarius Berry, 1999 (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Eulophidaeparasitoid10endemic
  • Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) parasitised by Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and after parasite larva has left the caterpillar; note the dark exit hole on the left of the lower picture.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) parasitised by Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and after parasite larva has left the caterpillar; note the dark exit hole on the left of the lower picture. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Cocoon of Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) suspended on a thread from leaf after after it had left the parasitised caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Cocoon of Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) suspended on a thread from leaf after after it had left the parasitised caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
    Adult Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
  • Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), caterpillar killed by a parasitoid larva Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), caterpillar killed by a parasitoid larva Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) and ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), caterpillar killed by parasitoid larva, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), and ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), caterpillar killed by parasitoid larva, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), and ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), caterpillar killed by parasitoid larva, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), and ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf; note the exit hole through which the adult wasp emerged.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), caterpillar killed by parasitoid larva, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), and ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf; note the exit hole through which the adult wasp emerged. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult wasp, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a parasitoid of caterpillars of the Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). The wasp larva lives in the caterpillar which when it is killed, it ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult wasp, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a parasitoid of caterpillars of the Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). The wasp larva lives in the caterpillar which when it is killed, it ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult wasp, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a parasitoid of caterpillars of the Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). The wasp larva lives in the caterpillar which when it is killed, it ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult wasp, Aleiodes declanae (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a parasitoid of caterpillars of the Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). The wasp larva lives in the caterpillar which when it is killed, it ‘glued’ by head end to the leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Adult Brown soldier bug, Cermatulus nasalis (Pentatomidae) feeding on caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) in captivity. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Adult Brown soldier bug, Cermatulus nasalis (Pentatomidae) feeding on caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) in captivity. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
Back to top Help

Host Plants

Caterpillars of the Kawakawa looper feed on young leaves of a variety of trees and shrubs. Small caterpillars make holes in leaves while large caterpillars mainly feed on the edge of leaves making notches.

Table: Host plants of the Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) from Plant-SyNZ database (26 December 2015). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
New Zealand ash, Tapitapi, Tītoki, Tītongi, Tokitoki, Tongitongi, TopitopiAlectryon excelsus Gaertn.Sapindaceae10endemic
Wineberry, Mako, MakomakoAristotelia serrata (J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.) W.R.B.OliverElaeocarpaceae10endemic
Marble leaf, Motorbike tree, Kaiwētā, Piripiriwhata, Punawētā, Putaputawētā, PutawētāCarpodetus serratus J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Rousseaceae10endemic
Tree tutu, Pūhou, Tāweku, Tūpākihi, TutuCoriaria arborea Linds.Coriariaceae10endemic
Sticky hop-bush, ake, Ake rautangi, AkeakeDodonaea viscosa Jacq. subsp. viscosa Jacq.Sapindaceae10non-endemic
Eucalypt, Flowering gum, Gum, StringybarkEucalyptus sp.Myrtaceae7unknown
Akakōpuka, Akapuka, Puka, PukateaGriselinia lucida G.Forst.Griseliniaceae10endemic
Tree lupinLupinus arboreus SimsLeguminosae10naturalised
Poataniwha, TātakaMelicope simplex A.Cunn.Rutaceae10endemic
Puka, Puka, PukanuiMeryta sinclairii Hook. f.) Seem.Araliaceae10endemic
Ahikōmau, Hine-kaikōmako, Kahikōmako, KaikōmakoPennantia corymbosa J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Pennantiaceae10endemic
Pepper tree, Kawa, KawakawaPiper excelsum G.Forst.Piperaceae10endemic
Five-finger, Houhou, Parapara, Puahou, Tauparapara, Whau, Whaupaku, Whauwhau, WhauwhaupakuPseudopanax arboreus (Murray) PhillipsonAraliaceae10endemic
Coastal five finger, Houmāpara, Houpara, Houparapara, Kokotai, Oho, Parapara, WhauwhauPseudopanax lessonii (DC.) K. KochAraliaceae10endemic
Lowland horopito, Lowland pepper tree, Horopito, PuhikawaPseudowintera axillaris (J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.) DandyWinteraceae10endemic
Alpine pepper tree, Mountain horopito, Pepper tree, Red horopito, Horopito, ōramarama, RamaramaPseudowintera colorata (Raoul) DandyWinteraceae10endemic
Seven-finger, Kohi, Kotētē, Patate, Patatē, Patē, PatētēSchefflera digitata J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.Araliaceae10endemic
Coastal kowhaiSophora chathamica CockayneLeguminosae10endemic
Small leaved kowhai, Weeping kowhai, Kōwhai, Kōwhai maoriSophora microphylla AitonLeguminosae10endemic
Large-leaved kowhai, North Island kowhai, KōwhaiSophora tetraptera J.S. MillerLeguminosae10endemic
  • Typical leaf damage to kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), by caterpillars of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Typical leaf damage to kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), by caterpillars of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of leaves of kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), with typical feeding damage by caterpillars of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of leaves of kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), with typical feeding damage by caterpillars of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Feeding damage to leaf to Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae) by a large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Feeding damage to leaf to Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae) by a large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of leaf of Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae) with feeding damage by a large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of leaf of Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae) with feeding damage by a large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
Back to top

Additional Information

Camouflage
Moth and caterpillars are good examples of camouflage. The moth resembles bark or dead leaves in its colouration and the scalloped wing edges help break up its outline when it is at rest. The young caterpillars are green like the leaves, while the older caterpillars are pale brown like twigs or dead leaves. These forms of camouflage by the moth and caterpillar presumably protect them against predation by birds.

Back to top

Information Sources

Spiller DM, Wise KAJ 1982. A catalogue (1860-1960) of New Zealand insects and their host plants. DSIR Bulletin 231: 1-260.

Plant-SyNZ: Invertebrate herbivore-host plant association database. plant-synz.landcareresearch.co.nz/.

Back to top

Other Images

  • Side view of a Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Side view of a Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of male Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of female Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a seven finger, Schefflera digitata (Araliaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a seven finger, Schefflera digitata (Araliaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of a small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a seven finger, Schefflera digitata (Araliaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of a small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a seven finger, Schefflera digitata (Araliaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on a Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae), leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on a Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on a Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on a Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Feeding damage to leaf of Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae) by a large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Feeding damage to leaf of Pseudopanax lessonii (Araliaceae) by a large caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf; note the white lateral stripe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a kawakawa, Piper excelsum (Piperaceae), leaf; note the white lateral stripe. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a Griselinia lucida (Griseliniaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), on the underside of a Griselinia lucida (Griseliniaceae) leaf. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Tip of abdomen of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the setae (hairs) on the pupa and the two processes of the cremaster. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Tip of abdomen of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the setae (hairs) on the pupa and the two processes of the cremaster. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Tip of abdomen of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the two processes of the cremaster. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Tip of abdomen of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the two processes of the cremaster. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Tip of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the two processes of the cremaster. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Tip of pupa of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae); note the two processes of the cremaster. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae).  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) on a partly eaten leaf of Akeake, Dodonaea viscosa (Sapindaceae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) that has just moulted, note the moulted skin on the left.  Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Small caterpillar of Kawakawa looper, Cleora scriptaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) that has just moulted, note the moulted skin on the left. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
Back to top

Update History

12 December 2016. NA Martin. Natural enemies: corrected biostatus of natural enemies.

Back to top

Suggested Citation

Martin NA. 2016, revised 2017. Kawakawa looper - Cleora scriptaria. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 35. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X.

Landcare Research       Plant and Food