Cephonodes hylas (Linnaeus, 1771)
Coffee Hawk Moth
(one synonym : Sesia cunninghami Walker, 1856)
MACROGLOSSINAE,   SPHINGIDAE,   BOMBYCOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans,
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley


(Photo: courtesy of Dick Whitford, Mt Molloy, Queensland)

This Caterpillar comes in a number of colours and patterns. The head is pale brown, but the body can vary from pale brown, through green, to black.


(Photo: courtesy of Dick Whitford, Mt Molloy, Queensland)

The caterpillar has a raised hump directly behind the head that is covered in short blunt spines.


(Photo: courtesy of Dick Whitford, Mt Molloy, Queensland)

There is a single substantial black spine on the tail that is straight or curves slightly backwards. There may be vague stripes along the body, or complex patterns on the sides of the caterpillar.


(Photo: courtesy of Dick Whitford, Mt Molloy, Queensland)

In Australia, the caterpillar feeds on the native plants:

  • Banana Bush ( Ervatamia angustisepala, APOCYNACEAE ),
  • Alahe'e ( Canthium odoratum, RUBIACEAE ),
  • Butterfly Bush ( Pavetta australiensis, RUBIACEAE ),

    as well as the introduced:

  • Gardenia ( Gardenia jasminoides, RUBIACEAE ).


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

    Overseas, it is a pest on :

  • Coffee ( Coffea arabica, RUBIACEAE ).


    (Photo: courtesy of Dick Whitford, Mt Molloy, Queensland)

    The pupa is brown and shaped like a long egg, with corrugations along the abdomen, and a point at the tip. The caterpillars pupate in a cell in soil at a depth of about 2 cms.


    newly emerged adult moth
    (Photo: courtesy of Dick Whitford, Mt Molloy, Queensland)

    When the adult moth first emerges, it is pale green with off-white wings, and pale brown legs.


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

    The adult moths soon lose the scales from the wings, leaving them transparent. The moths then resemble Bumble Bees, hence the name 'Bee Hawks' for the moths in this genus Cephonodes. The head, thorax, and legs become dark green The abdomen is yellow with a black band around one abdominal segment, and a dark dorsal mark on the next segment. The wings are generally transparent except that the forewings each have a slightly broader opaque area near the tip. This species has a wingspan of about 4 cms.


    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    In dead specimens, the green colour fades to brown.

    The species is found as various subspecies across the tropics including :

  • China,
  • Hong Kong,
  • India,
  • Russia, and
  • Tanzania.

    The subspecies australis Kitching & Cadiou, 2000, occurs in:

  • Queensland.


    Central African Republic, 1965


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 40.12, p. 414.

    Ian J. Kitching & Jean-Marie Cadiou,
    Hawkmoths of the World,
    The Natural History Museum, London,
    Comstock Publishing Associates, 2000, p. 89.

    Carl Linnaeus,
    Generum editionis VI. et specierum editionis II,
    Mantissa Plantarum,
    Volume 2 (1771), p. 539.


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    (updated 26 December 2009, 27 March 2019)