Agrius convolvuli (Linnaeus, 1758)
Convolvulus Hawk Moth
(one synonym : Protoparce orientalis Butler, 1876)
SPHINGINAE,   SPHINGIDAE,   BOMBYCOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans,
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Agrius convolvuli
young instar
(Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

Initially the Caterpillars of this species are green with a straight tail horn. Later instars develop pale diagonal stripes along the sides, and a backward curving horn on the tail.

Agrius convolvuli
(Photo: courtesy of Irene Montefiore, Albany, Western Australia)

Later still the caterpillars become dark brown.

Agrius convolvuli
(Photo: courtesy of Diana Davey, Woolgoolga, New South Wales)

They differ from caterpillars of many other SPHINGIDAE species in having no eye-spots on the abdomen, and having vertical stripes on the head.

Agrius convolvuli
(Photo: courtesy of Jutta Godwin, Cubberla-Witton Catchments Network, Brisbane, Queensland)

These caterpillars feed on the foliage of many plants in the family CONVOLVULACEAE. They are a pest in New Guinea and Indonesia on :

  • Sweet Potato ( Ipomoea batatas ),

    and also have been found on:

  • Mile-a-Minute ( Ipomoea cairica ),
  • Scarlet Morning Glory ( Ipomoea hederifolia ),
  • Blue Dawn Flower ( Ipomoea indica ), and
  • Alamo Vine ( Merremia dissecta ).

    Agrius convolvuli
    caterpillar under attack

    Agrius convolvuli
    attacker in close-up
    (Photos: courtesy of Diana Davey, Woolgoolga, New South Wales)

    These caterpillars have a number of enemies.

    Agrius convolvuli
    pupa
    (Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 9 cms. The caterpillar may walk up to 300 metres from the food plant to pupate. It pupates in a cell that it excavates under the soil, at a depth up to 15 cms. The pupa has a length of about 5 cms. It has a long looped compartment for the developing haustellum.

    Agrius convolvuli
    (Photo: courtesy of Ken Harris, Morwell Park, Victoria)

    The adult moths of this species are grey with a complex light and dark pattern on the wings.

    Agrius convolvuli
    showing underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Geoff Byrne, Kununurra, Western Australia)

    The undersides are also grey. The moths have a wingspan of about 8 cms.

    Agrius convolvuli
    (Photo: courtesy of Geoff Byrne, Kununurra, Western Australia)

    The abdomen has pink patches on the side of each segment.
    When threatened, the moths expose these vivid coloured bars along the abdomen.
    The moths can hover in flight, and they have a long haustellum, which is extended to suck nectar when they hover over a flower.

    Agrius convolvuli
    showing extended haustellum
    (Photo: courtesy of Linda Kay, Berrigan)

    The egg is smooth, white, and slightly oval, usualy laid singly on the upper or lower surface of a leaf of a foodplant.

    Agrius convolvuli
    egg
    (Photo: courtesy of Tom and David Sleep, Queensland)

    The species is found from Europe to Asia, including :

  • Borneo,
  • China,
  • Christmas Island,
  • Italy,
  • Philippines,
  • United Kingdom,
  • Vanuatu,

    and also over most of Australia, including

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Norfolk Island,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania, and
  • South Australia.

    Agrius convolvuli
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 41.1, pp. 67, 411.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Insecta Lepidoptera,
    Systema Naturae,
    Volume 1, Edition 10 (1760), Class 5, Part 3, p. 490, No. 6.

    Peter B. McQuillan, Jan A. Forrest, David Keane, & Roger Grund,
    Caterpillars, moths, and their plants of Southern Australia,
    Butterfly Conservation South Australia Inc., Adelaide (2019), p. 103.

    Max S. Moulds, James P. Tuttle and David A. Lane.
    Hawkmoths of Australia,
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Series, Volume 13 (2020),
    pp. 58-62, Plates 7, 73, 84.

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

    Buck Richardson,
    Mothology,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2008, p. 37.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 205.


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    (updated 7 April 2011, 7 May 2018, 27 April 2019, 15 May 2020)