Theretra celata (Butler, 1877)
(formerly known as Chaerocampa celata)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Theretra celata
(Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

The early instar Caterpillars of this species are green with a yellowish head and long dark forward curving tail spike. Middle instars develop seven eyespots along each side of the abdomen and a pale tip to the tail spike. The final instars may be green or dark brown, the dark form having white ventral patches. The tail spike becomes backward-curving and rusty-brown with a black tip. The eyespots become outlined, and half green/blue (above) and half white (below).

The caterpillars have been found feeding on various climbers from VITACEAE, including :

  • Slender Grape ( Cayratia clematidea ), and
  • Kangaroo Vine ( Cissus antarctica ),

    as well as trees from URTICACEAE, including :

  • Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa), and
  • Australian Mulberry (Pipturus argenteus).

    Theretra celata
    (Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

    The caterpillar hides during the day lying along the midvein on the underside of a foodplant leaf. The caterpillars grow to a length of about 9 cms. Pupation usually occurs in ground litter. The pupa is slender, and a blotchy pale brown. The pupa has a length of about 5.5 cms.

    Theretra celata
    (Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

    The adult moths of this species are fawn in colour, with a dark curved line running from the apex to the hind margin on each forewing, and a dark area toward the base of each hindwing. The wingspan of the males is about 8 cms. The wingspan of the females is about 10 cms.

    Theretra celata
    (Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

    The eggs are pale green, smooth and oval, with a diameter of about 2 mm. The eggs are laid singly on the underside of foodplant leaves.

    The species is found as subspecies in the south-west Pacific in

  • Papua,
  • Solomons,

    as well as Australia as the subspecies celata in:

  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.

    For some time Theretra celata was thought to be a subspecies of Theretra clotho (Drury, 1773) which is found over south-east Asia, but DNA studies have shown Theretra celata to be a distinct species.

    Further reading :

    Arthur G. Butler,
    On a collection of Lepidoptera from Cape York and the south-east coast of New Guinea,
    Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London,
    1877, Part 3, p. 472, No. 35.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 41.9, p. 415.

    Dru Drury,
    in John Obadiah Westwood:
    Figures and Descriptions of Foreign Insects,
    Illustrations of Exotic Entomology,
    Volume 2 (1773), p. 52, as well as Plate 28, fig. 1.

    Peter Hendry,
    Hawk Moth Theretra clotho,
    Butterflies and Other Invertebrates Club,
    Newsletter, Issue 46 (September 2007), pp. 1, 4-6.

    Maxwell S. Moulds, James P. Tuttle and David A. Lane.
    Hawkmoths of Australia,
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Series, Volume 13 (2020),
    pp. 239-241, Plates 61, 81, 9174.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 25 January 2010, 5 August 2015, 22 April 2020)