Hawk moths, also known as sphinx moths or hummingbird moths, are a diverse group of insects belonging to the family Sphingidae. These fascinating creatures are often recognized for their large size, hovering capabilities, and their long probosci enhancing their ability to feed on nectar from flowers.
Hawk moth species are found throughout the world, exhibiting a range of varying characteristics. They are usually large and heavy-bodied, with a pointed abdomen and long, tapering wings covered in scales, which help keep them warm during cool nights. Some species even have clear wings, earning them the name clearwing hummingbird moths.
Key features of hawk moths include:
- Large size
- Long, pointed wings
- Long proboscis for nectar feeding
- Ability to hover and maintain high body temperatures
When describing our fascinating world of insects, hawk moths hold a special place due to their unique and captivating appearances and behaviors.
Hawk Moth Overview
Hawk moths, also known as Sphinx moths, are large and heavy-bodied. They have a:
- Long, pointed abdomen
- Long, forewings with varying margins
- Antennae that widen and narrow again toward the tip
The hawk moth life cycle includes:
- Egg: Laid on host plants
- Larva (caterpillar): Known as hornworms
- Pupa: Transforms into moth
- Adult: Feeds on nectar through a long proboscis
Moths Vs Butterflies
|Usually active during night||Active during day|
|Tend to have feathery antennae||Club-shaped antennae|
|Rest with wings flat or folded||Rest with wings closed, up together|
|Less colorful, camouflaged wings||More colorful wings|
Sphingidae is a family within the order Lepidoptera. Key characteristics include:
- Rapid, sustained flight
- Ability to hover while feeding
- Over 1,450 species worldwide
- Mainly nocturnal
- Attracted to flowers for nectar feeding
Wingspan and Patterns
Hawk moths, also known as sphinx moths, have a long and pointed abdomen. Their forewings vary in size, with some having angled or irregular margins. Common features of their wings include:
- Generally long and pointed
- Angled or irregular margins in some species
Proboscis and Nectar Feeding
These moths feed on nectar using their very long proboscis. They often hover near flowers, resembling hummingbirds in their feeding behavior. Key traits related to their feeding include:
- Long mouth tube
- Proboscis for nectar extraction
- Hovering near flowers
Color variations in hawk moths are quite diverse. They can be reddish-brown or rich in other colors, and some species lose scales, creating transparent patches on their wings. Key color characteristics include:
- Reddish-brown hues
- Clearwing varieties
- Scales covering wings
|Wingspan/Patterns||Long, pointed forewings with varied margins||Smaller wings, resembling a hummingbird|
|Proboscis/Feeding||Long proboscis, hovering near flowers||Similar to hawk moth, nectar feeding|
|Color Variations||Reddish-brown, clearwing varieties, scaly wings||Bright colors, similar to hummingbird|
Behavior and Ecology
Hawk moths are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during the night. Their long scales trap air and keep them warm, enabling them to fly even in chilly temperatures. Some examples of their nocturnal lifestyle:
- Shivering to warm up before flight
- Maintaining high body temperatures (40°C) during cool nights
Pollination and Diet
Hawk moths play an important role as pollinators. They hover near flowers, feeding on nectar using their long proboscis. Notable aspects of their pollination and diet include:
- Long proboscis, allowing them to reach deep within flowers
- Attraction to night-blooming plants for nectar
- Contributing to the fertilization of plants by spreading pollen
Predators and Defense Mechanisms
Various animals prey on hawk moths, including snakes and spiders. To protect themselves, these insects have developed defense mechanisms, such as:
- Resembling unpalatable or harmful animals, like wasps
- Rapid flight and evasive maneuvers to escape danger
Comparison Table: Hawk Moths vs. Other Pollinators
|Feature||Hawk Moths||Other Pollinators (example: bees)|
|Pollination Method||Hover near flowers||Land on flowers|
|Proboscis Length||Very long||Shorter|
|Defense Mechanisms||Mimicry, evasion||Stinging, swarming|
Overall, hawk moths are fascinating nocturnal creatures with unique behaviors, significant roles in pollination, and intriguing defense mechanisms against predators. Their distinct biology and ecology set them apart from other pollinators in the animal kingdom.
Hawk Moth Caterpillar Features
Hawk moth caterpillars are known for their large size, often reaching lengths of up to three inches or more. Some key features include:
- A flexible spine, also called a “horn”, on their hind end
- In some species, the horn is replaced with an eyespot marking
- An exoskeleton for protection during rapid growth1
Hornworms are a common type of hawk moth caterpillar2. They come in various types, including the tomato hornworm. Key characteristics are:
- Large size (up to three inches)
- A horn-like spine on the hind end
- Feeding on host plants during their growth stage3
Tomato Hornworm and Other Types
The tomato hornworm is a well-known variety of hornworm caterpillar that targets tomato plants. Other types of hornworms include:
- Tobacco hornworm
- White-lined sphinx
- Five-spotted hawk moth4
Hawk moth caterpillars, including hornworms, rely on specific host plants for sustenance. Some common host plants are:
- Tomato plants (for tomato hornworms)
- Tobacco plants (for tobacco hornworms)
- Various native plants (for other types)
Comparison Table: Tomato vs. Tobacco Hornworm
|Feature||Tomato Hornworm||Tobacco Hornworm|
|Horn Color||Dark blue to black||Red|
|Stripe Pattern||V-shaped markings||Diagonal white lines|
|Preferred Climate||Temperate regions||Warmer climates|
Notable Hawk Moth Species
The Hummingbird Hawk-Moth is a fascinating species known for its ability to hover near flowers, feeding on nectar with a long proboscis. This behavior resembles that of hummingbirds.
- Key features of the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth include:
- Long, pointed abdomen
- Forewings with an irregular margin
- Gradually widening antennae
The Elephant Hawk-Moth is a captivating species recognized for its large caterpillar stage, which features a horn-shaped protuberance and resembles an elephant’s trunk.
- Notable characteristics of the Elephant Hawk-Moth include:
- Long proboscis for feeding
- Hornworm caterpillar stage
The Privet Hawk-Moth is a large, robust moth with a striking, pointed abdomen. It is commonly found near privet plants, which serve as a food source for its caterpillars.
- Distinct features of the Privet Hawk-Moth include:
- Thick body
- Long, angled forewings
- Tapered antennae
|Feature||Hummingbird Hawk-Moth||Elephant Hawk-Moth||Privet Hawk-Moth|
|Abdomen shape||Long, pointed||Large, heavy||Long, pointed|
|Forewing shape||Irregular margin||Long, pointed||Long, angled|
|Antennae shape||Gradually widening||Gradually widening||Tapered|
|Caterpillar stage||Hovering, feeding||Hornworm||Feeds on privet plants|
Each of these species exhibit unique features and caterpillar stages, helping with their identification. Their fascinating characteristics demonstrate the diverse life cycle and adaptations present in the Hawk Moth family.
Conservation Efforts and Environmental Impact
Ecosystem Diversity and Roles
Hawk moths play essential roles in their ecosystems. For example:
- They are key pollinators of many plants.
- They serve as food items for various animal species.
Threats to Hawk Moth Populations
Several factors threaten hawk moth populations, including:
- Deforestation: Loss of natural habitats due to human activities.
- Pesticides: Harmful chemicals used in agriculture that can kill moth species.
Comparison Table: Impact of Deforestation and Pesticides
|Ecosystem||Reduced biodiversity||Imbalanced food chain|
|Populations||Reduced moth populations||Decline in moth populations|
Preserving Hawk Moth Habitats
Efforts to conserve hawk moth populations can include:
- Implementing sustainable forestry practices.
- Reducing pesticide use in agriculture.
- Promoting the creation and preservation of natural habitats.
Hawk moth conservation contributes to the overall health of ecosystems and the Earth. By preserving hawk moth habitats, we maintain essential ecosystem diversity and support various animal and plant species.
Scientific Research and Discoveries
Role of Hawk Moths in Pollination Studies
Hawk moths are known for their ability to hover near flowers, feeding on nectar through their long proboscis. This makes them essential pollinators in many ecosystems. Dr. Robert Raguso, a renowned biologist, has extensively studied these fascinating creatures and their role in pollination.
Some key characteristics of hawk moths:
- Large and heavy-bodied
- Long, pointed abdomen
- Long proboscis for feeding on nectar
Charles Darwin predicted the existence of the hawk moth due to his observations on the Madagascar star orchid, which has a long nectar spur. The moth’s ability to access the nectar highlights its importance in plant-pollinator relationships.
Research on Hawk Moth Behavior
Various factors influence hawk moth behavior, such as environmental factors and weather. For instance, hawk moths shiver to warm up and maintain high body temperatures for flying on cool nights. Scientists study these behaviors to better understand how they adapt to changing conditions.
Examples of environmental factors affecting hawk moth behavior:
- Availability of nectar sources
Researchers also explore how hawk moth behavior impacts other aspects of their ecological role, such as pollination patterns and plant reproduction.
Contributions to Arthropod Biodiversity
Hawk moths provide essential contributions to arthropod biodiversity. New hawk moth species have been discovered, including some of the smallest ever found, further emphasizing the diversity of these fascinating creatures.
Comparison of hawk moth sizes:
|Hawk Moth Species||Size Range|
|Typical Hawk Moths||Wingspans up to 4 inches or more|
|Newly Discovered Smaller Hawk Moth Species||Smaller wingspans, less than 4 inches|
The ongoing discovery of new species broadens our understanding of the immense variety within the world of moths and arthropods. By learning more about the different species and their roles in the environment, scientists can work towards conservation efforts and enhance our appreciation of these remarkable creatures.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Gorgeous Mystery Caterpillar
Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 8:49 AM
I found three of these little guys, first they were with blue patterns with black and when i took the pic they were green, i havent seen these guys before or anything like them, they also have a funny little tail, they seem very timid and slow, could you please let me know what they are exactly, and what are their needs?
Durban, South Africa
At first we were going to write back and just say that you found a species of Hawkmoth Caterpillar in the family Sphingidae, commonly called Hornworms because of the caudal horn. When we googled Sphingidae Africa, we quickly found an image of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos, on a Biodiversity of South Africa website and we feel pretty confident that is your species. The adult moth is pictured on the movie poster of the Academy Award winning Silence of the Lambs and played a role in the narrative of that film. Regarding the derivation of name , according to the Biodiversity website: “The Death’s head hawk moth is so called because of the skull-like pattern on the thorax . As far as the latin name is concerned, according to Pinhey (1975) : ‘Atropos, one of the Fates, was a daughter of Nox and Erebus and was illustrated… with veiled face and a pair of scissors to cut the thread of life. This is the thoracic pattern of a mask with scissors below it. A sinister but undeserved portrait.'” Excellent information and more photos can be found on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website. The downward curve of the horn is distinctive in the mature caterpillar and is evident in one of your photographs. By needs, we are presuming you want to raise the caterpillar to maturity. Your photo of the yellow caterpillar indicates it is mature, or fifth instar and that it will soon pupate. You should continue to feed the Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar with leaves of the plant on which it was found, and provide it with several inches of loose soil, not too moist and not too dry. The caterpillar will dig into the dirt to pupate. When its metamorphosis is nearly complete, the pupa will wriggle to the surface, the skin will split, and an adult moth or imago will emerge. We would love it if you are able to provide us with images of the adult Death’s Head Hawkmoth.
Letter 2 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in South Africa
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.
Letter 3 – Hummingbird Hawkmoth from Spain
Subject: Large bug
Location: Mallorca, Spain
March 12, 2013 10:37 am
I saw this bug a few years ago in Mallorca. Being a complete novice, I have no idea what it is. It behaved sort of like a humming bird. Please help me out.
This is really a nice action photo of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum. According to the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic: “Diurnal. In behaviour, this moth is exceptional amongst European Sphingidae: whilst preferring to fly in bright sunlight, it will also take wing at dawn, at dusk or at night; in rain, or on cool, dull days. Very hot weather tends to induce a state of torpidity in many, with activity then confined to the relative cool of the morning and late afternoon. Herrera (1992) found maximum activity occurring between 18.00 and 20.00 hours in southern Spain. Whatever the flight-time, this species is very strongly attracted to flowers yielding plentiful supplies of nectar, such as Jasminum, Buddleja, Nicotiana, Tulipa, Primula, Viola, Syringa, Verbena, Echium, Phlox and Stachys, hovering in front of and repeatedly probing each bloom before darting rapidly to the next. A great wanderer, being present right across Europe from the alpine tree-line to city centres, wherever nectar flowers may be found. Its powers of flight are amazing, and have been studied in detail by Heinig (1987). Apparently, this species also has a fine memory, as individuals return to the same flower-beds every day at about the same time (Pittaway, 1993). (See also Heinig (1981a, 1984).)
When not feeding, pairs in courtship can be seen dashing up and down around steep cliffs, buildings, or over selected stretches of open ground. Pairs in copula can occasionally be found in such locations, although they seldom stay together for more than an hour. Whilst in copula, unlike other hawkmoths, this species is still capable of flight in a manner similar to butterflies. After a further period of feeding, gravid females search for patches of Galium growing in sunny locations. While hovering, each patch is carefully examined, sprig by sprig, before a single ovum is placed amongst the flower-buds. Up to 200 ova may be deposited by each female, therefore egg-laying can take a considerable time.
M. stellatarum is unique among sphingids of the region in overwintering as an adult, although north of the Alps very few survive. With the onset of cooler weather, individuals can be seen examining caves, rocky crags, empty houses, holes in trees or sheds, before selecting a suitable place for hibernation. This state of torpidity is not absolute, however, for warm days in December and January may bring some out to feed.”
Letter 4 – Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia
I just came across your website. Would you please be kind enough to identify this caterpillar I found eating white gardenia leaves? Do you have any particular tip on how I should care for it? We’re hoping it will turn into a beautiful butterfly! Thanking you in advance,
Where in the world are you??
Thank You Morgane,
This is a Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Cephonodes kingii. Adults are diurnal moths that resemble bumble bees. Continue to feed the caterpillar. When it is ready, it will form a naked pupa underground.
Letter 5 – Convolvulus Hawkmoth Caterpillar from New Zealand
Geographic location of the bug: Maungaturoto
Time: 07:01 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Heya this big dude just bout ended up squished this morning and we have never seen anything similar???!!!
How you want your letter signed: Toni Pool
This is a Hornworm, the caterpillar of a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth from the family Sphingidae, and though a dorsal view is not ideal for identification purposes (a lateral view shows more details) the red caudal horn should help in identification. We found only two species from the family represented on the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research site, and the caterpillar of the Convolvulus Hawkmoth, Agrius convolvuli, pictured on Butterfly House looks like a very good match.
Letter 6 – Hummingbird Hawkmoth from France
July 23, 2012
Stephen J. Bridges … sent me this photo, which I identified as Macroglossum stellatarum, a Hummingbird Hawk-moth. Taken in France, about 50 km north of Saint Tropez at 900 meters elevation.
I’m passing it along, since I couldn’t find a photo of this species on What’s That Bug. Use it or lose it, but it’s a pretty good action shot.
We don’t get many submissions from France and this Hummingbird Hawkmoth is a nice addition.
Letter 7 – Hornworm of a Convolvulus Hawkmoth from New Zealand
Subject: Horn worm
Geographic location of the bug: Waiotahe Valley, Bay of Plenty
Time: 05:15 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi there.
What do they eat? Are they harmful? Found on ex forestry block!
How you want your letter signed: Gertie
This is a Hornworm, the larva of a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae. Its color, markings and the look of its horn lead us to believe this is the larva of a Convolvulus Hawkmoth, Agrius convolvuli, which is pictured on New Zealand Invertebrates where it states: “Favoured host plants in NZ are the bindweed and kumara.” Butterfly House also provides a list of food plants.
Letter 8 – Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia
Subject: Gardenia Munchers in Queensland, Australian‼️
Geographic location of the bug: Caloundra, Queensland, Australia
Time: 07:48 AM EDT
I’ve got these gorgeous specimens chowing down on my Gardenia Buds, Flowers &, to a lesser extent, leaves.
