Striped Hawk Moth Facts: Uncovering Nature’s Fascinating Secrets

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The striped hawk moth is a fascinating creature that you might have come across in your adventures outdoors. Known for their striking patterns and unique appearance, these moths are members of the Sphingidae family and are commonly referred to as hawk moths or sphinx moths. The relative agility and stealthy nature of these moths can predominantly be attributed to their distinct wing shape, which allows them to hover almost effortlessly near flowers US Forest Service.

If you’re interested in learning more about these winged wonders, you’ve come to the right place. Over the course of this article, we will delve into the various aspects of striped hawk moth biology, behavior, and their significance in ecosystems. By the time you’re finished reading, your knowledge and appreciation for this seemingly inconspicuous creature could reach new heights.

Taxonomy and Classification

The Striped Hawk Moth (Hyles livornica) belongs to the family Sphingidae, which is a part of the order Lepidoptera. This family of moths, commonly known as hawk moths, includes over 1,450 species1. Let’s take a look at its classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Sphingidae
  • Genus: Hyles
  • Species: Hyles livornica

Hawk moths, in general, are characterized by their large size, heavy bodies, long and pointed abdomens, and their hovering behavior near flowers while feeding on nectar2.

Here are some key features of the Striped Hawk Moth:

  • The adult has noticeable black and white stripes on its body and wings3.
  • Their wingspan measures up to 8-9 cm3.
  • The moth’s attractive appearance makes it a favorite among moth enthusiasts3.
  • Striped Hawk Moths are found in various parts of the world, including Africa, Europe, and Asia3.

As a member of the Sphingidae family, Hyles livornica shares common traits with other hawk moths. However, its distinct appearance sets it apart from the rest.

Physical Features

The striped hawk moth is a fascinating creature with a unique set of physical features that set it apart from other species. In this section, we will explore some of its most notable attributes.

The striped hawk moth is known for its large size and impressive wingspan. You’ll notice that the moth’s wings are long and pointed, allowing it to hover near flowers when feeding on nectar. Its wingspan can reach up to 4 inches (10 centimeters), making it one of the larger moths you might encounter.

Speaking of feeding, the moth has a very long proboscis which it uses to drink nectar from flowers. This tube-like structure, commonly known as a “tongue,” allows the moth to access nectar from various types of flowers with ease.

The moth’s abdomen is long and pointed, which helps it maintain balance while hovering and feeding. Additionally, you’ll notice the hindwings, which are shorter than the forewings, also aid in stabilization while in the air.

One of the most identifiable features of the striped hawk moth is its white stripes. These markings run along the sides of its body and wings, giving the moth its distinctive appearance. These stripes often create a beautiful contrast against their darker background color to make it easy to spot.

Finally, its antennae play a crucial role in navigation and detecting scents. The antennae are gradually thickened towards the tip but not feathery in appearance, which is a typical characteristic of hawk moths.

Here are some essential features of the striped hawk moth in bullet points:

  • Large size with a wingspan of up to 4 inches (10 centimeters)
  • Long, pointed wings for hovering and feeding on nectar
  • Long proboscis for reaching nectar within flowers
  • Pointed abdomen and shorter hindwings for balance while flying
  • Distinctive white stripes on the body and wings
  • Gradually thickened antennae for navigation and scent detection

In summary, the striped hawk moth is an interesting and unique specimen with several remarkable physical features, such as its large size, wingspan, proboscis, abdomen, hindwing, white stripes, and antennae. These features set it apart from other moth species and make it a fascinating subject of study.

Moth Life Cycle

The life cycle of a striped hawk moth involves several stages, starting with eggs. Female moths lay their eggs on host plants, providing a food source for the soon-to-hatch caterpillars.

Once hatched, the caterpillars (or larvae) start feeding on the plant. They are voracious eaters, continuously growing and shedding their skin multiple times. As a caterpillar, you’ll notice some features:

  • Distinctive patterns on their body
  • A horn-like structure (in some species)
  • Rapid growth

After reaching a certain size, caterpillars undergo a transition into the pupal stage by forming a protective case around themselves called a pupa. During this stage, they are immobile and go through a significant transformation.

