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Another view of the moth - Hodebertia testalis

Another view of the moth - Hodebertia testalis
La Porte, Harris County, Texas, USA
September 15, 2008

Images of this individual: tag all
Other caterpillars that eat milkweed . . . - Hodebertia testalis Other caterpillars that eat milkweed . . . - Hodebertia testalis Here's the moth - Hodebertia testalis Another view of the moth - Hodebertia testalis

A note from Dr. Brian Scholtens
"I think Steve is probably correct on the ID of Hodebertia. The rearing on Asclepias is a really important clue. I noted that a bunch of specimens are in the USNM, so I can have Alma Solis take a look also."

From Dr. James Hayden
"...I agree, it could tentatively be Hodebertia testalis. I do not know much about that species. Your first photograph does look like photos on line. Unlike Hahncappsia coloradensis, the FW PM line has an inward dash between M3 and CuA1, and the HW lines are pronounced. (We have specimens of that species but not of H. testalis.) It is widespread in the Old World and a strong disperser, so look out for more. If it's like Diaphania costata, which also feeds on Apocynaceae, it could spread for years under the radar unless people get out and look! On the other hand, 2008 was eight years ago..."

Moved to Hodebertia testalis
Moved from Hahncappsia coloradensis.

Tentative ID. See discussion below.

BOLD does show records from Costa Rica.

Hodebertia testalis!?
A description of Hahncappsia coloradensis larvae can be found here and although I know next to nothing about caterpillars, is seems way off for it to be this species and the host plant as Charley points out is sunflower.

The adult image above, however, is a near perfect match for the African species, Hodebertia testalis, which does feed on Asclepias. See info here. I was not able to find a description of the larvae.

I this is H. testalis, it would be new to the US I think and might be bad news for milkweed.

Nice detective work
Sure seems like a good match to me.

Couple Questions
I'll make a page for it and move it there as a tentative ID unless I hear an objection.

Should this be reported to a government agency and if so to what agency and how? A non-native species, if that's what this is, feeding on milkweed seems like a potential problem.

I've been searching all morning for a description of the larvae. This has been described several times as different species and the genus has changed several time making it difficult due to all the different combinations. Any thoughts on a source?

The funny thing is that this may be the second example. Last May, I found a BugGuide example here that I though might be Sitochroa dasconalis, a species which apparently has been confused with testalis. My first thought was that this might be S. dasconalis as well. I dismissed testalis because of the range but now have to reconsider. The host plant for S. dasconalis is Baptisia.

I say, go ahead and move it to a new page
I don't know what government agency might be interested. My approach would be to try and acquire some actual specimens, get them deposited in a collection, and publish the record in the Lep Soc journal.

Of the sources listed in the African moths database, this one seems the most likely to have some kind of description of the larva:

Wollaston T. V. 1879. Notes on the Lepidoptera of St. Helena, with descriptions of new species. - Annals and Magazine of Natural History (5)3:(15) 219–233, (17) 329–343, (18) 415–441.

I wouldn't have recognized that Iowa moth as the same thing, but it does appear to be on a milkweed leaf.

I was about to add the page and realized that it goes in Spilomelini. The problem is that Spilomelini got bumped up to subfamily in 2012. I added a discussion to the Moth Forum here that you might want to look at.

For now I will put this in Spilomelini.


Do the caterpillars of this moth eat milkweed?

I can find no articles that say so. They are considered a major pest of Amaranthus sp. I find only one very poor photo of the larva but it's a PDF and you'll have to find it by typing "major pests of callaloo" into a google search. The first result will be the PDF you want. If you can't get it, send me your e-mail address & I'll send the PDF to you.
Sorry I can't be of more help.

but unable to find any further information. It has been identified as a Pyralid Hahncappsia coloradensis. No one seems to know anything more than that, like where it's range is, the larval food plant (mine were eating milkweed), etc.

Food plant
Hahncappsia coloradensis is listed here as feeding on Helianthus, which is sunflower. Very strange for a species that doesn't specialize in milkweed to be feeding on it.

Was the moth identified by a specialist? This is a new species for BugGuide, so if the ID is certain we can make a guide page for it.

It was identified by
Charles Bordelon, VP/EIC
Texas Lepidoptera Survey
8517 Burkhart Rd.
Houston , TX 77055

I know in my looking around on the internet that I was unable to find anything that eats milkweed other than monarch and tiger moth caterpillars, but the photos I find on Pyralidae. Hahncappsia coloradensis match the moth that emerged from my caterpillars. Sooo, I guess we have a new species!

Your pics are now in their proper place. I cropped the adult images so that the moth fills the frame; this makes it easier to see in the thumbnails, and also allows more detail to be seen (since only editors and you have the option to click "full size" to see the larger image).

Thank you!
I'm glad we finally have this mystery solved!

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