I’ve put two in a glass jar with a little water, with Gardenia Buds, Blooms & leaves.
How long before this big fellow Pupates? Anything in particular that I should do to care for them?
Many thanks for your time??‼️
Warmest Entomological Regards,
How you want your letter signed: Nikkii
What pretty Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillars, Cephonodes kingii, you have. The only image we have in our archives is a green individual. According to Butterfly House: “These Caterpillars when they first hatch are pale green with a short black tail horn. The caterpillars later become black, grey, or green, often with black lines across the back. The back of the head and the final claspers are covered in small white warts. The caterpillars have posterior horn shaped like a shallow ‘S’, and have white spiracles along each side outlined in red. The head colour varies from brown to green.” The site also states: “When threatened, the caterpillars arch back, and regurgitate a green fluid. If the caterpillars are crowded, they may eat each other. The caterpillars pupate under the soil. The pupa is naked and dark brown, with a length of about 5 cms.” You might want to consider moving them to a terrarium with clean, moist, but not wet potting soil in the bottom so they can pupate underground. There is also a nice image on 1000 for 1KSQ.
My apologies – when I went back to your site, it must’ve re-submitted my request. I didn’t realise that was happening, soz
Letter 9 – Wattle Goat Moth from Australia, not Hawkmoth
Location: Bermagui NSW
November 6, 2011 5:40 pm
Can you please ID this moth. She came in on Nov 1st, laid her eggs on the back of my chair then stayed till she died 5 days later, sad.But what is she?
We strongly feel this is a Hawkmoth in the family Spingidae, however a species identification is eluding us. We started searching Butterfly House, and the two best candidates there are the Australian Privet Hawkmoth, Psilogramma casuarinae, and Synoecha marmorata. The former has the dark markings on the thorax, and the latter has closer wing markings. Csiro has this image of the latter. The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website has this to say about Psilogramma increta: “Reliably recorded from northeastern China, Japan and Korea, south and east through China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Peninsular Malaysia, to the Greater Sunda Islands; then west through Burma/Myanmar, Nepal and India to Kashmir. It is possible that P. increta extends much further east through the Malay Archipelago and may even reach Australia and the Pacific islands. However, in these latter areas, the features of adult wing colour and pattern that farther west differentiate P. increta from the closely related species, P. menephron, break down and it becomes impossible to reliably distinguish them on this basis. The two species are also identical in genital structure. Mell (1922b) described diagnostic features of larvae and pupae but these have yet to be investigated in eastern populations of Psilogramma.” Perhaps one of our readers will be able to assist in this difficult identification.
Update and Correction
Thanks to a comment from Ryan, we now realize this Hawkmoth imposter is actually a Wattle Goat Moth, one of the Wood Moths in the family COSSIDAE.
Letter 10 – Vine Hawkmoth from Australia
Subject: what moth is this
April 17, 2014 3:52 am
my daughter found this and has been trying to find out what it is i’v looked everywhere i have no idea what it is
For some reason, we are having difficulty uploading your image. Your moth is the Vine Hawkmoth or Gabi Moth, Hippotion celerio, which we found on the Butterfly House website where it states: “The moth is agriculturally important as it is one of several species largely responsible for the pollination of Papaya ( Chamaedorea tepejilote ).” More information can be found on Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic.
Letter 11 – Bee Hawkmoth from Australia
Location: Captain’s Mountain via Millmerran, Queensland, Australia
January 22, 2011 6:51 pm
We found this dead moth outside our house recently. We have never seen a moth with transparent wings. What is it? Is it usually found in our area? What does its caterpillar look like?
Signature: Mackenzie Family
Dear Mackenzie Family,
You found a Bee Hawkmoth, Cephonodes kingii, a diurnal species that may be mistaken for a bee or hummingbird as it visits flowers to feed on nectar. The Brisbane Insect website has nice images of living specimens.
THANK YOU so much for getting back to us so quickly. We are guessing that the moth may have ended up on this side of the Great Dividing Range because of the cyclonic winds that have been blowing off storms towards Brisbane this month. We are about 250 km from Brisbane at the far edge of the Darling Downs. We seem to have more species of bugs this summer than ever before but there don’t seem to be any more of these bee hawk moths around.
We really appreciate you replying to us.
From Beverley Mackenzie
Insects posted to the Brisbane Insect website often have a far greater range extending to other parts of Australia as well the islands of the South Pacific and occasionally even Asia. According to Oz Insects, Queensland is part of the range of the Bee Hawkmoth, though winds do buffet insects about and weather patterns might be responsible for range expansions.
Letter 12 – Australian Hawk Moth
February 12, 2010
Hi again Bugman. I think this time I actually was able to sort out the species myself going through your ‘hawkmoth’ search: there it was on page 11 out of 19 pages – (www.whatsthatbug.com/2006/02/16/australian-hawk-moth-might-be-coequosa-australasiae/) . I confirmed it on this webpage: www1.ala.org.au/gallery2/v/Sphingidae/Coequosaaustralasiae/coequosa_australasiae_02.jpg.html
Do you agree my identification?
Thanks in advance.
PS. It was sitting there at night on this deck chair, and I observed it for about an hour, taking occasional photos. It came as a great surprise for me when it started spreading its ‘underwings’ that turned out to be bright orange. It was quite large, maybe 3-4 inches long.
Hi Again Ridou,
My, you certainly are submitting some wonderful images. We agree that your Hawk Moth is Coequosa australasiae. We actually think a different image on the Csiro website is a better visual match to your individual.
Letter 13 – Hawkmoth from Australia: Daphnis protrudens
Subject: Oleander Hawk Moth?
Location: Cannonvale, North Queensland, Australia
June 3, 2017 8:58 pm
Hey – I live in Cannonvale, North Queensland, Australia. I found this Moth in my yard. After doing a google search I think it’s an Olander Hawk Moth – but apparently we don’t get them in Australia?
Winter has just started here but it is a tropical climate. I found the Moth during the day clinging to the side of the house. It let my pick it up on a stick, very quiet.
Signature: Jessica Stapleton
You are correct that the Oleander Hawkmoth, Daphnis nerii or Deilephila nerii, is not reported from Australia, however, according to Butterfly House, at least five similar looking relatives in the same genus are reported from Australia. Of the five, we believe you have encountered Daphnis protrudens, and according to Butterfly House: “The adult moths have wings with a bold pattern of pale and dark brown. There is a contrasting pair of dark brown and white bands across the first abdominal segment. The wingspan is about 10 cms. The species occurs in New Guinea, Sulawesi, as well as in Australia in Queensland.” The species is also pictured on Atlas of Living Australia and CalPhotos. According to Papua Insects: “Rather rare in Papua.”
Letter 14 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Spain
Caterpillar found in Costa Blanca area of Spain
Location: San Miguel de Salinas, 03193 Alicante, Spain
October 29, 2011 6:25 am
The attached picture is of a caterpillar (approx 8-9cm in length) which was found in the garden of our villa near San Miguel de Salinas in Spain (Postcode 03193 Alicante).
I had thought it was dead when I first picked it up in gloved hand but after a short while it curled round my finger and so I released it back onto the ground near where I had found it.
Signature: Dear Ian
Hi Dear Ian,
Because of the pattern on the thorax of the adult moth, this species, Acherontia atropos, is commonly called the Death’s Head Hawkmoth and it was used to advertise the movie Silence of the Lambs. The caterpillar feeds upon “Trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, mainly in the Solanaceae, Bignoniaceae, Verbenaceae and Oleaceae” according to the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website.
Letter 15 – Coffee Bean Hawkmoth from South Africa
Subject: Sci-fi moth
Location: Glenwood, Durban [Ed. Note: South Africa]
January 11, 2013 12:50 pm
Hi, I found this moth a few years ago at my home in Glenwood, Durban. Never been able to find it in a book on bugs. Any idea?
This stunning creature is a Coffee Bean Hawkmoth or Oriental Bee Hawkmoth, Cephanodes hylas, according to the BioDiversity Explorer website which states: “This is one of the three main species of hawkmoth that are active in the daytime, the other two species being Macroglossum trochilus and Leucostrophus hirundo” though it is unclear which location that statement is made regarding since the Coffee Bean Hawkmoth ranges in “Africa south of the Sahara, Asia and Australia.”
thanks for the prompt reply! I thought it might be a Clearwing Moth – they seem so similar. But I’ve just found the exact same one as mine under Hawkmoth!
I see my image can be found on google now. Would you mind terribly putting this one up instead? It has my copyright on it. I’ll change the name on my site.
Many thanks again!
We have replaced the image.
Letter 16 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: Please help identify this caterpillar
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
January 6, 2013 4:38 am
The (poor) photo attached was taken yesterday 5th January 2013 in Table View, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. Would you be so kind as to try to identify it for me? Thanks a lot!
There isn’t much detail in the posterior end of this caterpillar so we cannot make out if there is a caudal horn present, but the coloration and size are consistent with the appearance of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos, like the one we just posted a few days ago from Israel. This is a different color morph from the typical Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillars we generally receive which are more green and yellow.
Thanks very much for your response – there is a horn at it’s
posterior. Much obliged for the info.
Letter 17 – Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth from Canary Islands
Subject: beautiful moth
November 26, 2014 6:00 am
Hi found this on the bed and wondered what tyep of moth it was
Before we could even begin to attempt to identify your Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, we needed to first research the location of Lanzarote, which we have learned is in the Canary Islands. Once that was established, we quickly identified your Hawkmoth as Hyles tithymali on EnAcademic and then we verified the identification on Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic where we learned it has a common name: Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth. The Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic site states: “Restricted to the Canary and ?Cape Verde Islands, where it is widespread, occurring from sea-level to 1000m in short-lived but well-defined colonies (Schurian & Grandisch, 1991). Commonest in the drier and warmer parts, such as dry sand dunes, steep-sided valleys (van der Heyden, 1988), and cultivated areas where its main hostplant is most abundant.”
Letter 18 – Gardenia Hawkmoth, Caterpillar and Egg from Indonesia
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,
Letter 19 – Two Hawkmoths from the UK
Subject: Unidentified Moths
Location: South Wales, UK
July 6, 2014 1:39 pm
Hi, I have found these two moths on the wall of my house in the last 3 days, and have never seen anything like them before. Can you help me identify them as I cant find them on the internet or in a book on British wildlife I have?
Signature: Nick Jones
Both of your moths are Sphinx Moths or Hawkmoths in the family Sphingidae, but they represent different species. Sphinx Moths is the more frequently used common name in North America while in the UK, Hawkmoth is the preferred name. Moths in the family Sphingidae are characterized by their long, narrow forwings and by powerful flight. The lighter of the two moths is the Poplar Hawkmoth, Laothoe populi, and you can find more information on the UK Moths site where it states: “Probably the commonest of our hawk-moths, it has a strange attitude when at rest, with the hindwings held forward of the forewings, and the abdomen curved upwards at the rear. If disturbed it can flash the hindwings, which have a contrasting rufous patch, normally hidden.” The other individual is an Eyed Hawkmoth, Smerinthus ocellata, and it is also represented on the UK Moths site where it states: “Fairly well distributed throughout England and Wales, this species has a sombre, camouflaged appearance at rest, but if provoked, flashes the hindwings, which are decorated with intense blue and black ‘eyes’ on a pinkish background.” Though we have numerous examples of the Poplar Hawkmoth on our site, your Eyed Hawkmoth represents a new species for our archives. There are many species of moths that have more brightly colored underwings which are used to startle or otherwise fool predators through some combination of camouflage and mimicry.
Thanks for the prompt reply Daniel – this is really interesting.
Although I’ve seen plenty of other moth species over the years (I’m 52 years old) I’ve never seen these types – even stranger that I spotted them on 2 different days. Is this because at this time of year they hatch?
Hawkmoths are relatively long lived in the moth world, and adults feed from nectar producing flowers, hence Hawkmoths are present when blooms are present, and in the UK, that tends to be spring and summer, which coincides with your sightings.
Letter 20 – Hawkmoth: Hippotion species from Hawaii, not Yam Hawkmoth
Tersa sphinx or other moth?
February 23, 2010
Okay, so at first I thought that I had readily identified this as a Tersa Sphinx, however they aren’t even listed here in Hawaii on the Insects of Hawaii website (not that it doesn’t mean they don’t exist here). So, then I decided to look a little further and realized that the Tersa Sphinx has black and white coloration on the lower wings. I went back outside to try to bother my newfound subject into showing me his/her wings, Took some effort, but to my surprise they were orangey pink not black and white. So now here I sit stumped and confused. It was approximately 1.5-2 inches long, and is sitting on a fire hose connection under the outside light. Could it possibly be Hippotion boerhaviae or maybe perhaps Hippotion rosetta? How are you supposed to be able to tell the difference in these moths? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
We are nearly certain your moth is a Yam Hawkmoth, Theretra nessus, and it is depicted on Bill Oehlke’s excellent website. Bill only has one image of a living moth, and your moth has light markings on the thorax that differ from the identified image. We checked a second website, and the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic has numerous living specimens, but again, they all lack the light stripe on your individual. We are copying Bill Oehlke on this response in the hope that he can either confirm our identification, or provide a correct identification. We hope you will also provide Bill with additional information as he is compiling comprehensive data on Sphingidae sightings, and he may also want to post your photos on his site.
Bill Oehlke makes a correction
Here is message I sent to Tina:
Daniel Marlos asked me to have a look at your Sphingidae images from Hawaii.
There are no known resident populations of Hippotion species on Hawaii, but I agree that your pictures show either H. rosetta or H. boerhaviae
Sphingidae are known to fly great distances, but your specimen seems to be in very fine shape, not at all warn from a long flight.
I suspect it came in on one of the cruise ships. It may have alighted on one of the ships in the South Pacific, attracted by lights, and may have remained there for a trip to Hawaii.
It also may have come in on an imported shipment of potted plants. They don’t always get inspected as well as they should, and if the larva had already gone underground, it would have gone unnoticed until it emerged about fourteen days later as a moth in a new location. Also possible that someone found the larva or pupa while digging, wanted to see what it would become, put it in a jar, hopped on an airplane and flew to Hawaii.
While on vacation the moth emerged and you photographed it.
You are right, it is not Xylophanes tersa; nor do I think it is Theretra nessus.
Determining identifications for many look-alike Sphingidae species can be difficult. As your moth is an obvious stray or import, we do not know its origin. Sometimes seeng the hindwing helps, sometimes seeing the ventral surface works.
There aere some species so similar that DNA barcoding or analysis of genitalia are necessary to tell them apart.
I wanted to say thank you so much for the quick responses. I did find Hippotion boerhaviae listed on the species index for Hawaiian insects on the insects of Hawaii website, though it does say that they are not native. I don’t know if they can be readily found here, but I am assuming that is what it means. As to Bill Oehlke using my photos for his website, I would be more than honored, and if he needed any additional data I would be more than willing to provide it as well. Again, thank you all for such speedy and informative responses.
The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website indicates: “Adults can also travel long distances, either voluntary or involuntary. Bell & Scott (1937) once saw hundreds come on board a ship sailing between Aden (Yemen) and Bombay (India) during a cyclone.“
Letter 21 – Levant Hawkmoth from Cyprus
July 28, 2016 3:35 am
This insect is currently in my garden in Cyprus, I think it is a moth but as it is out in daytime I am not sure. I hope you can help!
You are correct that this is a moth, and moths are not limited to nocturnal flights. There are many species that are diurnal, flying during daylight hours. We are confident we have properly identified your individual as a Levant Hawkmoth, Theretra alecto, thanks to the Cyprus Discovery website. According to Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic, despite being “The commonest sphingid in Lebanon, apart from Macroglossum stellatarum … Little is known about the behaviour of this species except that it is attracted to flowers and light.”
Letter 22 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth
Location: Bellevue NE moonflower bush
September 25, 2010 11:55 pm
Thank you for your site. I was able to identify what I took a picture of.
