The Silent Recyclers
There are moth caterpillars that help reduce leaf litter in the forest and in our gardens and they mostly belong the the family Oecophoridae. There is a great need to understand these moths and their place in our ecology. As shown below, caterpillar numbers on the forest floor can be quite highs:-
“Plowmann 1979: 438 Lepidoptera larvae per m 2 of leaf litter in wet sclerophyll forest;
I F B Common pers. comm.: 54-252 Lepidoptera larvae in casual leaf litter samples (ca. 130 grams dry weight) at Depot Beach, NSW”
The above quote is from an article at:-
If this address doesn’t work, search for “Look Before We Burn, Dr Marianne Horak”.
The article addresses the topic pretty well.
Those figures, above, of 438 larvae per square metre and the second of 54 to 252 in just 130 grams of leaf litter (dry weight) means that a healthy forest floor is teaming moth larvae. There are of course many other insects on the forest floor as well.
From “Moths of Australia” (I.F.B. Common 1990). “ The food plants of 330 of the Australian
species of Oecophoridae, which, (in 1990), had been recorded, 80% depend on the family Myrtaceae, 70% of those feed on Eucalyptus. The sub species Oecophorinae, (over 2000 described species in 1990, probably more now), 94% feed on Myrtaceae, 88% of those feed on Eucalyptus and 56% of the ones that feed on Eucayptus eat dead Eucalyptus leaves”.
This gives a bit of an idea of the work being carried out by these tiny insects.
Both photos are:-
Sub Family:- OECOPHORINAE
Species:- platyrrhabda (possibly)
The arrow in the above photo is pointing at the labial palp that is typical of this family. Sharp, upturned and sometimes well out in front of the head. You can get a larger view by clicking on the photo.