Death Hawk Moth Caterpillar in Johannesurg South Africa
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
December 9, 2010 2:49 am
I noticed that you had a picture and confirmed siting of this caterpillar in Durban South Africa about 600km away from were mine was found.
I only have one specimen. It’s getting close to pupation. It’s living off my Jasmine plant.
How widespread is the Death Mask Hawk Moth in South Africa? (That is what is its range?) I’m sure the Hawkmoth is not endemic to SA – where did it come from and how long has it been in the country?
I note you asked your previous correspondent from Durban to take pictures of the moth. Any advice on how to do this – simply I understand the caterpillar will bury itself and I’m scared I’ll lose the pupae. How long before the moth appears?
I really hope you can assist me with this – it’s the most exciting piece of nature in my garden in a long time.
WE are always thrilled to be able to write about the Death’s Head Hawkmoth and its beautiful caterpillar. According to the Biodiversity of South Africa website, of the three known species in the genus Acherontia that are all commonly called the Death’s Head Hawkmoth, the species found in South Africa is Acherontia atropos. The distribution is described as: “Found throughout Africa, Madagascar and most of Europe. A slightly different form, regarded by some as a separate species, is found throughout Asia.” The Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website has much information, but alas, there is no map. For some unknown reason, the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website does have a distribution map that indicates the species may be found in southern Africa, but we do not understand the difference between the green dots and the blue dots. South Africa does seem to be considered part of the range of the species. There is generally a period of several weeks spent in the pupal stage though that would vary with the severity of the winter. We cannot say for certain when the adult moth will emerge.
Thank you so much for your prompt reply.
Much appreciated – I’ve been doing a bit more research and it looks like the pupal stage can be as short as two weeks – that is South Africa is currently in summer and if there is a chance of a second cycle in the season the Death’s Head Hawkmoth may use the opportunity.
Really hoping to get pictures of the moth.