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Hawk Moth

Family Sphingidae

Hawk Moth
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Hawk Moth • Family Sphingidae
Hawk moths have to be some of the most interesting of all moths. There are over 850 species in the world, 55 of which are native to Australia. Many of the Australian species are also common in Southeast Asia. Some species that you may find in your backyard include the Impatiens Hawk Moth and the Gardenia Bee Hawk Moth.

Hawk moth caterpillars are amazing. They are all brightly coloured, in a variety of patterns, and many species have “eye spots” along their body. The patterns help the caterpillar to camouflage in the foliage of the plant they prefer to eat, and the eye spots are to frighten of would-be predators. However, if that fails to work, they will spit out green slime, the leftovers from their last meal! Some species also hiss and arch their body into an S-shape. A distinguishing characteristic of Hawk Moth caterpillars is that all species have a “horn” on their tail. Some people believe that this is actually a stinger; however, this is not the case.

The caterpillars will hide under the leaves of the food plant until their second moult, when they are big enough to look like stems on the plant. If one of your plants is being eaten, but you can’t find any caterpillars, look more closely at the stems. You might just find a green or brown caterpillar that looks very like a branch or twig!

The pupa is normally about 5 cm long. The caterpillar doesn’t make a cocoon, sothe pupa is normally found in a shallow hole in the ground for protection. The pupal stage can last from one week to almost six months. Many species pupate in late autumn, so that they are safe in the pupa over winter, and hatch in spring as moths.

The moth itself is an amazing creature too. Most Hawkmoths are large, with long, narrow forewings. They are mostly patterned in browns and greys, but some, like the Bee Hawk Moths, are brightly coloured. Some species are striped, some have splotches of colour on them, and some even have clear wings! Hawk moths do not land on flowers; rather, they hover in front of them and sip the nectar through their proboscis, a long thin “straw”, which is their mouth. Some species are also the fastest insects in the world, having been clocked at more than 50 km/h. Females often lay over 100 eggs in a single season, each one being on a different leaf. Most of the moths are active at night, but a few species are active during the day.

Common Names - Hawk Moth (Psilogramma increta)

There are about 1,200 species of hawk moth, found around the world, classified into some 200 genera and grouped within 3 subfamilies: Macroglossinae, Smerinthinae, Sphinginae.
Language Common name Where Found
Hawk Moth Psilogramma increta  
Sphinx Moth Psilogramma increta  
Hornworms   The caterpillar of the Hawk Moth in North America are often referred to as hornworms, due to the ‘horn’ at the posterior end of the caterpillar.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
SuperFamily: Bombycoidea
Family: Spingidae

Hawk Moth (Psilogramma increta) Other links

Australia Museum Online • Fact Sheets - Hawk Moths
Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia • Hawk Moth.
Insects from the forests of Chiang Mai
 • Thailand has 176 species of Sphingidae... Hawk moths (Sphingidae).
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