Macroglossum hirundo (Boisduval, 1832)
(previously known as Macroglossa hirundo)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

(Photo: courtesy of Maria Rosenfelder, Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland)

The caterpillars of this species initially are green and covered in small pale dots, with a black spot containing white dots on each side of each segment. The spiracles also on each side of each segment are orange or red. The caterpillars have a green head, black true legs, and a dark red forward curving spine on the tail.

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

Later they can become brown or stay green, covered in small white dots. There is a dark dorsal line which may be fragmented into a line of dashes. A pair of pale dorso-lateral lines run from the head to the tail. There can be a set of 'L' shaped red patches along the sides. They grow to a length of about 6 cms.

brown form
(Photo: courtesy of Craig Nieminski, Darwin, Northern Territory)

When disturbed: the caterpillars rear up their head and thorax.

display posture
(Photo: courtesy of Julia Squires, Tarragindi, Queensland)

The caterpillars feed on various members of the RUBIACEAE family, including :

  • Alahee ( Canthium odoratum ),
  • Dye Plant ( Coelospermum reticulatum ),
  • Mirror Bush ( Coprosma repens ),
  • Sweet Morinda ( Morinda jasminoides ),
  • Ant Plant ( Myrmecodia beccarii ),
  • Pavetta ( Pavetta australiensis ), and
  • Hairy Psychotria ( Psychotria loniceroides ).

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

    The pupa is brown with a row of black spots along each side.

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

    The adult moths have patterned grey or brown forewings, with a pale bar across the middle of each one.

    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The hindwings are yellow with a broad black border. The moths rest with the tip of the abdomen curled upwards. The moth has a wingspan of about 4 cms.

    (Photo: courtesy of Maria Rosenfelder, Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland)

    The eggs are spherical and off-white. They are laid singly under the leaf of a foodplant.

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

    The species is found as various subspecies in:

  • Cook Islands,
  • Fiji,
  • Papua,
  • Society Islands,

    and as the subspecies errans Walker, 1856, in Australia in

  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.

    Fiji, 2001

    Further reading :

    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Dechauffour de Boisduval,
    Faune Entomologique de L'Ocean Pacifique,
    Voyage de Decouvertes de la Corvette l'Astrolabe,
    Division 7, Part 1 : Lepidopteres (1832), pp. 188-189.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 16.3, p. 413.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 202.

    Francis Walker,
    Lepidoptera Heterocera: Sphingidae,
    List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum,
    Part 8 (1856), p. 96, No. 20.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 12 September 2011, 8 June 2018)