Inside the pupa, the caterpillar gradually changes into an adult moth. This process may take several days to weeks, depending on the species. Once fully developed, the adult moth emerges from the pupa, spreads its wings, and takes flight.

As an adult striped hawk moth, you can expect to:

  • Have long, pointed wings
  • Hover near flowers to feed on nectar using a long proboscis
  • Be generally larger in size compared to other moth species

The adult moths then mate, and the females lay eggs, starting the cycle all over again. By understanding the life cycle of a striped hawk moth, you can appreciate the amazing transformations these creatures undergo during their lives.

Feeding Habits

Striped hawk moths are fascinating creatures with unique feeding habits. They are known for their ability to hover near flowers to feed on nectar. Let’s dive into their feeding habits.

As a striped hawk moth, you primarily feed on nectar from various plants. Some of your favorite plants to visit are petunias, which provide a rich source of nectar. You use your long proboscis (mouth tube) to reach the nectar inside the flowers.

Besides petunias, you also feed on other plants, including crops. These plants can act as host plants, providing both food and a place to lay your eggs. This benefits the plants by aiding in their pollination.

While feeding on nectar, you inadvertently collect pollen on your body. As you move from flower to flower, you help to transport pollen between plants. This process of nectar feeding plays a crucial role in the pollination of many plant species.

To wrap up, here’s a summary of the main points:

  • Primary food source: nectar from plants like petunias and crops
  • Long proboscis to reach nectar
  • Act as pollinators while feeding on nectar

By understanding your feeding habits, it becomes easier to appreciate your essential role in the ecosystem. As a striped hawk moth, your love for nectar helps maintain a diverse and thriving plant community.

Habitat and Distribution

The striped hawk moth (Hyles livornica) can be found in a variety of habitats. They prefer warm environments and are known to inhabit regions such as Africa, Australia, and coastal areas in other parts of the world. Some specific habitats you might stumble upon this fascinating moth include woodland rides and coastal areas.

In Africa and Australia, striped hawk moths thrive in warmer climates as they are heat-loving creatures. These moths have a wide distribution, but they tend to be more common in certain areas. For instance, they are often found in coastal regions where temperatures are milder.

When it comes to altitude, the striped hawk moth is quite adaptable. They can be found at various elevations, although there may be some variation in their prevalence based on location. Overall, it’s clear that this species is quite versatile in terms of habitat and distribution.

Here are some key points about the striped hawk moth:

  • Prefer warm climates
  • Found in Africa, Australia, and coastal regions
  • Inhabit woodland rides and coastal areas
  • Can be found at various altitudes

By keeping these facts in mind, you’re now equipped with knowledge of the striped hawk moth’s habitat and distribution. Remember, these fascinating moths are remarkably adaptable and can be discovered in a range of environments around the world.

Behavior and Adaptations

The striped hawk moth is a fascinating creature with unique behaviors and adaptations. Its flight patterns are especially intriguing, as this moth is known to be quite agile for its size.

As a nocturnal pollinator, the striped hawk moth is attracted to flowers and nectar sources during dusk and dawn. They have a hovering behavior while feeding, much like hummingbirds, allowing them to access nectar with their long proboscis easily. Temperature plays a significant role in their ability to fly; these moths can maintain high body temperatures, often around 40 degrees Centigrade, to stay active during cooler nights.

Here’s a quick breakdown of some key adaptations and behaviors:

  • Nighttime activity
  • Pollinators during dusk and dawn
  • Hovering while feeding
  • Adapted to cooler temperatures during flight

The striped hawk moth’s nocturnal nature helps it evade predators, as they rely on the darkness for camouflage. This moth also has a unique way of surviving colder temperatures. As overwintering insects, they can withstand harsh winter conditions, entering a state of dormancy until warmer temperatures arrive.

So, the striped hawk moth displays remarkable adaptations that enable it to thrive in various environments while maintaining its role as a vital pollinator for plants. Enjoy observing these fascinating creatures and learn more about their incredible adaptability!

