What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

caterpillars found on gardenias in cairns
December 19, 2009
Dear Bugman, I am wondering if this is the bee hawkmoth I saw on your website from another lady. Our caterpillars are a little different colour wise to the picture on your website. They have a bluse stripe on their back, red and black dots above he leg pairs, and fine yellow and red stripes down the sides. They are bright green with a large spike at the back. They are (so far) up to 5cm long.
Leith B
Cairns,Australia

Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Leith,
The Bee Hawkmoths in the genus Cephonodes are represented by at least four species in Australia that are listed on the Moths of Australia Website, and from what we have researched, they all feed on gardenia.  The caterpillars are somewhat variable, and though they resemble your specimen, none are an exact match.  Our first choice is  Cephonodes hylas, the Coffee Hawkmoth, which can be found on the Moths of Australia website, and the caterpillar is pictured on a stamp.  The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website has images of the caterpillars that look very similar to your photo.  The caterpillars of the Gardenia Bee Hawk, Cephonodes kingii, are quite colorful as pictured on the Moths of Australia website.  We cannot locate an image of the caterpillar of Cephonodes picus, but it is described on the Moths of Australia website as “These caterpillars are usually green, with pale lines along the back and each side.

Dear Daniel, many thanks for that. We agree it looks like cephonodes hylas. It’s nice to know what it is going to turn into!
Kind Regads, Leith Banney and John EVans, Cairns.

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4 Responses to Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar in genus Cephonodes from Australia, but what species???

  1. Kay says:

    So glad I found this website. My caterpillar is exactly the same as Leith’s and is currently chewing its way through my gardenias in Cairns – probably has some camouflaged friends. I would have liked it to be a butterfly caterpillar, to watch its transformation with the grandchildren but it will have to go back to eating the garden. Thanks.

  2. Susan says:

    I have just found some tiny lime green caterpillars with a black horn on the underside of the leaves of a young Tetrastigma nitens vine in Brisbane. There are quite a few tint (1mm) light green eggs as well. While I do not have any gardenias, my neighbour has an Attractocarpus fitzlandii and maybe a couple of small exotic gardenias. I don’t see any mention of Cephonodes kingii munching out on T nitens and I am wondering if these could be the critters and if the young vine going to be able to survive the festivities.

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