Although mainly of significance as a defoliator of specimen trees in towns and cities, larvae of this pest also attack fruit trees. Damage on fruit crops, however, is rarely of significance.
Adults occur from July to September. The flightless females are sedentary and, following their emergence, stay on the remains of the pupal cocoon. Males, however, are very active and, in sunny weather, fly rapidly in search of newly emerged females. Eggs are laid in a large batch of several hundred on the outer surface of the pupal cocoon; the female then dies. The eggs overwinter and hatch over an extended period from May onwards. Larvae feed avidly on foliage and are very active, often migrating from one host plant to another. When fully grown, the larvae spin large pupal cocoons on tree trunks or branches; pupal cocoons are also often formed on walls and fences some distance from the final foodplant. Although usually univoltine, in fa vourable situations there may be two or more generations annually.
Adult female 10-15 mm long, plump-bodied, dark yellowish-grey and virtually wingless. Adult male 25-33 mm wingspan; forewings ochreous-brown to chestnut-brown, with dark wavy cross-lines and a white spot close towards the hind angle; hindwings ochreous-brown to chestnut-brown (Fig. 315). Egg 0.9mm in diameter, pale brownish-grey. Larva up to 35 mm
long; body dark grey with tufts of greyish-white hairs arising from reddish warts; a pair of long, forward-directed tufts (pencils) of black hairs arising from the first thoracic segment; a long, posterior-directed tuft of hair arising from the centre of the seventh abdominal segment; brushlike tufts of yellow hairs on abdominal segments 1-4 (see Fig. 139); head black and shiny.
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