Human Interaction and Impact

Striped hawk moths are often found in gardens due to their attraction to specific flowers, including Mirabilis. They can be seen hovering near these flowers, drinking nectar with their long proboscis.

In some cases, you might consider them a common moth that visits your garden. However, they play a crucial role in pollination, benefiting the overall health of your plants. Remember to be cautious with the usage of pesticides around these moths, as they contribute to the growth of your plants.

Here are some characteristics of striped hawk moths to help with identification:

  • Striped pattern on the body
  • Pointed abdomen
  • Long proboscis for feeding
  • Attracted to Mirabilis flowers

Some gardeners might try attracting striped hawk moths to their gardens by using pheromones. This enhances pollination and potentially improves the overall appearance and health of the garden.

You may encounter collectors who are interested in striped hawk moths. These collectors appreciate the unique appearance and characteristics of these moths, resulting in a thriving and diverse community.

In summary, it’s essential for humans to be aware of the impact we have on the environment and striped hawk moths. By taking care of them and appreciating their role in pollination, we can create a more biodiverse and thriving ecosystem for both humans and these moths.

Role in Ecosystem

Striped hawk moths, like other hawk moths, play a vital role in the ecosystem. They contribute to the pollination of flowers, helping plants reproduce.

These moths are known for their unique characteristics. They have:

  • Long, pointed abdomens
  • Elongated proboscis, or “tongue” for feeding on nectar
  • Tiny, overlapping scales on their wings

As pollinators, they share several features with other insects like bees and butterflies. However, hawk moths have certain distinctions, such as their long proboscis, which allows them to access nectar from deep within flowers.

Moreover, striped hawk moths are nocturnal, meaning they pollinate flowers during the night. This adaptation supports the reproduction of plants that bloom after sunset, when bees and butterflies are inactive.

The relationship between hawk moths and the flowers they pollinate can be quite intricate. One famous example involves the interaction between hawk moths and a Madagascan orchid studied by Charles Darwin. Dr. Robert Raguso later confirmed that this specific orchid and the moth have evolved features specifically for each other, a concept known as coevolution.

Here’s a comparison table highlighting the differences between pollinators:

Pollinator Active Time Proboscis Length Examples
Bees Daytime Short Honeybees, bumblebees
Butterflies Daytime Moderate Monarchs, swallowtails
Hawk Moths Nighttime Long Striped hawk moth, rustic sphinx

In summary, striped hawk moths are important nocturnal pollinators that play a crucial role in the ecosystem. They have unique features, such as their elongated proboscis, which allow them to pollinate flowers that other insects might be unable to reach. This has even led to instances of coevolution between these moths and certain plant species.

Associated Species

When it comes to striped hawk moths, they share some commonalities with other species in terms of their habitat and food preferences. Here are some of the associated species:

Striped hawk moths are known to be partial to plants like grape, fuchsia, bedstraw, and mirabilis. These serve as food sources for the moths during their lifecycle, particularly the larval stage. Similarly, other related species such as the privet hawk moth, white-lined sphinx, and hummingbird moth enjoy feasting on plants like docks, spurge, sorrels, and red valerian.

Apart from plant preferences, striped hawk moths have some similarities with species like the tomato hornworm and cephonodes kingii. For example, all three species have caterpillars that can be quite destructive to the plants they feed on.

Here’s a comparison table for the mentioned hawk moth species:

Species Preferred Plants Common Traits
Striped Hawk Moth Grape, Fuchsia, Bedstraw, Mirabilis Large, colorful, pollinators
Privet Hawk Moth Docks, Spurge, Sorrels, Red Valerian Strong fliers, night-feeding
Tomato Hornworm Tomato plants, pepper plants Destructive to host plants
Cephonodes Kingii Various garden plants Similar caterpillar feeding habits

Another notable species to mention is the hummingbird moth (Hyles lineata), which shares some traits with other sphinx moths. This species got its name because it hovers near flowers, feeding on nectar while having vibrant colors.