Your photos are quite wonderful, especially the image that shows the moth with its long proboscis uncoiled and reaching deep into the throat of the blossom for the nectar. If your photos were not of such a high quality, we probably would not be able to correct your misidentification. If you compare the markings on the thorax of your specimen and count the yellow spots on the abdomen, we think you will agree that this is actually not a Carolina Sphinx, but rather a Five Spotted Hawkmoth, Manduca quinquemaculata. Bill Oehlke’s website, Sphingidae of the Americas, has excellent images of numerous members of the family, and you can compare his photographs of the Five Spotted Hawkmoth with those of the Carolina Sphinx. As long as we are making corrections, the blossom that the Five Spotted Hawkmoth is feeding upon is a Datura, commonly called a Jimsonweed. We believe the common name Moonflower belongs to a vine in the morning glory family and though the Datura also blooms at night, we have not heard it called a Moonflower. The Datura is a common food plant for the caterpillars of both the Carolina Sphinx and the Five Spotted Hawkmoth, and having flowers that attract the adult moths ensures that the bloom is pollinated and can produce seeds. Both the plant and the moth benefit from their symbiotic relationship.
Thanks for the correction. However, the plant is not D. stramonium, it is more Ipomoea alba. The shape of leaves is distinctly different. But I am just an amateur photographer and amateur gardener.
again a google search corrects me…. Datura wrightii is the classification…but i am so confused now lol
Classification of plants and animals is no cake walk, and just when you think you have the identification nailed, some scientist reclassifies everything. The plant is definitely a Datura.
Agreed, a Datura it is.
Letter 23 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillars from Singapore
Hi there … are these acherontia styx caterpillars? Thanks!
Please provide a location.
Thanks for your reply! I really like your website, by the way. I’m from Singapore. I found these lovelies chomping away on my jasmine plant. Have kept them aside safely (I have 5 cats) with lots of leaves to keep them happy. Any tips on how to look after these caterpillars, especially when they pupate (do they need to burrow beneath soil or hang from a branch?) Thanks so much for any information you can provide. Regards,
Thanks so much for the additional information. Hawkmoths in the genus Acherontia are called the Death’s Head Hawkmoths. Your specimens are in the genus Acherontia, but we are not certain if they are Acherontia lachesis or Acherontia styx medusa, both of which can be found in Singapore. Thanks for your contribution.
Letter 24 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in Portugal
Location: Algarve Portugal
January 2, 2011 12:41 pm
Probably the largest catterpillar i’ve seen. I would say about 4.5ins. More flourescent green in real life than appears on the photos.
Could you help indentify it for me.
There are more photos if required.
This is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos. In August we posted a photo and letter from Portugal regarding a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar and you may also read about it on the UK Moths website.
Letter 25 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Spain
September 30, 2011 7:38 am
Hi, I found this on the floor near to a stream in La Hoz, Rute, Spain. Any ideas please
This is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, the European member of a genus that contains two other Asian moths with the same common name. The common name refers to the skull pattern on the thorax of the adult moth. The Animal Pictures Archive website contains some interesting information, including: “These moths have several unusual features. All three species have the ability to emit a loud squeak if irritated. The sound is produced by expelling air from the pharynx, often accompanied by flashing of the brightly-colored abdomen in a further attempt to deter predators. All three species are commonly observed raiding beehives of different species of honey bee for honey; A. atropos only attacks colonies of the well-known Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. They are able to move about in hives unmolested because they mimic the scent of the bees.”
Letter 26 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Israel
Subject: Unknown hawkmoth
Location: Rehovot, Israel
January 1, 2013 1:57 am
My son found this large hawkmoth caterpillar on our synthetic lawn. It’s about the size of an adult’s index finger and I guessed it was looking for a place to burrow for pupation. We put it in a jar full of soil and it dug right in, so we’re sure of the family identification.
We’d love to know what species to expect in the jar in a few weeks! I searched the web but found nothing similar.
Thanks for your excellent site!
Signature: Ben from Israel
We wish your photo had better detail. We will try to determine the species identity of this Hornworm. We quickly located this matching photo on the Natural History Museum website where it is identified as the Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos. There are also matching photos on Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons. This is not the typical coloration of the Death’s Head Hawkmoth caterpillar which is more common in its yellow form.
Letter 27 – Coffee Hawkmoth from Japan
Identified japanese moth with your site, thanks
I live in Japan and when I went for a walk in Yokohama yesterday, I saw an insect I had never spotted before. I sucessfully used your site to identify it. Thank you very much. I am sending you a few pictures for you to choose from (in case you want to post them), because I think you do not have this particular species on your site. I found, first through your site and then also through others, that it is a "Coffee Hawk Moth" or in Latin "Cephonodes Hylas", found often in Japan. It belongs to the Sphingidae-group of moths and is similar to the Hummigbird Moths featured on your site, that’s why I could identify it. Thank you again and best regards from the far east.
We are happy to hear we have been helpful in your identifying the Coffee Hawkmoth.
Letter 28 – Coffee Bean Hawkmoth from Australia
Subject: Clear Wing Coffee Bee Hawk Moth
October 3, 2014 10:23 pm
I have got a couple of shots of this moth feeding, a tricky creature to photograph, these photos taken the other afternoon in South West Queensland, Australia, I had never seen one of these before but have found it is a pest in South Africa.
Some info I have about this moth.
Species: hylas (Linnaeus, 1771)
Signature: Pat Lepinath
Thanks so much for submitting your images of a Coffee Bean Hawkmoth, Cephonodes hylas.
Letter 29 – Coffee Bean Hawkmoth from Java
Subject: what bug is this
Location: Central Java, Indonesia
January 20, 2015 8:42 am
Found this in my in-law’s garden
Letter 30 – Convolvulvus Hawk Moth from Australia
What is this Queensland Moth?
Wed, Mar 18, 2009 at 9:44 PM
Hey there bugman!
I found this dude in the collar of one of my tee shirts that I had on the line today, and he gave me a little freight since I’ve not seen a moth as big as he is before. However, after my initial shock I decided to get him identified by you. After he’d had enough of the photo shoot he took off, possibly to find another collar to sleep in. He was about the size of my thumb and very fuzzy.
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
We quickly located your moth on the Brisbane Insects Website and it is a Convolvulvus Hawk Moth, Agrius convolvuli. We located much information on the species, including another website that indicates has a large range and migrates freely in Europe, Asia and Africa as well as Australia. More information and photos can be found on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website.
Letter 31 – Convolvulus Hawkmoth Hornworm from Australia
Subject: Caterpillar Vic australia
Location: Victoria Australia- bayside
April 20, 2016 5:58 pm
Hi, I found this on the ground in Victoria Australia. It’s as long as my palm. What is it?
Your Hornworm is the caterpillar of a Convolvulus Hawkmoth, Agrius convolvuli , and you can verify our identification on ButterflyHouse where it states: “The caterpillar may walk up to 300 metres from the food plant to pupate. It pupates in a cell in the soil. The pupa has a long looped compartment for the developing haustellum.”
Letter 32 – Hawkmoth from Australia: Coprosma Hawk Moth, Cizara ardeniae
please identify this small moth, black and orange, delta shaped body and wings
Sat, Jan 17, 2009 at 1:17 AM
we found this moth on 18/01/09, mid summer, 1100am, approx 27degrees celcius, fine sunny weather, at my house near stockton beach, newcastle on the upper central coast of new south wales australia. it was on a small branch that i cut off a bottle brush tree ‘genus Callistemon’ it is approx 5cm across its wingspan and about 3cm long it is black with distinctive orange markings on its upper wing, it has 2 clear circular ‘windows’ toward its wingtips, it has an orange/pink/red underbody, it has a spiked tail and looks like it may be dangerous. could you please identify it for me, we have extensively searched the CSIRO australan moths website.and have been unsucessful in identifying it.
-32° 49′ 151° 54′ , on branch near stockton beach, newcastle, new south wales, Australia
We actually did identify your Australian Hawkmoth as Cizara ardeniae on the CSIRO website, but there was no information on the species. Once we had the species name, we found a page on the Coprosma Hawk Moth on the Moth Caterpillars of Australia website which we had searched unsuccessfully earlier.
That site has many images of the caterpillars and adult moths with this description: “The moth itself is a handsome dark brown, with white edges to the wings and white bars across the wings and abdomen. It normally rests with these white bars aligned on each side to form a single stripe across the moth. This may give effective camouflage, misleading the eye to see the front and back as separate entities, neither of which is especially shaped like a moth. ” The adult moth was also pictured on a 1991 Australian postage stamp.
Letter 33 – Coprosma Hawkmoth from Australia
Location: South Coast NSW Australia
November 1, 2011 9:45 am
can you id this moth for me.
Thanks Bugman, from Frosty
Finding the correct identification for your Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae proved a bit of a challenge for us this morning, but we finally identified your Coprosma Hawkmoth, Cizara ardeniae, when we found a match on the Butterfly Housewebsite. We also found some photos of the Coprosma Hawkmoth from 2009 in our archives. The Coprosma Hawkmoth appeared on an Australian postage stamp in 1991. The stamp is used to picture this species on Csiro.
G’day Daniel 🙂 Mega thanks for your great detective work,.,one last thing now I know the critters name.
Is the Coprosma Hawkmoth, Cizara ardeniae a commonly occurring moth or is it an endangered species.
I live in Sanctuary Point, about 230 klm south of Sydney.
I haven’t seen this moth before.
I normally feed most moths to my wild bird visitors, but not if it is rare.
We believe it probably falls between common and endangered.
Letter 34 – Coprosma Hawk Moth from Australia
Subject: Black and gold moth
Geographic location of the bug: Aylmerton 2575 NSW Australia
Time: 06:41 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello
How you want your letter signed: Achim
This is a Coprosma Hawkmoth, Cizara ardeniae, and we identified on Butterfly House where it states: “The moth itself is a handsome dark brown with a green sheen, with white edges to the wings and white bars across the wings and abdomen. It normally rests with these white bars aligned on each side to form a single stripe across the moth. This may give effective camouflage, misleading the eye to see the front and back as separate entities, neither of which is especially shaped like a moth. There is a black dot in each of the white areas at the base of each wing, which look perhaps like eyes, and with the double bar across the abdomen looking like a mouth, make the moth look like a mean monster.”
Letter 35 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
what is it
can you identifi this caterpiller we live in alicante spain i have 3 of the on a purlple trumpet like plant. REGARDS
LAURENCE & ELAINE
Hi Laurence and Elaine,
This is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos. It is a species surrounded by myth and superstition, including its appearance in the book and movie “Silence of the Lambs”. We located a wonderful website called Sphingidae of the Western Paleoarctic that has images and information.
October 15, 2009
Hope things are good at your end. I was wondering about why the Death’s Head Hawkmoth citation wasn’t placed in the “Tasty Morsels” category with previous listings.
Letter 36 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Yellow caterpillar in South Africa
Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 10:43 AM
A week ago we encountered a big yellow caterpillar in our garden and we have never seen anything like it before. We spotted it walking quite fast across a slab of slate towards a flowerpot.
It is just over 90mm in length. We picked it up and placed it in the garden underneath a bush, where it climbed onto a thin twig (see photo’s – I held a South African R2 coin next to it) and stayed there for the night and following morning. Sometime during the day it disappeared not to be seen again. Could you please help us to identify this creature?
Boksburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa
This is the Caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos. The adult moth is pictured on the movie poster of the Academy Award winning Silence of the Lambs and played a role in the narrative of that film. Regarding the d erivation of name , a ccording to the Biodiversity of South Africa website: “The Death’s head hawk moth is so called because of the skull-like pattern on the thorax . As far as the latin name is concerned, according to Pinhey (1975) : ‘Atropos, one of the Fates, was a daughter of Nox and Erebus and was illustrated… with veiled face and a pair of scissors to cut the thread of life. This is the thoracic pattern of a mask with scissors below it. A sinister but undeserved portrait.’” Excellent information and more photos can be found on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website. The downward curve of the horn is distinctive in the mature caterpillar and is evident in one of your photographs. By needs, we are presuming you want to raise the caterpillar to maturity. Your photo of the yellow caterpillar indicates it is mature, or fifth instar and that it will soon pupate. You should continue to feed the Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar with leaves of the plant on which it was found, and provide it with several inches of loose soil, not too moist and not too dry. The caterpillar will dig into the dirt to pupate. When its metamorphosis is nearly complete, the pupa will wriggle to the surface, the skin will split, and an adult moth or imago will emerge.
Letter 37 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
October 16, 2009
Found in a garden in Florence Italy during October of 2009. What is it? Is it bad for plants?
Dear A. Livingston,
This is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, and other than eating some leaves, it is not harmful to the plant it is feeding upon. You may find additional information on the Sphingidae of the Palaearctic website.
Letter 38 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Cyprus
January 10, 2010
Please can you identify this caterpillar. It was found on a yellow jasmine in early January in North Cyprus. (The coin in the pictures is a Turkish 1 lira coin about the size of a two euro coin. many thanks
This is the caterpillar of Acherontia atropos, the Death’s Head Hawkmoth that gets its common name from the pattern on the thorax of the adult moth. That pattern resembles a skull, and the insect was used on the movie poster for the movie Silence of the Lambs. Here is a link to a website with additional information.
Letter 39 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in Portugal
unidentified giant caterpillar
August 16, 2010 3:08 am
my parents found this in their garden in portugal. we can’t identify it – can you? thanks ever so much
This appears to be a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos. According to the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website, the caterpillar is: “Polymorphic, with a distinctly granulose yellow or light brown, downward-curving, S-shaped horn. Bears pronounced bi-coloured oblique lateral stripes and dorsal spots in the final instar. Clicks mandibles if molested.” There is a vintage print of the stages of metamorphosis on the site, and the food plant looks like the plant in your photograph. Can you identify the plant the caterpillar was feeding upon? The UK Moths website has this information: “The largest moth to appear in Britain, sporting a wingspan of up to 12 or 13cm, this is a striking species, though it is not native. Immigrants arrive from southern Europe, usually several in each year, during late summer and autumn. It has the unusual habit of entering beehives in search of honey, and if handled, emits a loud squeak. The large caterpillar feeds on potato (Solanum tuberosum), and is sometimes found in potato fields during good immigration years.” Because of the markings on the thorax of the adult moth, which resembles a human skull, this insect has been a popular subject for artists, including the movie poster for the Oscar winning film The Silence of the Lambs.
you’re a genius, thank you so much.
While your claims are wildly exaggerated, we appreciate the compliment. Can you identify the plant from your parent’s garden that the caterpillar was feeding upon?
August 18, 2010
I’m sorry it took so long to get back to youy. turns out our flora identification skills are as poor as our fauna ones. they have no idea. but they CAN confirm that it isn’t a potato plant.
the caterpillar (named Hannibal) has burrowed into some soil and we eagerly await his hatching.
Please send additional photos of pupa and adult if possible.
Letter 40 – Early Instar Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Botswana
Green and Yellow Caterpillar
Location: Kasane, Botswana
January 14, 2011 5:05 pm
This is rainy season in Kasane, Botswana and I saw this beautiful green and yellow striped caterpillar with a spike on his back end. Can you please let me know if it is poinsonous and what it will become? Thank you.
Signature: Laura Marchitto Massie
This is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth Caterpillar, known as a Hornworm. We believe it is an early instar of the Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, based on a photo on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website. As the caterpillar molts through successive instars, the horn becomes proportionally smaller.
Letter 41 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Location: South Africa – Gauteng province
May 3, 2011 3:14 am
hi bugman – can you id this caterpillar?
This magnificent caterpillar is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos. You may see a photo of an adult moth in our archive which will explain the common name. This species has the notoriety of figuring prominently in the poster for the award winning film Silence of the Lambs.
Letter 42 – Deathshead Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Namibia
November 17, 2011
Dear Daniel, Many thanks for your 3 messages and all the details they contain. I’m not e-maiing from Namibia but from the U.K. but the delay in responding is because we don’t have the computer on daily. I’ve attached to this message 2 more photos not for identification as I believe they are of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpiller but I hoped you might like to see them or use them.
