Little moth sounds like a little airplane
March 27, 2010
I love your site. The fabulous pictures have helped identify many of the bugs I’ve photographed in my travels. I live in Jakarta, Indonesia. This year the raining season has brought lots of butterflies (I’ve counted at least 10 different ones) and a few caterpillars. Unfortunately, because of the rain, we are getting lots of ants too. Most of my neighbors requested to have the gardens/houses fumigated weekly. So I do my rounds and collect caterpillars and keep them until I get beautiful butterflies and moths. I have full cycles of a few different bugs, which I’d love to upload to get them identified. I think this is a type of hummingbird moth. The gardeners thought it was a bird!
Many many thanks.
Kemang, South Jakarta, Indonesia
We are touched by your letter and your neighborhood efforts to preserve caterpillars, moths and butterflies in your area. We also hope you send us additional photos and information on your rescue efforts.
You are correct that this is a Hummingbird Moth. More specifically, this is the Gardenia Hawkmoth, Cephonodes hylas, a species common in Asia. The caterpillar in your photo actually appears to be feeding on the leaves of gardenia. You can see additional photos and read about this moth on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website that states: “The moths are rather slow in taking to the wing, but when they do so the flight is very rapid. They make a deep humming note when slightly alarmed, as do Macroglossum moths. They are very active in the morning and evening and dart rapidly from flower to flower, as well as ovipositing on the wing. They are not attracted by light. Bred females do not readily attract wild males, but the sexes pair freely in captivity.“
The image of the egg appears to be ready to hatch. The egg on the cited website is described: “OVUM: Pale blue-green or green when freshly laid, becoming pale canary yellow with age. Oval (0.75 x 0.85mm), shiny and very smooth. Laid singly on the underside of young leaves near the growing tip, or on shoot tips.“
Thank you for confirming that it is indeed a hummingbird moth. All three specimens I’ve photographed still had the protective coating of scales. They started vibrating their wings, lost some brown fluid (just like the swallowtails do when emerging from the chrysalis) and some scales as they tried to fly. One of them took hours to completely clear its wings, the other two did it in less than 30 minutes. I promise to upload other photos.
Many thanks for your response,