To summarize the shared traits of these species:

  • Most of them are pollinators
  • Have similar feeding habits
  • Prefer specific plants for food and habitat

In conclusion, understanding the associated species of striped hawk moths helps in devising effective conservation and pest control strategies.

Sexual Dimorphism in Striped Hawk Moths

You might be curious about the differences between male and female striped hawk moths. Sexual dimorphism refers to distinct anatomical, physiological, or behavioral differences between males and females of a species. In striped hawk moths, sexual dimorphism is not as pronounced as in some other insects.

For instance, when observing the wing shape of seven hawkmoth species, researchers identified subtle sexual dimorphisms in the fore and hindwings 1( Here’s a brief overview of the key features:

  • Males: Generally have more streamlined wings, allowing for faster flight.
  • Females: Often display somewhat broader wings, which may provide better support for carrying eggs.

There are several other fascinating aspects to consider when examining sexual dimorphism in striped hawk moths:

  • Antennae: Males typically possess more feathery antennae, enabling them to pick up on female pheromones.
  • Body size: Female hawk moths tend to be larger and heavier than males, due to their reproductive responsibilities.

Although these differences between male and female striped hawk moths exist, they are not always easy to spot without careful examination. Overall, understanding sexual dimorphism in hawk moths can offer insight into their unique mating and reproductive behaviors.


The Striped Hawk Moth (Hyles livornica) is a fascinating species known for its distinct markings and unique behaviors. Here are some quick facts and resources for further research:

  • Striped Hawk Moths are part of the Sphingidae family, commonly known as hawkmoths.
  • They are nocturnal creatures and are often referred to as hornworms, due to the horn-shaped protuberance found on their posterior end, which you may find interesting when studying about rustic sphinx moths.

You might be interested to know that many hawkmoths, including the Striped Hawk Moth, are important pollinators; they hover near flowers, feeding on nectar via a very long proboscis.

Some characteristics of Striped Hawk Moths include:

  • Large, heavy-bodied with a long, pointed abdomen
  • Long and pointed forewings

Moreover, hornworms like the Striped Hawk Moth are among the largest caterpillars found in many places, reaching lengths of three inches or more.

Finally, if you’d like to explore more about hawkmoths, consider browsing the Moth Photographers Group, which has numerous images and resources to help you visualize and better understand this unique species.

Remember, while exploring these resources, keep a friendly and curious mindset, and you’ll be well on your way to learning more about the intriguing Striped Hawk Moth.


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Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, 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 – Striped Hawkmoth from Israel


which hawk moth?
Location: kibbutz mashabe sade negev israel
April 15, 2011 2:22 pm
hi i live in the negev in israel on a kibbut. i saw these moths flying around in the garden like humming birds thats how i tracked them down to hawk moths.maybe hippotion, am i right? they move with incredible speed took a while to work out how to photograph them. noticed them for about a week and now they seem to be gone, do they migrate? any additional info would be great. thanks
Signature: geora

Striped Hawkmoth

Hi Geora,
We are nearly certain your moth is a Striped Hawkmoth,
Hyles livornica, a common species in Israel that can get quite plentiful.  You may compare your individual to the images posted on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website. We recently posted a photo of Striped Hawkmoth Caterpillars from Israel and we have also posted images of great swarms of the moths from Iraq.  We are preparing your letter to post live to our site in several days during our absence from the office.  Your photos are quite marvelous.

Letter 2 – Striped Hawkmoth from UK


This moth was found by my 9 year old daughter by our garden gate today. We live just outside of Exeter in Devon, the UK.

Hi Clare,
We don’t have much difficulty identifying Hawkmoths from the UK as there is good material online. This is a Striped Hawkmoth, Hyles livornica.