I wonder however if I may submit 2 further pictures for identification, again both taken in Namibia.
Kind regards, Roger.
There are several species called Deathshead Hawkmoths from the genus Atropos, and this is surely one of them, but we haven’t the time to research the species found in Namibia at the moment. If you send additional photos, please use our standard form and please attach only a single species per submission.
Letter 43 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Namibia
Location: Windhoek Namibia
February 8, 2012 7:29 am
Please help us identify the caterpillar in the photograph. We are not sure how voracious an appetite it has and what bug it will turn into.
We are conservation minded and love our garden so would also like to know how to keep it at bay if necessary
With grateful thanks
This is the caterpillar of the Death’s Head Hawkmoth. Interestingly, we just posted a photo of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth from Singapore.
Letter 44 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Subject: Big yellow beasty
Location: Cabrieres 34800 France
October 22, 2012 1:16 pm
We found this large caterpillar in south west France in the Herault region of Languedoc. It was on a rough road going through vines. The caterpillar was about 3-4 inches long. Had a look at a boog called Le Garrigue and can’t find anything about it. Do you know it?
Though the adult Death’s Head Hawk Moth, Acherontia atropos, gets more publicity, due in a large part to the role it played in Silence of the Lambs and the thoracic markings that resemble a skull, we tend to get more sightings of the caterpillar of the Death’s Head Hawk Moth.
Thank you for the information. We are quite a bit further north than the other sightings but very rural so we get all sorts of things.
Chris Sparks JP
Letter 45 – Death's Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Zimbabwe
Subject: Un known caterpillar
Location: Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
January 31, 2013 2:21 am
Hi guys do you recognize this caterpillar? this is a new one for me.
Signature: Kind Regards
This is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth.
Letter 46 – Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa: Coelonia fulvinotata
Location: South Africa
April 26, 2013 3:44 am
I found this worm crawling into the house. It’s the second one we have found trying to make it’s way indoors. The first on was yellow and green if I remember correctly.
What is it?
Signature: Don’t understand the question
This is a Hornworm, a caterpillar in the Hawkmoth family Sphingidae. We believe it is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, though this is not the typical color we see for the species. Typically, the caterpillars of the Death’s Head Hawkmoth are a bright green and yellow color like your email indicates. According to the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic: “Prior to pupation, the fully-grown larva darkens over a period of several hours, during which stage it anoints its whole body with ‘saliva’; this appears to hasten the darkening process. This completed, a suitable location for pupation is sought.” We are not certain why they are trying to get indoors, but they might be seeking a suitable location to pupate.
Update: May 5, 2013
We just received a wonderful correction and explanation of why this is actually Coelonia fulvinotata.
Letter 47 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: Death’s head hawkmoth
Location: Vereniging, Vaal Triangle, Gauteng, South Africa
November 29, 2013 12:51 am
I’m currently a Science teacher in Vereniging, Vaal triangle area and I’ve been a field guide for many years prior to returning to teaching.
One of my learners brought this larvae to me this morning and my first though was that it was the larvae of a lunar moth, but after doing some research on the internet, I’ve noticed that although the lunar moth larvae and the Death’s head Hawkmoth’s larvae look quite similar, they are indeed quite different and I’m quite convinced that it is indeed a Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos) larvae, but I’m not sure about the distribution and I would just like to confirm it and if it is indeed, would you perhaps know what the Afrikaans name is?
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.
Signature: Regards: Cobus
We concur with your identification of the Hornworm of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos. There are three species in the genus and they share the common name, and Acherontia atropos is the species found in South Africa. We do not know the Afrikaans name for this fascinating moth.
Letter 48 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: Large unknown catepillar
Location: South Africa
January 13, 2014 1:49 am
My moms cat recently brought a large caterpillar into the house from her garden and apparently whenever the cat went near it it would move around and make hissing and clicking sounds. we have no idea what this bug is and would be very interested to find out?
Signature: Megan Lundberg
This is the Caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, and we get numerous requests to identify them from South Africa.
Letter 49 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: can you identify this for us please?
Location: Pinelands, Cape town
June 1, 2014 1:57 pm
A friend found a caterpiller in her garden and would like to know what species it might belong to? Would be so grateful if you could help –
This is an atypical, but not rare, color variation of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar.
Letter 50 – Caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth
Subject: unidentified larvale!
Location: 42 North 15 East Italy
November 7, 2014 1:22 am
Hello, I live in Italy an yesterday we found this on the farm, nobody had ever seen one. Here it’s autumn, the weather is mild and damp. The bug was found about 30km from the coast, 120m above sea level, latitude 42 N longditude 15 east. What could it be?
This is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, a wide ranging species found throughout much of Europe, the Mediterranean region and down to the tip of South Africa.
Letter 51 – Possibly Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Subject: Moth pupae?
Location: Centurion, South Africa
December 9, 2014 9:39 pm
Hallo Mr Bugman
A friend of mine found this wormlike bug in her back yard and asked me if I knew what it was. She thought it was a caterpillar of sorts but to me it looks more like a pupae of sorts. Can you help?
Signature: Congo man
Dear Congo man,
This is a caterpillar, and it appears to be a Hornworm, the larva of a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae. Though the quality of the image is not high enough to determine the species, we are speculating that it is the larva of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth.
While I was scrolling through your pics, my guess was that it could be a double headed Hawkmoth, but being a complete novice I did not want to mention it in my mail.
Thank you so much for your response!
Letter 52 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
February 27, 2015 3:44 am
We found this caterpillar in our garden today -late summer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have never seen anything like it. Would love to know what it is. Many thanks!
Though you may have never seen one before, the Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos, is a relatively common species in South Africa.
Daniel, thank you so much for your help! Just to let you know, we carefully relocated the creature to an uncultivated verge further down our road so it is safe and well and not tempted to eat any more Arum Lilies. Best regards, Elizabeth.
Letter 53 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Subject: Unidentified Caterpillar
Location: South Africa
April 15, 2015 1:19 am
I found this Caterpillar on my Cape Goose Berry plant. I live in South Africa and we are now in very late Autumn. What type of caterpillar is this? Is it harmful to my plants? Does it turn into an endangered butterfly or moth after metamorphosis? Should I get rid of it or is it harmless?
Signature: Andrea Joubert
This is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar and it will eventually metamorphose into a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, a species most recognizable because it was used to illustrate the blockbuster movie poster for Silence of the Lambs. The moth is not endangered. A single caterpillar on a plant will eat the leaves, which does not permanently damage the plant unless it is very young or otherwise compromised. A healthy plant will resprout leaves.
Letter 54 – Hornworm of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth from France
Subject: Moth caterpillar
Location: France, haute Pyrenees
October 1, 2015 9:37 am
Hi my friend in the south of France (haute Pyrenees) found this and we wondered what type of moth it is.
Signature: Bug ID
This Hornworm is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, a distinctive species featured in the artwork associated with the book and movie The Silence of the Lambs.
Letter 55 – Hornworm of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth from Spain
Location: Moraira spain
December 17, 2015 3:08 pm
What is this rather larger caterpillar found in the garden quite sleepy but alive and about 10 cm when stretched out. Very colourfull.
Letter 56 – Deathshead Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Israel
Subject: What Caterpillar is this?
Location: Negev, Israel
January 12, 2016 8:04 am
Found this caterpillar crossing the street, haven’t been able to find out what exactly this is.
It has a yellow belly and black, spike shaped legs.
This distinctive caterpillar is a Deathshead Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos, and though this example from Israel has different coloration and markings, they are the same species.
Letter 57 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Madeira, Portugal and Art History Lesson
Subject: Large 3inch caterpillar
January 30, 2016 9:38 am
Dear Sir or Madam, I live on the Portuguese island of Madeira in Ponto do Sol – a sheltered spot at about 450 meters. I came across the caterpillar in the attached photograph this morning munching happily on a leaf. I would love to know what it is and more importantly what it will become. Can you help please?
Signature: Mike M
This Hornworm is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos, in its brown variation. More typically the species has bright yellow and green caterpillars. The adult Death’s Head Hawkmoth gets its name from the pattern on the thorax which is likened to a human skull. This moth gained worldwide recognition when it was used to illustrate the movie poster for The Silence of the Lambs, though we just learned on Verbicide that the poster designers accentuated the typical pattern on moth by replacing the detail with an photo of a sculpture created of living nude female models entitled “In Voluptas Mors” conceived by Salvador Dali and photographed by Philippe Halsman.
Thank you very much Daniel. I have just watched a number of youtube videos – what a fascinating process from caterpillar to moth. What an impressive moth!!
Thanks for the information it is nice to know a little about what is happening around us.
Letter 58 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from the Philippines
Subject: large yelolow and purple caterpillar
Location: Philippines, 390 meters ASl.
March 6, 2016 7:16 pm
This morning I found this 7 or so inch long caterpillar happily hanging upside down on our sweet potato plant. Just wondering if you can identify and let me know what it becomes?
thanks in advance,
Signature: The Old Man
Dear Old Man,
This Hornworm is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in the genus Acherontia, either Acherontia lachesis or Acherontia styx, as both species are reported from the Philippines. More information can be found on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic.
Thanks! My amazement at the small creatures in our garden is only exceeded by my ignorance.
Letter 59 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: Caterpillar identification
Location: Cape Town South Africa
April 11, 2016 1:39 am
Hi there. We have found 5 of these caterpillars eating our star jasmine in april in Cape Town South Africa.
Could you please identify them for us so that we can find out what moth/butterfly hey turn into for our home schooling class.
It is about 70mm long.
See attached photos.
Many thanks paige,Matt and Scott
Signature: Letter not vital
Dear Paige, Matt and Scott,
Your images of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos, are wonderful. Though we have no shortage of this species from South Africa on our site, the coloring on your individual is especially bold and it matches this iSpot image. The common name refers to the skull-like pattern on the thorax of the adult Death’s Head Hawkmoth.
Letter 60 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
April 12, 2016 4:53 am
I found my cat playing now with this worm/caterpillar thing and I don’t know what it is. It makes a clicking noise and lifts in horn when I touch it with something.
Please let me know what this is?
Signature: Regards Shae Turner
Letter 61 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: What kind of caterpillar is this?
Location: Sandton, South Africa
April 13, 2016 12:31 pm
This is Absolem, the caterpillar who is living off of my Basil plant.
I live in Sandton, just north of Johannesburg, South Africa.
It has just turned Autumn here and we went through a bit of a cold spell but it’s warming up a little bit before winter hits.
From the pictures I’ve seen it seems like Absolem may be a Death’s head Hawk moth. But I’ve never seen any of these in this area so I’m not sure.
Could you possibly kindly tell me what Absolem will turn into?
Signature: Jennifer Williamson
Sweet Basil is not a plant listed on African Moths as being a larval foodplant for the Death’s Head Hawkmoth. That list includes: “Brugmansia suaveolens, Solanum jacquini, Solanum Jasminoides, Solanum macrocarpon, Tabebuia pallida, Clerodendrum ugandense, Mormordica charantia, Vitex, Jasminum pubigerum, Spathodea, Duranta erecta, Lantana camara.” Absolem’s color is atypical for a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar. We wonder if he would prefer a different food plant.
Letter 62 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in South Africa
Subject: Caterpillar found on my Chili plant
Location: Gauteng, South Africa
April 26, 2016 12:54 am
Hi there, I found a huge caterpillar on my chili plant and tried to google it and find more information about it. I found some images that relate to the one I have – It looks like a Laurel Sphinx caterpillar, but the region and habitat it is usually found in does not correspond with mine.. So I am not sure what it is. Can you please identify this for me?
Signature: M Kruger
Dear M Kruger,
The reason your individual resembles the Laurel Sphinx Caterpillar is that your Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar is in the same family. Caterpillars of the Death’s Head Hawkmoth are one of our most common identification requests from South Africa.
Letter 63 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: caterpillar, South Africa
Location: Pretoria, Villieria, South Africa
December 17, 2016 2:11 pm
I found my cat playing with this in my garden today, with a lot of interested birds hanging about. I rescued it and tried to put it in a safe place back into my garden after taking this pic. Couldn’t find it there later, so, hope it managed to hide itself again. Luckily it had no injuries.
It made a loud clicking sound with its mouthparts which I assume was a defence response to scare off any predators.
I’ve tried to google to find out what it is. The nearest thing I found was a sphinx moth caterpillar in America, but not this specific form which I assume is endemic to South Africa. I have seen sphinx moths growing up here as a child, but very rarely so. It has a tail spike which looks a bit like a flower stamen – it has little yellow nodules on it.
Hoping you guys can help out.
Signature: a wild gardener
Dear wild gardener,
You are correct that this is the caterpillar of a Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae. More specifically, it is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos.
Thanks! These moths are very rare, I hope the caterpillar makes it to mothood! :} Your link to the South African biodiversity site not longer works, herewith the updated link:
Letter 64 – Deathshead Hawkmoth Caterpillars from Bulgaria
July 6, 2017 11:52 am
Hello, can you recognize this?
These are Deathshead Hawkmoth Caterpillars, and the name refers to the markings on the adult Deathshead Hawkmoth. The moth was prominently featured in advertising for the film Silence of the Lambs.
Letter 65 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Crete
Subject: large caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Crete, Greece
Time: 11:16 AM EDT
I want to find out which creature begins life as the caterpillar I saw in my garden yesterday, 21st October.
How you want your letter signed: C Paylor
Dear C Paylor,
This is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos, a species that gets its common name because of the skull-like markings on the thorax of the adult Death’s Head Hawkmoth. There are some nice images on the Natural History Museum of Crete website.
Thank you so much for your speedy response. It’s nice to know what creatures are living in your garden.
Letter 66 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: Death’s Head Hawkmoth
Geographic location of the bug: Pretoria East
Time: 04:24 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I think I have identified this large and beautiful caterpillar found on a gooseberry bush in my garden today. I just thought I’d share the pic for those interested.
How you want your letter signed: Andrew Bleeker
Thank you so much for sending in your gorgeous image of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar.
Letter 67 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in South Africa
Geographic location of the bug: Gauteng – Benoni, South Africa
Time: 09:11 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi there. Please can you identify this worm / caterpillar for me. It is about 10cm long. Also what do I do with it now to keep it alive?
How you want your letter signed: Christa
This beauty is a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar and the larval foodplants are “Brugmansia suaveolens, Solanum jacquini, Solanum Jasminoides, Solanum macrocarpon, Tabebuia pallida, Clerodendrum ugandense, Mormordica charantia, Vitex, Jasminum pubigerum, Spathodea, Duranta erecta, Lantana camara,” according to African Moths. Your individual appears to be fully grown, and it might have been searching for a good place to dig beneath the surface of the ground in order to pupate. We suspect metamorphosis is near.
Letter 68 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar in South Africa
Subject: What type of worm? Male or female?
Geographic location of the bug: Standerton
Time: 11:37 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Good day. Would like to know what type of worm it is? Is it a poisonous worm?
How you want your letter signed: Email
Letter 69 – Death’s Head Hawkmoth Hornworm
Geographic location of the bug: Guateng, South Africa
Time: 05:20 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello there.
I found this in our garden this morning and would like to know if you have any idea on what exatly it is please
How you want your letter signed: Any way the bug xpert likes
Dear Any way,
This is the caterpillar of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth. Hawkmoth caterpillars are commonly called Hornworms.
Letter 70 – Deathshead Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa
Subject: Large brown and white caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Pretoria, South Africa
Time: 05:04 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Good day, can you please tell me what the name of this caterpillar is and what its moth looks like? It’s the first time ever I’ve encountered such a caterpillar on my property. The photo was taken at mid day in late summer. I have found a few iStock photos of the same variant, but it unfortunately doesn’t identify the caterpillar.
How you want your letter signed: Sincerely, Anette
This is a more uncommon color variation of a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Acherontia atropos, a caterpillar that is more typically bright yellow and green. The markings on the body of the adult moth are thought to resemble a skull, hence the common name Death’s Head Hawkmoth.
