Sceliodes cordalis (Doubleday, 1843)
Eggfruit Caterpillar
(one synonym : Eretria obsistalis Snellen, 1880)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

Sceliodes cordalis
(Photo: Don Herbison-Evans, Sydney, Australia)

These Caterpillars are an agricultural pest on various members of the family SOLANACEAE, tunneling into the stems and fruit of:

  • Tomato ( Lycopersicum esculentum ),
  • Cape Gooseberry ( Physalis edulis ),
  • Poroporo ( Solanum aviculare ),
  • Eggfruit ( Solanum melongena ), and
  • Thorn Apple ( Datura ).

    We found one boring into the stems of

  • Butterfly Ginger ( Hedychium coronarium , ZINGIBERACEAE ).

    The caterpillar is initially off-white, but becomes bright pink as it matures. The caterpillar grows to a length of about 2 cms.

    It pupated in the tunnel it had bored in its food plant.

    Sceliodes cordalis
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    The adult is off-white, with brown tips to the fore wings, and a pattern of pale brown blotches.

    Sceliodes cordalis
    (Photo: courtesy of Trevor Jinks, North Burnett, Queensland)

    The moth has a wingspan of about 2 cms. It has a characteristic posture when resting, curling its abdomen over its head.

    Sceliodes cordalis
    (Photo: courtesy of Geoff Byrnes, Fitzgerald River, Western Australia)

    The species is found in :

  • New Zealand (listed as Leucinodes cordalis),

    and over the whole of Australia, including:

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Norfolk Island,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania,
  • South Australia, and
  • Western Australia.

    Sceliodes cordalis
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    Attempts to control the pest include using:

  • its pheromones,
  • a Microsporidian,
  • an extract of Bacillus thuringiensis, and
  • a Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus.

    The species was originally placed in the genus Margaritia, by Doubleday in 1843, but various taxonomists have subsequently placed it in other genera, including Daraba, Eretria, and Leucinodes.

    Sceliodes cordalis
    (Photo: courtesy of Graeme Cocks, Townsville, Queensland)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 9.16, pp. 66, 358.

    Edward Doubleday,
    with Adam White :
    List of the annulose animals hitherto recorded as found in New Zealand with descriptions of some new species,
    in: Ernest Dieffenbach,
    Travels in New Zealand,
    John Murray, London 1843, Volume 2, p. 288, No. 128.

    Peter Hendry,
    A Night at Ray's,
    Metamorphosis Australia,
    Issue 57 (June 2010), pp. 30-32,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club.

    Peter B. McQuillan, Jan A. Forrest, David Keane, & Roger Grund,
    Caterpillars, moths, and their plants of Southern Australia,
    Butterfly Conservation South Australia Inc., Adelaide (2019), p. 78.
    (listed as Leucinodes cordalis)

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 48.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 2 February 2013, 26 September 2019, 6 October 2020)