Common Moth, Rare Caterpillar

It's probably not an unusual situation that the larvae of a common species of moth are poorly known and seldom documented. Despite the efforts of guru's like David L. Wagner and enthusiasts like @k8thegr8, a lot of caterpillars still elude us or remain unidentified.
Such seems to be the case of the Spotted Peppergrass Moth (Eustixia pupula, Crambidae; a.k.a. the "Peppergrass Pyralid").
Eustixia pupula_6166

I accidentally documented a couple of larvae of this species on the Texas coast in late May and only recently discovered what I had done:
Eustixia pupula_7384cropEustixia pupula_7383

I tell the story of that documentation in the notes with the first of these observations, but to recap: Between Moth Photographer's Group, BugGuide, iNaturalist, and a few other online resources, there are well over a thousand images of adults of the Spotted Peppergrass Moth...and yet my images of the caterpillar seems to be the first. I uploaded these to BugGuide a short while ago.
Dyar described the later instar larvae over 120 years ago:

I suspect there are any number of images of the larva of this species "out there" on iNaturalist and other venues but they have been overlooked or unidentified. I guess one could start seaching through unidentified Lepidoptera on iNaturalist to look for similar caterpillars, but that seems to be a very inefficient method. Observers have annotated the host plant (e.g., "Lepidium") on only a very small percentage of such images of caterpillars. Those annotations might point in the right direction, but such instances are unfortunately rare. There needs to be a more efficient way of searching through unidentified caterpillars once a search image for a species (to the human eye) can be established. I'm open to suggestions!

UPDATE: With hours after I posted the above images to BugGuide, the Balabans were able to uncover three additional observations of previously unidentified larvae from NY, NJ, an AL (2016-2021) which all appear to be various instars of Eustixia pupula:
And so, science marches on!

Posted on 06 de junio de 2022 by gcwarbler gcwarbler


Probably not too many folks out there documenting Lepidium species in fruit, especially not so closely. Edit: Of course as soon as I wrote that, I go and see tons of photos of Lepidium in fruit... haha.

Publicado por rymcdaniel hace 10 meses (Marca)

Great observations! I've been taking note of several caterpillars that I would like to see. It's incredible how many species do not have known host plants or larval photos.

Publicado por zdufran hace 7 meses (Marca)

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