Cizara ardeniae (Lewin, 1805)
Coprosma Hawk Moth
(erroneously: Sphinx ardenia)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Cizara ardeniae
early instar

This is a beautiful and interesting Caterpillar. When young, it is translucent green with a yellowish head, and with a straight black horn on its tail It rests lying along a vein on the underside of a leaf. Later, it becomes an opaque green with two yellow stripes running the length of its body. Its head, which is light blue, is only half the width of its body. The tail horn becomes blue. The horn is in fact quite harmless. It may frighten predators or draw their attention from the less significant head end.

Cizara ardeniae
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

When disturbed, the Caterpillar lashes its head violently from side to side. When mature, the caterpillar grows to a length of about 7 cms. At its last moult, its coloration changes to diagonal patches of light and dark brown, which blend in well with the patches of light and shade on its food plant. Uniquely amongst the SPHINGIDAE caterpillars, the diagonals slope downward and backward when viewed from the side. The tail horn becomes brown, thick but tapering to a black point, and backward curving.

Cizara ardeniae
(Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

It feeds on various plants from the plant family RUBIACEAE including :

  • Mirror Bush ( Coprosma repens ),
  • Prickly Currant Bush ( Coprosma quadrifida ),
  • Karamu ( Coprosma lucida ), and
  • Ant Plant ( Myrmecodia beccari ).

    Cizara ardeniae
    (Photo: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    The caterpillars pupate on the surface of the soil under a mat of felt that they spin amongst dead leaves. Before pupating in captivity, they wandered around in their container for a day or so. The pupa takes about four days to form. It has an exquisite pattern of light and dark brown markings corresponding to the organs of the maturing moth inside. The pupa has a length of about 4 cms. Our specimens have taken from seven to thirteen weeks for metamorphosis.

    Cizara ardeniae
    (Picture: courtesy of Michelle Greenfield, Lane Cove, New South Wales)

    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.

    Cizara ardeniae
    spot the monster?
    (Photo: courtesy of Steven Dodge, Nowra, New South Wales)

    The underside of the moth has tufts of bright red hair. Also the ends of the white bar show as transparent windows on the wings. The underside of the female has pink markings on the abdomen, and a pink tip to the abdomen. The male has yellow markings under the abdomen, and red on the tip of the abdomen. The male moths have a wingspan of about 5.5 cms. The female is larger with a wingspan of about 6.5 cms.

    Cizara ardeniae
    underside, male
    (Photo: courtesy of Steven Dodge, Nowra, New South Wales)

    The eggs are smooth, white and oval, and have a diameter about 0.5 mm. They are laid singly or in pairs on the edge of a leaf of the foodplant.

    Cizara ardeniae
    (Photo: courtesy of Michelle Zaunders)

    This species has been found occasionally in

  • New Zealand,

    but normally occurs over the eastern coastal region of Australia, including

  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales, and
  • Victoria.

    Cizara ardeniae
    ( Australia Post, 1991)

    Further reading :

    David Carter,
    Butterflies and Moths,
    Collins Eyewitness Handbooks, Sydney 1992, p. 242.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 16.12, p. 413.

    John William Lewin,
    Prodromus Entomology,
    Natural History of Lepidopterous Insects of New South Wales,
    London : T. Bensley (1805), p. 3, and also Plate 2.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 1,
    Silk Moths and Allies - BOMBYCOIDEA
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2008, pp. 28-31.

    Maxwell S. Moulds, James P. Tuttle and David A. Lane.
    Hawkmoths of Australia,
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Series, Volume 13 (2020),
    pp. 91-93, Plates 16, 80, 85.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 197.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 170.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 29 April 2011, 1 April 2014, 12 March 2019, 28 February 2020)