Letter 3 – Striped Hawkmoths in Iraq by the hundreds


Moths in Iraq
Sat, Mar 14, 2009 at 12:24 AM
Hi there. These moths seems to come out at night especially when it rains. I am in north Iraq at the moment on an oil drilling rig. These moths are all over in the mornings but seem to dissappear as it get warmer. Would you know what they are and anything about them?
Chamchamal, Kurdistan – Iraq

Striped Hawkmoths
Striped Hawkmoths

Hi Craig,
Thanks for sending your amazing photographs. We were struck by the similarity of your moth to the Striped Morning Sphinx or Whitelined Sphinx, Hyles lineata, found throughout much of North and South America. We checked Bill Oehlke’s wonderful website and he writes: “A somewhat similar moth, Hyles livornica occurs in Eurasia and Africa.”

Striped Hawkmoths
Striped Hawkmoths

We then located a website that pictures and describes the Striped Hawkmoth, your species. The site indicates: “A noted migrant, generally found in open ground with few trees and shrubs, such as rough grazing land, parched hillsides and sand-dunes, or in vineyards. In semi-desert areas, huge numbers can build up during winter and spring, especially after heavy rains. An extremely active species, normally flying towards evening, when considerable numbers are often attracted to sweet-smelling flowers and to light. Pairing always takes place at dawn over a period of two or three hours. Thereafter, females can cover considerable distances whilst egg-laying. In southern Europe and North Africa, many are also active during daylight hours, especially when on migration. (See also Heinig (1981b).) ” We suspect the lights of the oil rig are attracting the great numbers of moths.

Hundreds of Striped Hawkmoths in Iraq
Hundreds of Striped Hawkmoths in Iraq

Letter 4 – Striped Hawkmoth from Syria


March 18, 2010
i found this beautiful and cute moth,just 1 meter from my front door.she was shaking and did not fly away as i held it.
i noticed the beautiful orange hidden wings…
i wanted to know what is it…so you are the best ones to ask buggy buddy..!!
BTW , we see these moth in coastern cities of syria,but i found this one in a dry area.

Striped Hawkmoth

Your moth is a Striped Hawkmoth, Hyles livornica, and it very closely resembles a North American species, the Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata.  Both species occasionally have population explosions.  Just over a year ago, we received a letter from Iraq with a photo showing hundreds of Striped Hawkmoths that had been attracted to the lights on an oil drilling rig.

Striped Hawkmoth

Letter 5 – Striped Hawkmoth Caterpillar in Israel


ID request for a suspicious caterpillar.
April 18, 2010
Dear Madam/ Sir, good day.
I live in a Kibbutz in the Arava desert in southern Israel, and we have a minor infestation of quite large caterpillars.
Since they crawl everywhere, including the kindergarten yards, and there are unfounded rumors regarding their toxicity and possibly their being hosts for wasps (of that kind this area is known), I wanted to try to identify them.
I believe to have identified them as- Sphingidae, Hyles livornica. I don’t believe this species to be dangerous, and don’t know if it’s a wasps’ host.
Location: Hot and dry desert (56º 29′ Long. 57 º 34′ Lat., 15-35 Centigrade, Approx. 30% Humidity.)
Size: 7-8 Cm. long, about 6-7Mm thick.
Characteristics: One ‘horn’ at lower quarters, usually black tipped. No ‘Hair’, with barely visible mandibles.
Nutrition: Seems to be feeding off a single desert plant, which has sprouted abundantly in dry creek beds due to extremely unusual rainy season. (Four days of rain and several flash floods).
Behaviour: Seems to feel at ease either on its plant or on sand and hot asphalt road. They are seen to be crawling at all times of day and night.
Defense mechanism: When attacked by insects such as ants the shake their upper or entire body violently. When touched or attacked by larger animals or people they excrete a greenish sticky liquid. Small dogs and cats bite at them but don’t eat them, and do not seem to be affected.
Please assist me to calm things here- or to issue a ‘remove on sight’ warning…
Attached are photos of the caterpillars and they plant.
Many thanks in advance, Itai Bawnik.
56º 29′ Long. 57 º 34′ Lat