Thank you very much for your reply.
It is much appreciated.
Letter 71 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth
I took this in St. Peters, Missouri, Aug 24, 2006. About 3 inches long. (a penny is 3/4 in) I put a penny down to compare but didn’t want to get too close. So, I pasted the penny closer. Look at the design on the 2nd photo – top of his back??? Face of a Lion !! I’m trying to get a identification of the species.
This is Manduca quinquemaculata, the Five Spotted Hawkmoth. The caterpillar is the infamous Tomato Hornworm.
Letter 72 – Five Spotted Hawk Moth
This was found on our window this morning in St Charles Missouri. Can anyone help me identify this moth its about 3" long ?
We first identified this as a Northern Apple Sphinx, Sphinx poecila, but a kind reader set us straight.
(07/31/2006) Hello to everyone at Whats That Bug,
First, I would like to commend you on your great website. I visit your site often, and I enjoy reading all the letters you receive. I also have my co-workers and friends checking out your website. Keep up the good work. Now, you received a letter titled “Northern Apple Sphinx” (07/30/2006) large moth in St Charles Missouri from John. The moth was identified as Northern Apple Sphinx but the moth in the photo is actually the Five Spotted Hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculata) the adult of the Tomato Hornworm. I hope this information is helpful. Again, keep up the good work. Sincerely,
Norman Myszkowski from Baltimore, MD.
Letter 73 – Carolina Sphinx or Five Spotted Hawkmoth???
Help with moth ID
I love this site! A friend took these photos of a large moth (with a long proboscis) while visiting in northern New Mexico recently. We would love to know what it is. Thanks for your help.
Kathleen in AZ
This is one of two closely related species, the Carolina Sphinx, Manduca sexta, or the Five Spotted Hawk Moth, Manduca quinquemaculata. Both have caterpillars that feed voraciously on the leaves of tomato plants and other related plants in the family Solanaceae. This is a wonderful action photo.
Letter 74 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth
Big Fuzzy Brown Moth
July 21, 2009
I finally got my first bug ID request through…(I think my picture resolutions were too big).
And now I just want to share a couple pictures of what I think is one of those hummingbird or sphinx moths, but I’m really not sure.
I’ve only seen them flying and this one had a leg broken off 🙁 and seemed pretty clumsy. He had a wingspan of about 3in or so. VERY furry thorax (as you’ll see in one pic), huge eyes and long antennae, and orange spots down the sides of his abdomen.
I found him on my backyard deck. I took him out to a huge butterfly bush that they like to hang around and hope he made it ok! But I’m moving soon and couldn’t bring him in to care for him. :S I figured he’d probably be better in his environment anyway. 🙂
Thanks for your awesome website! I’ve been amusing myself reading the Nasty Reader Awards. Lol.
Santa Fe, NM
Your moth is a Five Spotted Hawkmoth, Manduca quinquemaculata, one of two species whose caterpillars feed on the leaves of tomato plants and related solanaceous plants and are collectively known as Tomato Hornworms. You can read more about the Five Spotted Hawkmoth on Bill Oehlke’s awesome website. We are happy to hear that our Nasty Reader Awards amuse you since we were just “chastised” by our most recent recipient, Creeped Out, for writing things on our site that had nothing to do with identification.
Letter 75 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth and Evening Primrose
Moth? on Evening Primrose
Location: Bedford, VA
July 31, 2011 3:56 pm
This moth is visiting an evening primrose. This was happening after dark Bedford, VA during July after the evening primrose had blossomed out. It blooms out about in about a half hour after sunset and the moth is seen after dark. I thought it to be a hawk moth but could not specifically identify. Note the long beak.
Signature: Ben Shrader
What a positively marvelous photo of a Five Spotted Hawkmoth, Manduca quinquemaculata, nectaring from an Evening Primrose. The Five Spotted Hawkmoth is also called the Tomato Hornworm in the larval stage, and you might have found these large, green caterpillars with a caudal horn. We had a bit of difficulty with this identification because the namesake yellow spots are ont visible because of the angle of the wings. You can view The Sphingidae of the Americas for more information.
Thanks, I have several on a distribution list in which at least one of them had identified as you but this confirms with confidence.
Letter 76 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth Caterpillar: Dark Morph
Please help identify this caterpillar?
Location: San Antonio, TX
November 7, 2011 10:54 am
What kind of butterfly or moth will this caterpillar become? This well-camouflaged caterpillar is about 5 inches long when extended. It was spotted in my yard in San Antonio, TX on November 6, 2011.
Signature: Diane Duesterhoeft
We wish your photo showed a bit more of this impressive caterpillar, one of the Hornworms in the family Sphingidae. We are relatively confident this is an unusual dark color variation on the common Five Spotted Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Manduca quinquemaculatus, a species that feeds on the leaves of tomatoes and related plants. Was there a nearby tomato patch? You can compare your image to a dark individual on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.
Thank you so much for your response, Daniel. There were no tomato plants in the vicinity, but the yellow diagonal marking do seem to be similar.
The caterpillars of the Five Spotted Hawkmoth will also feed on native plants that are not cultivated, including nightshade and jimson weed. It is also possible that we have incorrectly identified the species, though it appears that the caudal horn is black, another identifying feature.
Letter 77 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth
Subject: Large Long Island Month?
Location: Southampton, NY
October 27, 2012 11:29 am
I LOVE your website! I have been fascinated by insects for years and whenever I can’t identify one, I almost always can find it on your site. I am stumped on this one though, and hope you can help ID it.
It is a rather large moth for our area, about 3 or 4 inches long. We spotted this moth in a farm field on eastern Long Island, NY on September 30th around noon. The farm was growing pumpkins, raspberries, apples and sunflowers.
I was looking around the web and thought it sort of looked like a ghost moth or a a hawk moth, but I wasn’t really sure.
Thanks for you awesome site!
Signature: -Lauren, Long Island, NY
We believe this is a Five Spotted Hawkmoth, and you can read more about it on Sphingidae of the Americas.
Letter 78 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth
July 17, 2014 4:13 am
Can you tell me what kind of moth this is? From Michigan and I used to see them a lot when I was a kid. Wing span is about 4.5 inches
Signature: Melanie Wilson
Your moth is a Five Spotted Hawkmoth, and we are speculating that there is a vegetable patch near where the sighting occurred as the caterpillar, known as the Tomato Hornworm, feeds on leaves of tomato and related plants. More information on the Five Spotted Hawkmoth is available on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.
Letter 79 – Five Spotted Hawkmoth
Subject: Moth in Arizona
Location: Gold Canyon, AZ
August 29, 2015 4:36 pm
This moth is on my back patio door with his wings folded. I almost missed him. I touched his body and his wings opened.
Signature: Lucy in AZ
This impressive moth is a Five Spotted Hawkmoth, Manduca quinquemaculata, and its caterpillars feed on the leaves of tomato and other cultivated plants in the same family. You can compare your image to this image on BugGuide.
Letter 80 – Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth from Australia
Location: Riverina, NSW, Australia
February 11, 2011 4:22 am
This insect was collecting nector from Agapanthus flowers in exactly the same manner and speed you would expect of a humming bird. Approx 40-50mm (1 1/2” to 2”) long
Diurnal Moths in the family Sphingidae are frequently called Hummingbird Moths because they are frequently mistaken for the tiny birds while hovering around blossoms to gather nectar. We believe your moth is a Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth, Cephonodes kingii, and you can see photos of its entire life cycle on the Butterfly House website of Australian species.
Letter 81 – Probably Gardenia Bee Hawk or Coffee Hawkmoth from Australia
Subject: Veggie garden visitor
Location: St Clair, New South Wales, Australia
December 9, 2016 11:01 pm
Hey big man! My sister had this bug hanging around her veggie garden and we are very fascinated to know what it is! The pictures are a tad blurry but it’s ‘furryness’ made it very distinct. We are located in Sydney, Australia and are currently in summer. Doing some hunting it looks to me like a hummingbird moth but they are found in America. Any help? Thanks heaps
The reason your sister’s garden visitor reminds you of a Hummingbird Moth is that your Hawkmoth is a member of the same family, Sphingidae. We believe you submitted images of a species of Hawkmoth from the genus Cephonodes, and the two likeliest candidates are the Coffee Hawk Moth, Cephonodes hylas, which is pictured on Butterfly House, or the Gardenia Hawk Moth, Cephonodes kingii, which is also pictured on Butterfly House.
Thank you so much! You guys do such a great thing ☺️
Letter 82 – Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia
Subject: Gardenia Bee Hawk Moth
Geographic location of the bug: Sandstone Point Ql.
Time: 04:14 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Thought you might me interested in these photos of the caterpillar feeding on my gardenia bush.
How you want your letter signed: Euth
Dear Euth (though we believe based on your email address you meant to sign Ruth),
Thank you so much for sending your excellent images of the Hornworm of a Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth. According to Butterfly House: “The caterpillars later become black, grey, or green, often with black lines across the back. The back of the head and the final claspers are covered in small white warts. The caterpillars have posterior horn shaped like a shallow ‘S’, and have white spiracles along each side outlined in red. The head colour varies from brown to green.”
Letter 83 – Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia
Subject: Is this a sawfly and harmless
Geographic location of the bug: Parramatta
Time: 05:19 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi,
I found this eating my gardenia plant last night. Is this bug harmful to people. Should I be concerned about dealing with the big as a garden pest?
How you want your letter signed: Jen
This is not a Sawfly. It is a Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar and it will eventually become a diurnal moth that is sometimes mistaken for a bee, hence its common name.
Letter 84 – Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth from Australia
Subject: unknown caterpillar in Australia
Geographic location of the bug: Lismore, New South Wales
Time: 06:12 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi Bugman, Your site came up because my caterpillar looks just like your google images cover photo, but I can’t find him on your site (at least I don’t have time to go through over 200 pages looking. My caterpillar was on a gardenia bush. It is the beginning of summer here in the sub-tropics of northern NSW, Australia. This caterpillar may not be native to our area or to Australia; he could be an American?
How you want your letter signed: Dianne T, Australia
Thanks so much for including a detail image of the caudal horn on this Hornworm, the larva of a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae. We quickly identified your caterpillar as a Gardenia Bee Hawkmoth Caterpillar thanks to images posted to Butterfly House where it states: “The caterpillars later become black, grey, or green, often with black lines across the back. The back of the head and the final claspers are covered in small white warts. The caterpillars have posterior horn shaped like a shallow ‘S’, and have white spiracles along each side outlined in red. The head colour varies from brown to green.”
Letter 85 – Unidentified French Hawkmoth
Rare Moth, or travelled from North Africa?
I enclose photos of a ‘bug’ which arrived at my house yesterday, 01/07/04, in Finistere, North France. Nobody around here has ever seen anything like it. It measures 4 cm long by 5 cm across the wings. The colouring is pink and khaki. It also seems to have a barb at its rear end. Photos taken in a Jam Jar. Any ideas??
The jam jar makes the moth difficult to see, and my moth guide does not include European species, so I cannot give you a positive identification. I can tell you it is a Hawkmoth, a member of the Family Sphingidae. The family has a worldwide distribution, and some species are quite common. It is a relative of the Tomato Hornworm, that large green caterpillar hated by home gardeners.
Update: ID thanks to Mardikavana
August 4, 2009
It should be an Elephant Hawk Moth Deilephila elpenor.
With all the new mail we answer, we don’t really have the time to sift through the archives for old questions. We really appreciate the assistance on this Elephant Hawkmoth identification. We are linking to the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic to provide our readers with more information. Since this letter, we have correctly identified several specimens of Deilephila elpenor.
Letter 86 – Australian Hawk Moth might be Coequosa australasiae
I, Herison Ralainony, would like to know if you could identify this moth for me. I reside in Australia.
Your moth is a Sphinx Moth or Hawk Moth in the family Sphingidae. We located a wonderful website with photos of both Hawk Moths and their caterpillars from Australia, but a cursory search did not provide an exact match. A more thorough search of the likliest candidate, Coequosa australasiae, let us to another page that shows enough individual variation that we are almost certain, Coequosa australasiae is your moth.
Letter 87 – Green Hawkmoth from Japan: Callambulyx tatarinovii gabyae
I live in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. The other day on my way out I spotted this moth on the wall of my apartment building, having my camera with I took this picture. I put on a web site and had some feedback as to what it was. I know it is a Hawkmoth of, but I am not sure which. So I was kind of hoping you might be able to help me.
We had no idea what this species was either, but we did a websearch of Sphingidae Japan and found a fascinating site that appears to identify your moth as Callambulyx tatarinovii gabyae. Since we could not read the Japanese site, we then searched the moth’s name and found another site that states Callambulyx tatarinovii gabyae is endemic to Japan.
Letter 88 – Yam Hawkmoth from Hawaii
Aloha. We had a interesting moth land on the deck outside our office the other day and despite our best effort we don’t know what type of moth it is (not that any of us are any sort of expert). I think we agree that it’s some sort of sphinx moth, but no one agrees what type. No one saw it flying, so we can’t say much for the movement, but it was strikingly green. We’re not too far from Honolulu in an industrial area. We see black witch moths fairly often, but not usually anything like this one. If you could help us in identifying this one, we’d be grateful.
This is a Yam Hawkmoth, Theretra nessus. You can find information on Bill Oehlke’s wonderful website which indicates that this species is not native, but was introduced to Hawaii.
Letter 89 – Seathorn Hawkmoth from Cyprus
Here is a link to a couple of images of a very large moth I found today, sitting on my bicylce, waiting for a ride to the shops. It would appear to measure around 45mm nose to tail and 50mm wingspan at rest (as seen in the picture on my bike). Is it one of the Sphynx genus perhaps? I would love to know what specific species it is and would be grateful if you can let me know. If you want a picture for your site, you should be able to download it directly, or if you are not able to, let me know and I will supply one. Thanks in advance!
After writing back requesting your location, we followed a hunch based on your email address indicating you sent this from UK. We quickly located the Seathorn Hawkmoth, Hyles hippophaes, on the UK Moths website.
Thanks for the reply. You would appear to have ‘nailed’ my moth, judging by other images of the Seathorn Hawkmoth. In answer to your question, I am in fact located in Cyprus, sorry I guess that would have been a fairly import bit of info I should have included. I am attaching an image of ‘my’ moth, who incidentally, has now moved on to pastures new.
Letter 90 – Sphinx Moths or Hawk Moths
I’m hoping you can help me identify this insect. My mom planted butterfly bushes this year, and as soon they bloomed we have noticed this cute character coming to feed from the blossoms, with the butterflies. There seems to only be one of them. At least we only see one at a time. I’m attaching a pic , and can send you a couple different views if you need them It hovers, kind of like a hummingbird over the flowers. We thought it was a baby hummingbird, until we got closer to it and seen that it had antennea. Could you please help us identify him?? or her??.
It is a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe, a type of Sphinx Moth. They are attracted to butterfly bush and are day flying moths often mistaken for hummingbirds or bees. Thank you for the great photo. We have received several letters but never an image.
Letter 91 – Sphinx Moths or Hawk Moths
There is a butterfly-type insect with a long proboscis that drinks flower nectar – it has clear wings that flutter so fast they are almost invisible. The tail has several pretty colors like yellow and red and green and looks like a fuzzy lobster tail. I can’t identify it in any insect book. Please help – I see them about 4 times a summer. Also thanks for the ID on the house centipede. I won’t kill them anymore. Have seen two for the first time in my house. elaine
It is a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe, a type of Sphinx Moth. It might also be the Snowberry Clearwing, a close relative. They are attracted to butterfly bush and are day flying moths often mistaken for hummingbirds or bees.
