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Leopard Magpie Moth

Zerenopsis lepida

Leopard Magpie Moth , Cycad Looper, Pied Leopard Moth

A close up image of a Zerenopsis leopardina leopard magpie moth on a piece of grass
Photo by Peter Warren (CC0)
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The Leopard Magpie Moth is a type of geometer moth, native to Africa. Sometimes, the caterpillars are called Cycad Loopers because they use Cycads they'll feed on cycads, looping the body with each stride. Leopard Magpie Moths possess bright, and contrasting wing patterning to communicate toxicity to predators. During feeding, the Magpie Moth caterpillars sequester toxic glycosides, making them distasteful to predators such as birds. They are most problematic in gardens containing cultivated Cycads. In gardens, caterpillars first feed on the new growth of African cycads, before moving to the angiosperms genera Apodytes, Carissa and Maesa genera when older.
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Caterpillars feed aggressively on the Cycads and angiosperms.


Adults: The adult moths are medium-sized, with maximum wingspans reaching 4cm. The body is bright orange with black, horizontal stripes. The wings are rounded and are orange with black dots. The antennae are black and floppy. Larvae: The caterpillars are also bright orange and with black checkering, they possess fine white spines and blackheads. Depending on the development stage they can be between 1-4cm.


Orange and black worms on Cycads. They will attack the new growth of plants, stripping leaves.












Biological treatment

African Cycads are endangered and this is mainly because of the illegal trade and habitat loss, this in turn has a knock on effect on Zerenopsis lepida. If you have these caterpillars on your cultivated Cycads, it's suggested to tolerate where possible. It's thought these caterpillars only feed upon Cycads for the first 3 stages of development, before moving to angiosperms. Plants should be able to tolerate light to moderate infestations and retain health the following year. If infestations are heavy, or the Cycad is not properly established, then you may pick them off and relocate them someplace else (or dispose of as necessary!).


n Encephalartos plant in a garden


Encephalartos spp.


Apodytes spp.


Carissa spp.


Maesa spp.

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