What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

never seen creature
Location: Melbourne, Australia
May 9, 2011 8:12 am
I never seen this creature in my life. I found its family in load of my mulch. It do not have any feet but moves very slowly.
Signature: Bob

Sphinx Moth Pupa: Agrius convolvuli

Dear Bob,
You have unearthed the Pupa of a Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae.  This is a large family with a global distribution and there are 65 species listed on the Sphingidae of Australia web page.  All of the species have pupae with a similar morphology and we are uncertain of the exact species you have found.  Each species has a different food plant or plants, and knowing what plants were growing in the vicinity of the mulching in your garden, or in the vicinity where the load of mulch was produced before its delivery to your home might facilitate the identification process.  You did not provide information on the load of mulch.  Was it newly delivered?  Though there are subtle differences in the anatomy of the various species of Sphinx Moth Pupae, they do share enough general traits to ascertain at least a family identification.  The shape of a Sphinx Moth Pupa has often been described as looking like a jug with a handle.  The handle is actually the case for the proboscis, the long tubular mouthparts that are used to sip nectar from blossoms much the way we humans drink from a straw.  Sphinx Moths have among the longest proboscises in the insect world, and the organ is coiled when not in use, and when extended during feeding it may be several inches long.  The current record for the longest proboscis is held by Morgan’s Sphinx Moth,
Xanthopan morganii, a species from Madagascar which was hypothesized to exist many years before its discovery there.  The Morgan’s Sphinx Moth has a nearly foot long proboscis, and when Charles Darwin was presented a Madagascar Orchid with a long nectary, he is reported to have written in a letter: “I have just received…a Box…from Mr Bateman with the astounding Angræcum sesquipedalia with a nectary a foot long— Good Heavens what insect can suck it”?  Curious readers may read about the evolutionary theories of Alfred Russel Wallace who supported Darwin’s initial claim by visiting the Alfred Russel Wallace website.  The casing for the proboscis in the pupae of Sphinx Moths is shorter than the actual organ, and it would be curious to know how it actually forms during the metamorphosis process.  You may decide to do additional research if your query demands a species identification for your Sphinx Moth Pupa and we would also entertain the possibility that one of our readers might be able to provide information on the actual identity of this Sphinx Moth Pupa.

Thanks to a comment from Bostjan Dvorak, we now know that this is
Agrius convolvuli, the Convolvulus Hawkmoth.  Here is a page from the Sphingidae of Australia website.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Australia

9 Responses to Unknown Sphinx Moth Pupa from Australia is Agrius convolvuli

  1. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    This is a nice photo of a fresh Agrius convolvuli pupa; this moth is a wide spread hawk moth species, and its pupa can be well distinguished by its characteristic proboscis case… As You have said, the most reliable method to distinguish the single species of Sphingidae moth pupae is to consider the shape and size of their proboscis cases. Agrius (formerly: Herse) convolvuli is a very fast flying grey hawk moth with two strings of red or pinkish spots on the backside of its body – it is closely related (almost identical) to the Agrius cinqulatus (pink spotted hawkmoth) from the New World, from which it only differs by somewhat more reddish spots. The caterpillars of both feed on the Covolvulaceae, like Morning glory (Convolvulus arvensis) or Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas); they appear in a big variety of colour forms and combinations, but can easily be recognized by their typical defense position, forming a circle by putting the head and the horned end together. The vigorous moths generally migrate in high numbers from south to north and back, and the species is even known to regularly cross the Atlantic. They are often seen feeding from certain flowers at night, and appear very elegant with their fast movements, reddish spots and long proboscis. The pupa is able to survive a winter under mediterranean conditions, ie to stay in earth for as long as a year or maximally two, without freezing temperatures, or deeply burrowed in the soil… It would be very interesting to observe the developping and flying rhythm of this species in Australia.

    Nicest wishes from Berlin,
    Bostjan Dvorak

  2. David Humphries says:

    I live in the south and I found one in my lawn what do I do with it

  3. Jan Shafer says:

    I found a nest of these in a tub I have used for growing tomatoes and cucumbers. I live in Goldtown, West Virginia, USA. What do I do to keep them from destroying my plants?

    • bugman says:

      This is not a North American species.

      • Jan Shafer says:

        How do I send you a photo of these pulpa? They look pretty much the same as the picture on your website

      • Binta Nd says:

        Hello, I live in ontario (north America) and we have this species in my garden. When I dug them out, i burry them further from my garden. They are under my potatos and eggplants plants. Any suggestion?

  4. Adam says:

    I have found a one of these in the north east of uk whilst digging a lawn

    • bugman says:

      While it might be a Sphinx Moth, it is likely to be a local species for you and not an Australian species.

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