Letter 92 – Sphinx Moths or Hawk Moths
We really enjoy your website. Fun & interesting letters. We have a mysterious bug sighting to report. Near dusk, we spotted what looked like a small hummingbird going from flower to flower on our porch. We looked closely at him, and he was fearless. Totally oblivious to us, less than a foot away from him. He had kind of a fuzzy dark yellow body, and wings moving so fast you coudn’t see them. His tail was black or dark brown, and was actually similar in shape to that of a crawdad! He had six legs (or so), so we know he wasn’t a bird. He was about 2 1/2 inches long. Is this a moth of some sort? He didn’t seem to be attracted to the porchlight, just the flowers. We’re in central Indiana, and we spotted him on a warm & humid evening in early July.
Thank You — J & C & D
Sphinx Moths are often called Hummingbird Moths. There are many species in the family Sphingidae, including the Tobacco Sphinx, Manduca sexta, or Tomato Hornworm, the dreaded green worm that eats tomato plants. The Tobacco Sphinx is yellow and greyish brown on the body with greyish wings. the wingspan can reach nearly 4 1/2 inches. There is also a group of genuses known as the hummingbird clearwings.
Letter 93 – Carolina Sphinx
Thu, Feb 12, 2009 at 9:25 AM
Hi WTB, could you tell me how long it takes for the hornworm catepillar (which enjoys devouring our tomato vines in late summer) to “morph” into what we call the tobacco / hummingbird moth, which we love watching flock by the 100s to our flower beds in the evening.
Either the Carolina Spinx, Manduca sexta, or the Five Spotted Hawk Moth, Manduca quinquemaculatus, would qualify for the name Tobacco Moth and the two are quite similar in appearance. Both are found in the Carolinas and the larvae of both feed on the same plants, including tomatos. Your photos are of the Carolina Sphinx, at least the photo that depicts the individual with the six yellow spots on the abdomen. Pupation may be as short as a few weeks, or it may last throughout the winter in the colder portions of the species range. Your action photos are wonderful.
Letter 94 – Hawkmoth from Trinidad: Neococytius cluentius
December 1, 2009
Living in Trinidad,West Indies. Found this moth at the water taxi terminal. It sat still and when I tried to move it,it started beating its wings,still sitting still! This was during the day. I can’t seem to identify it even with the striking markings.
Mary C. Boyer
Though Bill Oehlke’s excellent website does not have a page on Trinidad, we located your Sphinx or Hawkmoth, Neococytius cluentius on the page for Venezuelan species. According to Oehlke’s website, the proboscis is over nine inches long. That long tongue must be needed to pollinate a very deep-throated flower.
Letter 95 – Hawkmoth found at sea off of Angola
Location: At sea, off Angola
February 3, 2011 9:34 am
Dear Mr. Bugman,
I met this fellow on an oil tanker today, about 75 miles off the coast of Angola, West Africa. It is 5-6 cm long, and was found on deck just after a thunder storm had gone by.
I believe it is a moth, but what is the full name?
Upon working on this posting, we realized that this is the second time you have sent us an image of a Hawkmoth found at sea off of Angola. Your first specimen was eventually recognized as a Verdant Hawkmoth. Hawkmoths in the family Sphingidae are very powerful fliers, and that combined with with wind may have caused both specimens to alight on your oil tanker. Hopefully, we will be able to eventually provide you with a species identification for this individual as well.
Update thanks to Karl
Hi Daniel and Geir:
Your hawkmoth doesn’t show many distinguishing features and unfortunately the hind wings and abdomen are not visible. However, I think it looks very much like a Convolvulus Hawkmoth (Agrius convolvuli). This is a common and very wide spread species ranging from southern Europe and all of Africa, across southern Asia to Australia (perhaps trying to extend its range further by jumping ship?). Not surprisingly, given its range, both adults and caterpillars show considerable variation, although adult color and pattern are generally fairly drab. That said, the pattern on the thorax, the pale checkering along the trailing edge of the forewing and the banded legs appear consistent in most images. If that isn’t the correct species, I believe Agrius is at least the right genus. Regards. Karl
Letter 96 – NOT Yam Hawkmoth from India
Need help to identify a bug
Location: Bangalore, India
August 22, 2011 7:39 am
I took snaps of this bug which was sitting on my terrace. I found the shape of the wing very interesting, so I would appreciate if you could help me identifying this.
Signature: Rajesh Ranjan
The wing shape and body structure of your moth is very typical of the family Sphingidae, the Sphinx Moths or Hawkmoths, to which it belongs. We believe this is a Yam Hawkmoth, Theretra nessus, and you may compare your individual to the photos on the Sphingidae of Hawaii webpage which indicates its typical range includes India, or the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website. We have a previous image of this species from Hawaii on our site, but it has been introduced to Hawaii where it is not native.
Ed Note: August 26, 2011
After an exchange of comments, we now agree that this is not a Yam Hawkmoth, but the closely related Theretra lycetus from the same genus.
Letter 97 – Unnecessary Carnage: Hawkmoth from Malta
That scared life of me!
Location: Sliema, Malta
August 21, 2011 4:23 pm
Could you please let me know what creature it is on the attached photo?
Since the photo has limited capabilities let me give you few more details.
It entered our apartment at night time (no lights, just an open window)
It had a wings span of approximately 15-20cm, length: 7-8cm, and when flying it was very fast and moving in a very chaotic motion.
Your help would be very much appreciated 🙂
Thank you in advance, John
Please help me with identifying the bug I sent you. I have tried to do my reaserch in the Internet but without success.
My wife wants to sleep with closed windows in this 32°C heat here in Malta, because she is scared that this creature will come again. So I need to figure this bug out soon.
I appreciate your time. THANK YOU!!!
This harmless Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae looks perfectly dead, and your wife need not fear its resurrection. In our opinion, this death was preventable, and we are tagging this posting as Unnecessary Carnage.
Letter 98 – Hawkmoth from Australia: Coequosa australasiae
Location: Galston, NSW, Australia
February 18, 2012 6:34 pm
I found this guy today & thought you may be able to confirm what he is? He is approx 6cm in length & actually has a little orange on the inside of his wings when they are fully expanded. My husband thinks it may be a Vine Hawk Moth, but would be very curious to know for sure.
Thanks an advance
We believe your Hawkmoth is an Australian species without a specific common name, Coequosa australasiae, based on a few photos posted online, including one on beling.net. Most of the online photos of Coequosa australasiae show more patterns in the wings, including the photos on Butterfly House, but we still believe we have arrived at a correct identification.
Would it be possible to contact the contributor of the C. australasiae submission last week and ask them to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are seeking a sample of C. australasiae to phylogenetically compare its DNA sequence with C. triangularis in our book on the Australian Sphingidae (it will be much like my NA book) but are having difficulty locating a specimen. Currently the manuscript is 432 pages and growing. Many thanks, Jim
Signature: Jim Tuttle
We will forward your contact information to Sally.
Letter 99 – Three Hawkmoths from Brazil
Brazilian Sphinx Moths
Location: Amazon River, Brazil
February 21, 2012 4:01 pm
Thanks to your bug of the month I worked out that the last picture I’d sent you was a mole cricket, which I later whittled down to a tawny mole cricket. I’ve also worked out that many of the moths that landed on our cruise ship were sphinx moths, and I’ve identified some. Confused about the one that looks like a black Pandora Sphinx though, and another one that I have no idea what it was.
This is a real challenge. We are turning to the Sphingidae of the Americas website and then following the indices by nation for Brazil, there is a huge list of possibilities to search through. We are going to attempt a few identifications and then contact Bill Oehlke to see if we are correct with any of them. The first photo in our posting is what we suspect you believe to look like a black Pandora Sphinx, and it may be in the same genus. It resembles Eumorpha anchemolus that we found on the Sphingidae of the Americas website.
It also appears that you have submitted two different views of the same moth, though we are not certain of that.
The third moth in our posting reminds us of a Ficus Sphinx and there are several members of the genus in Brazil, though none seem to match your moth. Your individual more closely resembles Pachylioides resumens which we found on the Sphingidae of the Americas website. All of our identifications are just guesses and we hope Bill Oehlke can either confirm or correct our amateur identification attempts.
Thank you so much for taking the time to find out. I’ve looked at the links and you seem to be spot on. For info, the photos of the possible may be the same moth, but I think perhaps not, because they were taken 3 days apart and there were quite a few examples that landed on the ship. In fact it is amazing the how many different moths and insects came aboard of a night time.
Thank you again for your help. Because of your website, I also identified gawdy sphinx’s, streaked sphinx’s, black witches, and gorgeous pink Spanish Moths. And the very large and beautiful moth I photographed last year is actually a white witch. Awesome. But I have so many photographs to work through. Please keep up the good work.
Bill Oehlke confirms identification
I agree with your determinations. Please see if you can get a more precise location and also forward to me contact info of photographer or ask her to contact me so that I might add the images to the data base and display on internet, credited to photographer.
We are attaching Bill Oehlke’s confirmation of our identification. We hope you will allow Bill to post your photos on his very comprehensive website. He also likes very detailed sighting information. Moths often have very localized populations.
P.S. We can’t wait to post your White Witch photo. Can you please supply more details on that sighting, like location, time of day, terrain. This are all interesting details we love to post.
Hi again Daniel
… The first Anchemola Sphinx photograph was taken on 18 Jan 2012. The moth had landed on our cruise ship (Marco Polo) overnight. The ship was anchored outside Icoaraci, near Belem, Brazil that morning. I’ve worked out that the second Anchemola Sphinx is a different moth, this one appeared on the ship on the morning of 21 Feb 2012. We were anchored in the middle of the Amazon river near Almeirim. I do have another couple of clear pictures (one with scale). if required of the second moth, and many more pictures of similar sphinx moths taken last year. More than happy for Bill to use them, if he needs a name, it’s Tracey Heath, in Richmond, North Yorkshire.
I’m very pleased you all liked them.
Letter 100 – Verdant Hawkmoth from Angola
Subject: Please identify this moth for me.
Location: Lunda Nordeste, Angola
May 20, 2012 3:30 am
I noticed this little guy sitting on the fence the other day. It is in Northeast Angola, Africa. Please id him for me.
About a year and a half ago, we received a similar request from an oil field off the coast of Angola and Karl assisted us in identifying it as the aptly named Verdant Hawkmoth, Euchloron megaera. Your individual is even more vibrantly green than the previously submitted individual. You may also compare to the image posted to the Encyclopedia of Life.
Letter 101 – Hawkmoth from Indonesia might be Amplypterus panopus
Subject: A Long Unanswered Question From Indonesia
Location: Jakarta, Indonesia
January 5, 2013 6:27 pm
Dear Mr. Bugman,
When I was a child (1995-1999) I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia on an American compound. One birthday I was given a large butterfly net from my grandpa made from a pole and an old basket ball hoop. Thus began my collection.
Everyone in the compound knew I collected butterflies and moths so one day I got called out by a guard to collect one out a pile of leaves in a trashcan. I knew even then that it was not a butterfly nor a moth. The question then was: what is it? I still don’t know. I hope you’ll be able to help.
It appears to only have one antennae in the photos but I’m sure it originally had two. It also has a pin through it as that was how I mounted them. The only thing more I know about it is that it smelled terrible when it died. It’s about 4 inches wide including the wings and two inches tall. It looks like a house mouse with wings that are very well designed for leaf camouflage.
We are happy to clear up this mystery after so many years, even if our solution is not specific. Despite your reservations, this really is a moth known as a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae. Those eyespots on the upper wings are quite distinctive, and when we located this page on the photokito blog with images of Amplypterus panopus, we thought we might have identified your moth, but it seems there are some differences. We then looked at additional photos of Amplypterus panopus on The insects from the Palaearctic region and Lepiforum, and we decided that it is most likely your moth, but that the damage your moth suffered in the trashcan is most likely obscuring some features. We believe we have correctly identified your moth as Amplypterus panopus, but we are not certain.
Letter 102 – Cape Hawkmoth from South Africa
Subject: moth found in south africa
Location: South Africa
January 20, 2013 12:37 pm
I found this moth in my house in south africa and friends have different opinions of what it is, can you maybe help?
This is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, and we thought we would have an easy time with an identification when we found the BioDiversity Explorer page on Sphingidae from South Africa, but alas, there was no matching thumbnail. We dug a bit deeper into the site and found images of mounted specimens of Theretra capensis that seemed like a good match. We found a photo of a living specimen on African Moths and the common name Cape Hawk was provided.
Letter 103 – Pellucid Hawkmoth from India
Subject: About a bug
July 15, 2013 9:45 pm
sir i found this bug in our back yard,i dont know what it is? some say it’s cicada but not for sure.plrase let me know
Signature: Rana Asuthosh
This diurnal Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae is Cephonodes hylas, and it is commonly called a Pellucid Hawkmoth or a Hummingbird Moth since they fly during the day and their flight pattern resembles that of a hummingbird as they nectar at flowers. You can read more about them on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website.
Letter 104 – Australian Hawkmoth: Coequosa australasiae
Subject: Beautiful Australian Hawk moth!
Location: Herberton, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, AU
September 4, 2013 7:23 pm
Hi, I was recently studying abroad in Australia and came across this beautiful hawk moth! I was staying outside of Herberton in Queensland, AU (which is a dry sclerophyll forest), and going on a night spotlighting trip when we spotted this beautiful moth in the beam of our spotlight. It climbed up onto me, and fluttered around my face, and was an all-around magical experience, but I haven’t been able to identify it down to the species! The closest I have found are Gnathothlibus erotus and Hippotion scrofa, but neither have the correct wing shape or the dark line down the thorax that my moth had. Any help in identifying him would be greatly appreciated!
In a matter of minutes, we found your moth identified as Coequosa australasiae on Csiro where the physical traits you mentioned are obvious in the image of a mounted specimen. The images on Butterfly House are not as close, but there is still a strong resemblance. The Australian Museum also has a nice image. The uncropped version of your photograph has to be one of the finest Buggy Accessories photos we have ever received.
Letter 105 – Hawkmoth Pupa from Madeira Island
Subject: Large brown hard shell Grub with tail?
Location: Madeira Island, Atlantic
October 6, 2013 5:58 pm
Today I was down in my vegetable patch collecting my clothes pegs that my daughter had dropped over the wall and I noticed this rather strange looking grub like insect partly submerged in a hole. It is fairly big 3.5 inches long and fat. It has a hard brown ”shell” and at first I thought it was a large Cockroach, until I removed it completely from its hole! You will see it also has a funny tail! It didn’t run or move much so that is why I think it is a grub. Potatoes have recently been pulled from the vegetable patch. What is my funny grub????
I have recently moved here from the UK and keep finding so many ”new” insects!
We can provide you with a family identification, but anything more specific is speculation. This is the pupa of a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae. The case for the proboscis, which resembles the handle on a jug, is characteristic of many species. Your pupa resembles that of a Hawkmoth Pupa from Australia identified as Agrius convolvuli. According to the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website, you are within the range of the species. The site identifies larval food plants as belonging to “Convolvulaceae and Fabaceae, but there are records from 16 other families” and the genus Solanum is mentioned. The scientific name for potato is Solanum tuberosum. We believe your pupa is Agrius convolvuli. There is a North American species, the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth, that has a similar pupa, which you can verify on BugGuide. Larvae feed on plants in the potato family, according to BugGuide. If we are to believe Wikipedia, the Pink Spotted Hawkmoth has been reported from Portugal so it might be your pupa. The two species are in the same genus, and they are closely related.
Letter 106 – Double Headed Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia
Subject: Large caterpillar in Australia
Location: Sydney, Australia
December 5, 2013 5:17 pm
We came across this caterpillar today and were hoping you could identify. It was found on the outskirts of a lake north of Sydney in Australia. It was on a path at the time so not sure what it would feed on normally. It was 3 – 4 inches long and the head was the small orange end.
We would be really interested to know what you think
Signature: Jason & Jacki
Dear Jason and Jacki,
This is a very exciting posting for us. It is interesting that you noted that the orange end is the head on this Double Headed Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Coequosa triangularis, which we quickly identified on Butterfly House, which indicates: “Its real head is an orange conical structure, but on its tail are two large raised black knobs. These look like a pair of large eyes, so that an observer or predator finds it difficult to determine which end is actually the head, hence its common name.” The Double Headed Hawkmoth is in the family Sphingidae, the Sphinx Moths or Hawkmoths, and most caterpillars in this family are called Hornworms because of a prominent caudal horn. Your Double Headed Hawkmoth has evolved so that though the horn is absent, the caterpillar possesses a very convincing pair of fake eyes to confuse predators.
