Eggfruit Caterpillar Moth - Sceliodes cordalis
Despite the common names of ‘Eggfruit Caterpillar Moth’ in Australia and the ‘Poroporo Moth’ in NZ, its larvae is a common pest on many plants in the Solanaceae family, especially the Kangaroo Apples, Solanum aviculare and S. laciniatum (Poroporo is the common name for Solanum aviculare in NZ). Although these plants are indigenous to NZ and the East Coast of Australia, they are weedlike and consequently widespread in other well-watered regions, which coupled with many other Solanaceae species, means this moth is well supplied.
Backyard vegetable gardeners may also know this moth by the small holes bored into the fruits and/or stems of capsican (and most peppers), papino, eggplants and potatoes, which when sliced open will reveal a red caterpillar feasting on developing seeds and/or new shoots. The eggs and larvae are parasitised by some wasp species, but these will only restrict moth numbers and gardeners will remain disappointed, as the caterpillars will have done the damage before any wasp larvae can stop them. Some fungi can also fatally infect the moth larvae, but again not before they have done the damage.
However this not an unattractive moth, growing to almost 2 cm (¾”) in head/body length and holding its wings at around 90 degrees, but a characteristic of Sceliodes cordalis is the way it lifts its rear end while at rest, which can strongly arch over towards its head. The over-wintering caterpillars emerge as moths towards the latter part of the year and are active throughout summer and into early autumn.
The genus Sceliodes belongs to the Crambidae family.
My thanks to Neville Hudson for bringing this moth to my attention.