Striped Hawkmoth Caterpillars

Dear Itai,
Your identification is correct.  These are the caterpillars of the Striped Hawkmoth, Hyles livornica, which is profiled on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website.  Like its counterpart in North America, the Striped Morning Sphinx, Hyles lineata
which can also become quite plentiful in arid environments, the Striped Hawkmoth becomes extremely plentiful in years when conditions are right.  Wet winters produce abundant desert vegetation and the population of the caterpillar and later emergent moth soars.  We imagine our resident entomophage, David Gracer, is salivating at the thought of feasting on the edible abundance your photo illustrates.  Many large wasps do feed on caterpillars, but believing that the caterpillars are hosts to the wasps is not an accurate assessment.  Other nonstinging wasp relatives like Braconids and Chalcids do parasitize caterpillars, but these wasps are so tiny they probably escape unnoticed and they pose no threat to humans or other animals.  Rather than being terrified of the harmless caterpillar of the Striped Hawkmoth, the inhabitants of your kibbutz should learn to appreciate the wonders of nature around them, and to realize that the desert dwelling caterpillars undoubtedly provided much needed nourishment in ancient times, though this probably went unrecorded.

Striped Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Letter 6 – Silverstriped Hawkmoth Caterpillar from South Africa


Subject: Caterpillar on Fuschia
Location: Cape Town, RSA
April 26, 2014 12:16 am
Hello Bugman,
I discovered a lot of these little caterpillars on my fuchsias recently. The change colour from green to purple depending on if they are hiding under the leaf or are on the stem of the plant. It took me a really long time to find them…
I think it is a moth species, but not sure.
Do you know what they are?
Signature: Waldi du Toit

Silverstriped Hawkmoth Caterpillar
Silverstriped Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Hi Waldi,
We are relatively certain that this Hornworm is the Caterpillar of a Silverstriped Hawkmoth,
Hippotion celerio, which we found on Photographs From South Africa.  This is a wide ranging species and it is also known as the Vine Hawkmoth.  According to the Australian website Butterfly House, fuschia is identified as a larval food plant.  Butterfly House also notes:  “It can occur in several different colour forms: green, brown, red or dark grey. It usually has an eyespot each side of the first and second abdominal segments, those on the first segment being larger. There are variable cryptic stripes and bands along the rest of the body. The Caterpillar has a tailhorn curved slightly backwards which tapers to a point.”  We also found documentation of it on this FlickR Pests and Problems page devoted to Fuschia.


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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Yet another edibility alert:
    H. livornica have traditionally been consumed [caterpillars, that is] in several parts of their large range.


  • Steve Carras
    April 7, 2010 10:39 pm

    There’s almost a pun there:
    In the land of real sphinxes,dwells the moths of the same name [sounds like a travelogue narration.]

    As already noted elsewhere, this here in Southern California is a quite common species. On April 18, 2009, almost an exact year ago, at Disneyland Southern California, the Alice in Wonderland ride at night had quite the 1991 Laughlin, Nevade had a lot of those moths, and I also seee a bunch now and then in Vegas..think: A large white lined sphinx moth by the sphinx casino, ala the LUXOR, sipping flowers at night.

  • Well I wouldn’t exactly say that the image makes me salivate, but I sure would like to try them one of these days.

    When Itai had posted these images on Bugguide [which were promptly frassed, as per their ‘North American only’ policy] I had commented on them there, but tactfully left out the edibility part. livornica is consumed in several parts of the world, including both African and Pacific-region countries.


  • The one I saw had some pink on the wings and body

  • Gabriel Hernandez
    April 22, 2018 8:13 pm

    I have photos of what I believe is a striped hawkmoth. I photographed it at Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary In McKinney Texas. I have never seen this type of moth before and I am wondering if this is a regular sighting spot for this type of moth. I have only been in Texas for 2 and 1/2 years so I am not familiar with the flora and fauna as yet.
    Thank you,
    Gabriel Hernandez

  • Gabriel Hernandez
    April 22, 2018 8:13 pm

    I have photos of what I believe is a striped hawkmoth. I photographed it at Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary In McKinney Texas. I have never seen this type of moth before and I am wondering if this is a regular sighting spot for this type of moth. I have only been in Texas for 2 and 1/2 years so I am not familiar with the flora and fauna as yet.
    Thank you,
    Gabriel Hernandez


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