Australian Hummingbird Hawkmoth
(previously known as Macroglossa errans)
MACROGLOSSINAE, SPHINGIDAE, BOMBYCOIDEA
(Photo: courtesy of Maria Rosenfelder, Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland)
The caterpillars of this species initially are green and covered in small pale dots. The fourth (penultimate) instar maybe green or grey, with a dark dorsal line, and a dark line each side containing white dots.
The fifth (last) instar may be green, brown or black, with a dark dorsal line, and with two variable broken dark lines each side, possibly edged above by white, yellow, orange or red.
When disturbed: the caterpillars rear up their head and thorax, and exude a horrible liquid from the mouth. The spiracles on each side of each segment are orange or red. The caterpillars have black true legs, and a black-tipped dark red forward-curving spine on the tail.
The caterpillars feed on various members of the RUBIACEAE family, including :
The caterpillars grow to a length of about 6 cms. The pupa is brown with a row of black spots along each side. It is formed in a loose cocoon in leaf litter several metres from its food-plant. The pupa has a length of about 10 cms.
The adult moths have patterned grey or brown forewings, each usually with a central sometimes-broken transverse pale bar, which is perpendicular to the hind margin.
The hindwings are yellow with a broad black border. The moths rest with the tip of the abdomen curled upwards. When it flies it controls the abdominal tip for more aerodynamic control as you can see in this youtube clip as it hovers over flowers sucking nectar, looking very like a Hummingbird. The moth has a wingspan of about 4 cms.
The eggs are spherical and off-white, with a diameter of about 1.5 mms. They are usually laid singly under leaves of a foodplant.
The species is found in
as well as in Australia in
This species was for many years thought to a be a subspecies of the south Pacific species Macroglossum hirundo (Boisduval, 1832), but recent DNA studies, and comparison of related larval forms, have indicated that it is a species in its own right.
Further reading :
Ian F.B. Common,
Moths of Australia,
Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 16.3, p. 413, (listed as Macroglossum hirundo).
Maxwell S. Moulds, James P. Tuttle and David A. Lane.
Hawkmoths of Australia,
Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Series, Volume 13 (2020),
pp. 176-179, Plates 41, 76, 88.
Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 202, (listed as Macroglossum hirundo).
Lepidoptera Heterocera: Sphingidae,
List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
Part 8 (1856), p. 96, No. 20.
(updated 12 September 2011, 7 May 2023)