Hyles livornicoides (T.P. Lucas, 1892)
Australian Striped Hawk Moth
(one synonym : Phryxus australasiae Tutt, 1904)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Hyles livornicoides
(Photo: courtesy of Bev Bryceson, Oodnadatta Track, South Australia)

Early instars of these Caterpillars are green with a dark dorsal line ending in a stumpy black tail spike. Third and fourth instars develop black-edged orange eyespots along each side, joined by a pale line. The spiracles become white circled with black, each accompanied by smaller black-edged white spots.

Hyles livornicoides
(Photo: courtesy of Bev Bryceson, Oodnadatta Track, South Australia)

The final instar caterpillars may be green, brown, or black. The tail spike becomes strongly curved backwards. The dorsal line may become white, sometimes with orange edges, or plain orange. The line through the eyespots becomes paler and wider, almost obliterating the eyespots.

Hyles livornicoides
(Photo: courtesy of Helen Cross, Windorah, western Queensland)

The caterpillars have been reported to feed on :

  • Roly-poly ( Salsola kali, CHENOPODIACEAE ),
  • Tar Vine ( Boerhavia coccinea, NYCTAGINACEAE ),
  • Purslane ( Portulaca oleracea, PORTULACACEAE ),
  • Grape Vine ( Vitis vinifera, VITACEAE ), and
  • Caltrop ( Tribulus terrestris, ZYGOPHYLLACEAE ).

    Hyles livornicoides
    black form
    (Photo: copyright of Uwe Path, Alice Springs, Northern Territory)

    Aborigines in central Australia used these caterpillars as food. Aborigines starved the caterpillars for a day or two before roasting them. The cooked larvae were said to have a pleasant savoury taste and could be stored for a long time. The caterpillars were a unique food source in the middle of the desert. Through the thousands of years of Aboriginal culture, the caterpillars came to be regarded as sacred totems of the local Arrernte people. The local name for this totemic caterpillar is 'Ayepe-arenye', often anglicised as 'Yeperenye' or 'Yipirinya'. The prefix 'Ayepe' is the local name for the Tar Vine, which around Alice Springs, is the primary foodplant of the Hyles livornicoides caterpillar. Sadly this wild vine is being displaced around Alice Springs by the alien Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris), which Hyles livornicoides caterpillars cannot eat.

    Hyles livornicoides
    caterpillar burrowing into the soil
    (Photo: courtesy of Jenny Whiting, Pennant Hills, New South Wales)

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 5.5 cms. If they can, the caterpillars burrow into the soil to pupate. Otherwise they pupate in a crevice or under debris. The pupa has a length of about 3 cms.

    Hyles livornicoides
    (Photo: courtesy of David and Tom Sleep)

    The adult moth has brown forewings with white markings, including a prominent white stripe. The hindwings are brown, each with a broad diagonal pink stripe. The wingspan is about 6 cms.

    Hyles livornicoides
    (Photo: courtesy of David and Tom Sleep)

    The species is found over most of mainland Australia, including:

  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Australian Capital Territory,
  • Victoria, and
  • South Australia.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 16.8, p. 414.

    Thomas P. Lucas,
    On 34 new species of Australian Lepidoptera, with additional localities,
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland,
    Volume 8 (1892), pp. 73-74.

    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), pp. 4-5, 101.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 1,
    Silk Moths and Allies - BOMBYCOIDEA
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2008, pp. 28-29.

    Maxwell S. Moulds, James P. Tuttle and David A. Lane.
    Hawkmoths of Australia,
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Series, Volume 13 (2020),
    pp. 157-160, Plates 35, 77, 88.

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

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 167.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 7 April 2013, 6 April 2016, 25 November 2020)