Many thanks for such a quick response. It is great to know what this amazing looking caterpillar was. Such a privilege to see
Jason & Jacki Barker
Letter 107 – Hawkmoth from Australia
Subject: Hawk Moth
February 28, 2014 4:37 pm
Hi guys. In the past few weeks we’ve had a hawk moth on your from verandah (in northern Sydney NSW). Last night we had another similar one and i wanted to see if they were the same? I know one is a coequosa australisiae, not sure if maybe ones a female and the other a male? Or the same one thats matured? The plainer one is from 3 weeks ago and the orange one is from last night. Thanks!!
Both of your moths are the same species, and your identification is correct. They are both Coequosa australasiae. Hawkmoths tend to be long lived as moths go, and they might even both be the same individual. Like many moths, Coequosa australasiae has underwings that are more brightly colored than the upper wings which serve as camouflage. You can see a matching image on Csiro.
Letter 108 – Hawkmoth from Madagascar: Panogena lingens
Subject: Panogena lingens found by Ilija Klejmjonov in Madagascar
Location: Madagascar, by Ilija Klejmjonov
July 8, 2014 4:01 pm
As to our Coelonia fulvinotata… A confusion led to a spectacular new finding! When looking for some pictures of Coelonia fulvinotata, which were often found and commented within this nice site, as a model for a drawing, on the web, I accidentally found a slightly different caterpillar, guiding me to the blogsite of Ilija Klejmjonov, http://adderley.livejournal.com/150820.html?mode=reply#add_comment; as he breeded it at home and documented its metamorphosis with the pictures of the pupa and the moth, the emerged moth is obviously a Panogena lingens, and not the supposed Coelonia fulvinotata (to which one can be led by some confusing drawing of the moth, resembling to both species – but without this confusion I would never have found this caterpillar). Thus we have the first insight of the larval stages of a Panogena species, which were not yet known. Ilija Klejmjonov has found this caterpillar on a potted plant of Duranta erecta (Verbenaceae), a non native plant in Madagascar, it was difficult to assign, as imported ornamental plant originating from the southern new world. The documented pupa shows some similarity with those from the genus Lintneria. The revealment of an African (and Madagascan) secret… (Nothing own to attach except a picture of a tentative design by coloured pencils)
Signature: Bostjan Dvorak
We are sorry for the lengthy delay in responding. Thanks so much for providing us with your wonderful drawing documenting the stages of life for Panogena lingens of Madagascar.
Letter 109 – Pellucid Hawkmoth
Subject: Which moth is this?
Location: Mumbai, India
November 4, 2014 12:09 am
i found this moth in Mumbai, india can u help me with its name!! please and about its features.
This diurnal moth in the family Sphingidae is a Pellucid Hawkmoth, Cephonodes hylas.
Letter 110 – Diurnal Hawkmoth from South Africa
Subject: Weird moth type bug
Location: Johannesburg, south Africa
November 23, 2014 11:46 am
I live in South Africa and found an insect I have never seen before. Can you assist?
This is a diurnal Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae. We believe it is a Pellucid Hawkmoth, Cephonodes hylas, which according to African Moths, is found in South Africa. It is also pictured on Africa Wild.
Letter 111 – Double Headed Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia
Subject: big bug?
Location: far east gippsland
November 23, 2014 3:12 pm
another job for the bugman
Despite lacking a horn which is typical of the Hornworms in the family Sphingidae, we thought that this looked like a Hawkmoth Caterpillar, and we were correct. We quickly identified it as the caterpillar of a Double Headed Hawkmoth, Coequosa triangularis, which is pictured on the Butterfly House website where it states: “This is Australia’s largest Hawk Moth” and “Its real head is an orange conical structure, but on its tail are two large raised black knobs. These look like a pair of large eyes, so that an observer or predator finds it difficult to determine which end is actually the head, hence its common name.”
Letter 112 – Green Pergasa Hawkmoth from the Philippines
Subject: cool moth
Location: Manila, Philippines
November 30, 2014 11:29 am
Hi bugman! Saw this inside my room. I wonder if it is harmful or not.
We quickly identified your harmless Hawkmoth as a Green Pergasa Hawkmoth, Pergasa acteus, thanks to the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website.
Letter 113 – Diurnal Hawkmoth from Israel: Macroglossum stellatarum
Subject: ID moth?
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
December 29, 2014 6:50 pm
I photographed this bug on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in November this year. At first we thought it was a hummingbird but upon looking at the photo, I think it is some kind of moth. Can you identify it?
Signature: Steve Blake
Letter 114 – Diurnal Hawkmoth from Australia
Subject: Hummingbird or Bee Hawk Moth
Location: SE Queensland, Australia
February 10, 2015 10:18 pm
Hello bug people
love your work. My name is Sandra, I leave in Australia, South East Queensland. I have recently had the immense pleasure of photographing a hummingbird-like moth. It was so much like a hummingbird, just incredible and unfortunately we do no have them in Ozland. I am finding it very difficult to ID and the only species that is claimed to live in Australia is Cephonodes sp. However, I think it looks more like Macroglossum stellatarum found in China and other places.
What do you guys think?
I want to write an article on it for Pollinator Link (https://pollinatorlink.wordpress.com/). Thank you so much for any help you can give me.
Signature: Sandra Tuszynska
We believe we have identified your diurnal Hawkmoth as Macroglossum micacea based on images posted to Butterfly House where it states: “The adult moths of this species have dark brown forewings sometimes with indistinct paler bands across them. They have even darker brown hind wings with two yellow areas by the inner margin. The moths have a wingspan of about 5 cms.” Little other information is provided and the site does not indicate the species flies during the day. The Sphingidae Taxonomic Inventory shows Queensland as the only part of Australia where sightings have been reported. Since they are in the same genus, the similarity to Macroglossum stellatarum is understandable. It is also pictured on the Papua Insects Foundation. Most online images are of mounted specimens, and we are thrilled to be able to post your excellent action photos of this lovely diurnal Hawkmoth.
This is really awesome! Thank you so much for your help and speedy reply. I have lots of pics of crazy beautiful looking other creatures I would love to ID and share. I am sure I will post some more when the time comes.
Thanks again for your most awesome service.
Letter 115 – Possibly Levant Hawkmoth from India
Subject: Moth / Bug Identification
Location: Kolkata, India
October 27, 2015 11:52 am
I saw this moth / bug in my house and it’s the FIRST time I have seen something like this in my country in all the 40 years I have lived. I’d be very grateful if you could identify it for me please.
This is a Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, and we are struck by its resemblance to North American members of the genus Xylophanes, pictured on BugGuide, including the Tersa Sphinx. We learned on the India Biodiversity Portal that the genus is represented in India. Additional research leads us to believe this is Theretra alecto which is pictured on Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic. A photo of Theretra alecto was selected as the first place winning photo from National Moth Week 2014 according the the National Moth Week blog. We will be post-dating your submission to go live on our site on November 1 while we are away from the office.
Thank you so so much for identifying this amazing insect. I am attaching some resized originals of this bug on this email. Please feel free to use them on your website.
Thanks and regards,
Letter 116 – Hawkmoth from Australia: Coequosa australasiae
Subject: Please help me identify this monster moth
Location: Brisbane, Australia in autumn
April 19, 2016 12:26 am
I finished work the other day and stumbled upon this moth on a stair. I was wondering if you could please help me identify it as I have never seen an insect quite so large in my life.
P.s. If this is an undiscovered species I would like it to be called the Margotmoth
Signature: Sincerely Margot, aka the founder of the Margotmoth
First we do not have the authority to name newly discovered species. There is a lengthy process for determining a name. Your moth is not new to science, nor to our website. Your Hawkmoth is Coequosa australasiae. You may read more about the species on Butterfly House.
Letter 117 – Gallium Hawkmoth
Subject: Another cool moth in Bridgewater CT
Location: Bridgewater, CT
August 16, 2016 8:10 pm
Hi. This is the 2nd cool moth I’ve seen in a month. The first was a male Tulip Tree Moth. I’ve attached 2 new pics and hope you can assist in identifying them for me! Thank you in advance.
This little beauty is a Gallium Hawkmoth or Bedstraw Hawkmoth, Hyles gallii, and according to the Sphingidae of the Americas site: “Hyles gallii ranges coast to coast in Canada (into the Yukon) and southward along the Rocky Mountains into Mexico. It is also widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia.”
Letter 118 – Oak Hawkmoth from Spain
Subject: Moth ID
Location: Northern Spain
June 3, 2017 6:47 am
Hi Could you please identify this moth for me, I found it while on holiday in Northern Spain in the Pyrenees at the end of May this year. Thank you
Signature: Tony Mellor
Your image is gorgeous. We just posted an image of this moth, Marumba quercus, to our site, but your image really showcases the subtle beauty of this species. According to iNaturalist, it is commonly called the Oak Hawkmoth. The Amateur Entomologists’ Society provides detailed information on raising this species. According to Lepidoptera and their Ecology: “Marumba quercus occurs in dry and warm oak woodland in the Mediterranean and Supramediterranean region” and “Marumba quercus occurs from North Africa (Morocco) across most of Southern Europe to parts of Asia (Caspian Sea). In Europa, the northernmost populations seem to occur in Hungary and Slowakia. In Central Europe Lake Garda is likely to be the northernmost point.”
Letter 119 – Probably Hawk Moth Pupa
Subject: Wierd cocoon thing?
Geographic location of the bug: Broulee NSW Australia
Time: 11:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Found this in a pile of raked up leaves in the middle of summer. The top part that seems to be segments was twitching back and forth when disturbed.
How you want your letter signed: Kell
This pupa will eventually become a very large moth. We do not believe it is in the family Saturniidae. We suspect it is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae. Moths in this family do not spin cocoons. They produce a naked pupa like the one you found, and it is generally underground or among leaf litter. Many Sphingidae pupae are pictured on Butterfly House.
Letter 120 – Mango Hawkmoth from Vietnam
Subject: Large Moth in Hanoi
Geographic location of the bug: Hanoi, Vietnam
Time: 08:37 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear bugman,
The moth in the uploaded image appeared
on the wall in our stairway this morning, 21 Feb 2018, in
Hanoi, Vietnam. I would like to know what it is. It is about
15cm from wingtip to wingtip as shown in the image. The
stairway is quite open and often lit through the night, so
it is easy for it to enter. It is winter here, just starting
to warm up to 20C after a colder period and quite humid with
occasional light rain. Only last week I started
noticing butterflies again as the weather warmed.
A couple more photos of the same moth attached. I found it again on the floor by the wall when I returned in the evening. I thought it had died at first. I nudged it and saw it move so carefully eased it onto some card, with the intention of taking onto our balcony to give it an easier escape route and protect it from rats and people. I put some honey mixed with water onto the card in case that might help give it some energy. Then as I was trying to nudge it into something more sturdy to shelter it from the breeze, it took off.
Even if you can’t respond I hope you enjoy this beautiful moth.
Thanks for resending additional images. We did not receive your first identification request which is very puzzling. This is a Mango Hawkmoth, Amplypterus panopus, and we identified it on the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic site where it states: “The moth is sluggish during the daytime and allows itself to be handled, but at night it flies strongly. It has never been seen feeding at flowers, nor does it seem to come readily to light, though Mell states that it has frequently been caught at light in Java. It emerges from the pupa after dark, and pairs after midnight when in captivity.” There are also images on iNaturalist.
Dear Daniel and the folks at whatsthatbug.com,
Many thanks for your informative response. Keep up the good work.
Letter 121 – White-Edged Hunter Hawkmoth from Thailand
Subject: Beautiful Moth fellow
Geographic location of the bug: Phuket, Thailand
Time: 07:20 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello again Mr. Bugman,
I found this mothy fellow hanging out on a noodle bar. He or She was rather big and rather beautiful and stay lovely and still while I took a few glamour shots.
Would love to know exactly what type of moth he or she is.
How you want your letter signed: Thanks again, Adam
This is a Hawkmoth or Sphinx Moth in the family Sphingidae, and we began our identity search on Farangs Gone Wild, but alas, none of the moths looked correct, so we turned to the Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic where we found what we believe is your species, the White-Edged Hunter Hawkmoth, Theretra pallicosta. We then returned to Farangs Gone Wild and clicked on the orange colored thumbnail for the species which led us to the species page that also included a dark colored individual like the one in your image. Additional supporting images are on iNaturalist and Sambui Butterflies.
Letter 122 – Hawkmoth from Australia
Subject: Moth identification
Geographic location of the bug: Orpheus Island, North Queensland
Time: 06:36 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi!
I encountered this moth hanging out on the wall at my work and I’m having a hard time figuring out what he is?!
How you want your letter signed: KMcAuley
This is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, and they are very powerful fliers and they are also long lived, which does allow them to fly across large bodies of water. Thanks to images posted to Butterfly House, we are confident your individual is Daphnis placida, a species with no common name. According to Butterfly House: “The adult moth has a complex pattern of light and dark brown on the wings, and a white bar across the first abdominal segment. The moth has a wingspan of about 6 cms.” According to Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic, the global distribution is: “Nicobar and Andaman Islands (Kailash Chandra & Rajan, 2004), Thailand, southern China (Hainan Island), Philippines, Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Bali, Flores, Timor), northern Australia, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands.”
Letter 123 – Hawkmoth from India
Subject: What insect is this??
Geographic location of the bug: India
Time: 04:33 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: It has a texture like wood and is a flying insect.. It is there at the same place since 5 hours and hadn’t move an inch..
How you want your letter signed: Dhruv
This is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, but we are not certain of the species. Many Hawkmoths have brightly colored underwings that are hidden by brown or gray wings that act as good camouflage if the moth alights on a tree trunk.
Letter 124 – Levant Hawkmoth from Greece
Subject: what moth is this?
Geographic location of the bug: nea makri, attiki, greece
Time: 08:21 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: hello i found this moth outside my house it looks like tersa sphinx but not quite do you happen to know what is it? also (though i have no photos amd i understand if you cant answer that) around 2010 some black spiders had appeared(havent seen any ever since), they were hairy(a little bit, nothing like tarantulas), about 10 cm, with fat legs(but still not as fat as tarantulas) do you happen to understand what kind they were? thank you very much 🙂
How you want your letter signed: Maria
Though it resembles the North American Tersa Sphinx, we believe your individual is a Levant Hawkmoth, Theretra alecto, based on images posted to Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa. According to Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic: “Occurs in areas where grapes are grown. Little is known about the behaviour of this species except that it is attracted to flowers and light.” Your black hairy spiders might have been endangered Ladybird Spiders.
thank you very very much for your answer. yes i saw about levant and i think its the one. im sorry i dont have photos of the spider. back in 2010 we didnt have such good phones to take accurate photos in the dark :/ unfortunately the one i saw was much bigger like a palm of a hand. maybe some spiders someone left loose? maybe thats the reason noone have seen one again ever since.. but no matter what thank you so much for your response have a good day 🙂
Letter 125 – Levant Hawkmoth from Jordan
Subject: Weird insect found in jordan
Geographic location of the bug: Amman, jordan
Time: 05:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello, i found this bug in amman, jordan at 12:00 am. I asked my family if they knew what it is and none of them have seen something like it before
How you want your letter signed: Raya
This is a Sphinx Moth or Hawkmoth in the family Sphingidae, and we identified it as a Levant Hawkmoth, Theretra alecto, thanks to images on iNaturalist and Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic where it states: “Occurs in areas where grapes are grown. Little is known about the behaviour of this species except that it is attracted to flowers and light.”
Letter 126 – Hawkmoth from Australia is Macroglossum errans
Subject: What moth is this?
Geographic location of the bug: Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Time: 04:22 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi!
This moth stopped by and stuck with me for an hour. Ive never seen a moth like it, and was super interested to know what it was? Thank you!
How you want your letter signed: Melanie
We apologize for the long delay. We had identified your Hawkmoth as Macroglossum errans on Butterfly House before the world as we know it changed due to COVID-19, but we did not complete a posting. This pretty little moth does not have a common name. There are also some images on the Butterflies of a Dorrigo Garden and Moths site where it states: “”Flight habit: Nocturnal – Active at night including early evening.”
Letter 127 – Hummingbird Sphinx from Japan
Fri, Dec 12, 2008 at 11:19 PM
About a month ago, we saw this flying around the flowers pictured, near a river and the gardens of Osaka Castle, Japan. Sorry I couldn’t get a better picture (despite having a DSLR) – it wouldn’t stay still long enough. Pretty big really… with the body perhaps 3 or 3.5 cms long. Image has been sharpened to bring out details better. Don’t bust a gut on my behalf – just curious :-). Regards, Tony
answering own question
Fri, Dec 12, 2008 at 11:34 PM
Sorry – my friend found the answer to my query of 10 minutes ago: seems the bug is a Pellucid or Hummingbird Hawk Moth, for which a much better picture exists at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jshillaw/515960768/
Hope I haven’t taken your time… Regards, Tony
The Flickr page you sent us to indicates: “It’s Japanese name is オオスカシバ (Oosukashiba ” but we wanted to try to find out the Linnean binomial name. We googled Oosukashiba and found a site that listed Pellucid hawk moth = oosukashiba = Cephonodes hylas. The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic was our final destination. There you may find fabulous life cycle photos as well as maps and information.
Letter 128 – Hummingbird Sphinx Moth in Cosmos Meadow in China
Location: Kunming, China
January 5, 2011 4:22 pm
I came across this very large bug wich looks like a cross between a bee and a hummingbird in the southwest of China in october.
I wonder what it could be, do you know?
Your observation that this looked like a cross between a bee and a hummingbird is quite astute as many of the diurnal Sphinx Moths like your example are known as Hummingbird Moths. We will need to take some time to research the species, but we imagine it can be found on the Sphingidae of the Palaearctic website. We are also very intrigued with the flower it is feeding upon, the Cosmos, and your photograph of the Cosmos meadow. Is that a wild meadow? Or is it, perhaps, a cultivated garden?
Thank you for a very quick reply. The meadow is most probably cultivated in a manner to look wild. It was in a place called Stone Forrest which is a park surrounding a special kind of rock formations found outside Kunming.
That makes sense. We thought afterward that we believe Cosmos are native to Central America, but we did not research that.
Ed. Note: January 7, 2011
Now that time has permitted, we researched the origin of Cosmos, which is Mexico to South America according to a Horticulture website we found.
Letter 129 – Diurnal Sphinx looks like Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
Subject: No clue what this is!
Location: Central NY
June 14, 2013 5:22 pm
Today this ”bug” was flying around some flowers at my in-laws. At least 6 of us approached this without it being spooked while we observed it and tried to figure out what it was. Sorry if this picture isn’t clear enough. It flies exactly like a hummingbird but has the body of what looks like a bee or a moth. It was moving flower to flower and was inserting something into each flower like a hummingbird would. We live in Central NY and none of us has ever seen anything like this. Any insight would be appreciated! Thank you!
Signature: Michele from NY
Dear Michele from NY,
This is some species of diurnal Sphinx Moth, possibly a member of the genus Hemaris which includes the Hummingbird Clearwing and the Snowberry Clearwing or Bumblebee Moth. For more on the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth, you can read the Sphingidae of the Americas website. You need a faster shutter speed like 2000 to “freeze” the blurring of the wings.
Thank you so much! I will have to let everyone else know! It was so interesting to look at. I’m very surprised none of us have seen one before since they are indigenous to eastern US. I will have to bring my camera over to get better pictures!(we used a camera phone before) Again, thank you so much for your help.
Letter 130 – Hummingbird Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Bulgaria
July 14, 2016 5:55 am
We found this little guy crawling on our balcony. He’s pretty tiny, so maybe his coloring will be different as he grows. We’d like to try and watch him grow, but aren’t sure what he’d eat. We’re in Sofia, Bulgaria.
This looks like a Hummingbird Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Macroglossum stellatarum, a species that is included on Wild About Britain. According to UK Moths: “The larvae feed on bedstraw (Galium), and some of these may hatch and give rise to autumn adults in an influx year.” According to Lepidoptera and their Ecology: “In Central Europe every year countless caterpillars are destroyed by excessive mowing of the meadows and roadsides, but this has probably little impact on the migratory species.”
Letter 131 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth
What is the common and scientific name of this moth?
I photographed this moth in my back yard last summer in Billings MT. Thank you,
This is the first photo we have gotten of the adult Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae. We have received several images of the conspicusly marked and colored caterpillar. According to Bill Oehlke’s awesome website: “The leafy spurge hawk moth, Hyles euphorbiae (length: 2-3 cm, wingspan: 5-7 cm), was the first classical biological agent released against leafy spurge in the United States, with approval for introduction granted in 1965. Populations of this insect are present in several western states, including Montana, Idaho, North Dakota and Oregon. The moth was also introduced from Europe into Ontario, Canada, and then into Alberta where specimens are occasionally still taken. I recently received an image of larva (July 2003) from Neepawa, Manitoba.” We tried locating this species on BugGuide and there is no posting. May we post your image there as well?
Yes, you may post my photo.Thank you for your help in identifing this moth. I have sent you an identified photograph. I am a 12 year old photographer. My mom caught this moth on our fence and put it in the fridge for a few minutes so I could photograph it. I finally got around to identifing it and could not find it in any books so I e-mailed you. Thank you for all the help and I will e-mail you if I need any more insects identified.
Letter 132 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Can you help me identify this beautiful hornworm ( I think)? There were 3 of them in the woods in Calgary, Alberta on a euphorbia plant. I couldn’t find them on anything else. I did search the links on your site and had no luck. Thanks,
We do have other images of the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Hyles euphorbiae, posted in our archives on our 10 caterpillar pages. This species was introduced from Europe to help control the spread of its food plant, the Leafy Spurge.
Letter 133 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillars: Two Color Morphs
Two photos of a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth
Hi, I am from Zehner, Sask. Canada, 3 miles from the North America Leafy Spurge original origin point, and we now have encountered the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth here even though our province has not released any. I have two t close up pics of this caterpillar, a yellow, and a red variant. You may use these on your page if you like, just credit me please . Thanks,
Thanks for your great images of Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillars, Hyles euphorbiae, a European species introduced to help control the Leafy Spurge. We suspect that Bill Oehlke will be interested in this sighting if you are accurate that the moths have not been released in your area, so we are copying him on this response. Fresh off from our lecture at the Getty on Maria Sibylla Merian, we are now curious if she drew this species in her caterpillar books and if she documented the various color morphs of the caterpillar.
Letter 134 – Leafy Spurge Hawk Moth Caterpillar
Can you tell me the name of this caterpillar?
We were out in Fish Creek, Calgary (Alberta, Canada) and came across this caterpillar. Can you tell me what sort of caterpillar this is. Thanks,
This is a Leafy Spurge Hawk Moth Caterpillar, Hyles euphorbiae. In 1965, it was introduced from Europe to help control the invasive exotic plant, the leafy spurge. We will copy Bill Oehlke on this because he is compiling comprehensive data on species distribution.
Letter 135 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth
I’m a wildlife photographer from Alberta. Canada….and I came across this beautifully colored caterpillar….but for some reason I cannot seem to ID it.even with the help of guide books and the use of the internet on butterflies and moth caterpillar species..!! Can you help…..see attached image for reference ! Much Thanks..
This is one color variation of a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae. Bill Oehlke has some great information on his site. The moth was introduced from Europe as a biological control for the weed Leafy Spurge. The moth has been released in Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Ontario and Alberta where it is thriving and eating leafy spurge.
Letter 136 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth
Caterpillar or Larvae?
We found this insect eating on a Leafy Spurge plant. It is about 3 inches long. Is it a Bedstraw Hawkmoth Larvae? I looked it up on the net but the colors didn’t quite match. Thanks for your help.
This is a close relative of the Bedstraw Hawkmoth, the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae.
Letter 137 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar
a picture for you
Can you please tell me which of the sphnix moths this will be? I have found several feeding on a small wild euphorbia in a vacant lot near my house in central Texas. I don’t believe this is as large as it will grow as I’ve seen larger ones. It must be one of the many sphnix moths but I can find it neither in my book or on your excellent website. Thank you,
The caterpillar from the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, Sphinx euphorbiae, an introduced species that feeds on leafy spurge, Euphorbia esula. The caterpillar has several color variations.
Letter 138 – Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Caterpillar (red, black, white, yellow)
September 28, 2009
Can you please identify this caterpillar? It was photographed near Lake Tizlit in the High Atlas Mountains of central Morocco. The nearest village is Imilchil where my daughter works as a Peace Corps volunteer. This is in “her” national park. The photo was made in later June in semi-arid conditions. It is perhaps 10 cm long.
This caterpillar reminded us of the caterpillars of the Sphinx Moths in the genus Hyles, so we searched Hyles and Morocco, and quickly arrived at a page for the Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles tithymali mauretanica. Your caterpillar looks very similar to the ones pictured in the photo on that page, but with slight color differences. The website also has this note: “(Taxonomic note. de Freina (1994) placed mauretanica as a subspecies of H. euphorbiae on the basis of minor morphological and behavioural differences, overlooking the many more characteristics that mauretanica has in common with tithymali.)” Upon following the link to Hyles euphorbiae, the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, the new page has photos of numerous color variations of the larvae which are called polymorphic.
I am dazzled by your speed and research. From the description of the habitat (desert/steppe) and range (Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco), this much be the one. I note (as you did) the slight variation in coloring (red line for yellow line, etc.) but it must be a cousin. Thanks much for offering such a service online. I posted the picture on Flickr and gave you credit for the identification:
Letter 139 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar
What is this?
Location: North Dakota
September 20, 2010 7:04 pm
My son and I would like to know what this is. We found it in our garage, it is about 3-4 inches long. We have never seen anything like it. We live in Carrington North Dakota, and we found this in mid september.
Signature: science project
Dear science project,
This stunning caterpillar is a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar, a Eurasian species. According to Bill Oehlke’s Sphingidae of the Americas website: “The leafy spurge hawk moth, Hyles euphorbiae (length: 2-3 cm, wingspan: 5-7 cm), was the first classical biological agent released against leafy spurge in the United States, with approval for introduction granted in 1965. Populations of this insect are present in several western states, including Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, Minnesota and Oregon. The moth was also introduced from Europe into Ontario, Canada, and then into Alberta where specimens are occasionally still taken.“
Letter 140 – Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Crete
Location: Akrotiri, Crete, Greece
October 24, 2010 12:06 pm
I spotted this caterpiller on October 20th near Souda harbor on the Greek island of Crete. Can you help me identify?
We had to do a bit of creative information extrapolation in order to arrive at our assumption that this is a subspecies of the Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles tithymali cretica. We were confident that we had the genus correct, so we did a websearch of possibilities from Crete and we found the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic page for Hyles tithymali cretica, but alas, there was no image of the caterpillar. We did find images of the caterpillar of another subspecies of the Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles tithymali tithymali, a subspecies from the Canary Islands, also on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website, and they look like your individual. We learned on Wikipedia that: “It is thought that Hyles tithymali had a much larger range in Europe, but has been pushed further south after the cooling ca. 3600 years ago. Its place has been taken over by Hyles euphorbiae, which is more resistant to the cold. Because of this, many isolated populations exist today, many of which have developed to distinct subspecies.” To further complicate matters, the caterpillar of the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae, which may be viewed on the Sphingidae of the Americas website, looks nearly identical. That Eurasian species has been introduced into North America to help control the spread of the invasive exotic plant, Leafy Spurge, and the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth is now established in North America, but it prefers a cooler climate. The Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, which is also pictured on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic Website, has several subspecies as well.
Thank you for the speedy reply! I appreciate your assistance.
All the best,
Letter 141 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Spain
Catalan, European Moth Caterpillar
Location: Catalan Pre-Pyrenees/Pyrenees, Cadí-Moixeró. Near Bellver de Cerdanya, Catalonia.
November 29, 2010 5:23 am
First of all, thank you for the great work done here.
In a hike we went two years ago found a (probably) moth caterpillar of unknown (for me) of unknown type. It was in summer, in the catalan pre-pyrenees, near bellver de cerdanya and in the Cadi-Moixeró national park limits. Size was about 60mm long by 13-15mm.
I sent a pair of images.
Thank you very much in advance,
Signature: Victor Calvis i Ponton
This gaudy caterpillar is Hyles euphorbiae, commonly called the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth. You can read about it on the Sphingidae of the Americas website because it was introduced to North America to help control the spread of a European weed, the Leafy Spurge. The Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic website has a map with the native range of the species indicated.
Letter 142 – Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar
September 25, 2016 2:35 am
Saw this South of France, Gorges dHeric.Can’t seem to find it in a general search any ideas?
Though your image does not illustrate the caudal horn, one of the most significant physical features of the Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Hyles euphorbiae, the coloration is unmistakable. The Spurge Hawkmoth is found in North America as well as Eurasia, because they were released to help control the invasive spurge plants that have become naturalized in North America. The Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic site has some excellent images that should substantiate our identification.
Thank you for clearing that up.
Letter 143 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Subject: Hornworm many spots
Geographic location of the bug: North Dakota USA
Time: 08:57 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi bugman,
Found this little guy walking along a plaved pathway. Looked through submissions and couldn’t identify myself.
How you want your letter signed: BiochemGuy
Your Hornworm is a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Hyles euphorbiae, which is pictured on Sphingidae of the Americas where it states: “The leafy spurge hawk moth, Hyles euphorbiae (length: 2-3 cm, wingspan: 5-7 cm), was the first classical biological agent released against leafy spurge in the United States, with approval for introduction granted in 1965. Populations of this insect are present in several western states, including Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Oregon, and now Washington (Spokane County; David Droppers; BAMONA). The moth was also introduced from Europe into Ontario, Canada, and then into Alberta where specimens are occasionally still taken.”
Letter 144 – Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Subject: Handsome Caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Northern lower peninsula MI
Time: 09:35 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: We found this caterpiller eating the Gopher Spurge that’s been growing in our garden. He’s really pretty, and we’re not going to bother him but we would really like to know what kind of moth or butterfly he will become. I cant find anything like it in searches.
How you want your letter signed: Observer
We confirmed the identification of your Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar, Hyles euphorbiae, on Sphingidae of the Americas where it states: “The leafy spurge hawk moth, Hyles euphorbiae (length: 2-3 cm, wingspan: 5-7 cm), was the first classical biological agent released against leafy spurge in the United States, with approval for introduction granted in 1965. Populations of this insect are present in several western states, including Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota and Oregon, and now Washington (Spokane County). The moth was also introduced from Europe into Ontario, Canada, and then into Alberta where specimens are occasionally still taken. “
Letter 145 – Another Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Michigan Peninsula
Geographic location of the bug: Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Time: 11:34 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi there, we found this big caterpillar after some storms last night. We were hoping to find out what it is.
How you want your letter signed: Cindy Occhietti
Coincidentally, we just posted additional images of a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth Caterpillar, also submitted from the Michigan peninsula. Do you by chance know Larry?
Letter 146 – Vine Hawk Moth
Location: Holualoa, HI
November 20, 2010 2:03 am
The moth is about 1.2” long with a teardrop shaped body covered with short silky hairs. The wings do not look like any moth wings I have ever seen. They look more like seedpod wings.
Your Vine Hawk Moth, Choerocampa rosetta, which we identified on the Sphingidae of the Americas website, is an Asian species which has been recorded in Hawaii since the late 1990s. We are not certain why Bill Oehlke divides the compound name Hawkmoth into two words as this is atypical.