Theretra nessus (Drury, 1773)
Yam Hawk Moth
(one synonym : Sphinx equestris Fabricius, 1793)
MACROGLOSSINAE,   SPHINGIDAE,   BOMBYCOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans,
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Theretra nessus
(Picture: by Mell, 1922, courtesy of Tony Pittaway and Ian Kitching,
The Natural History Museum, London)

The Caterpillars of this species are initially green, but later instars are brown. The caterpillars are an agricultural pest, feeding on :

  • Elephants Ear ( Alocasia macrorrhizos, ARACEAE ), and
  • Yam ( Dioscorea species, DIOSCOREACEAE ).

    The caterpillars can grow to a length of 12 cms.

    Theretra nessus
    Photo: courtesy of Buck Richardson, from
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art

    The adult moths have brown forewings, each with a broad pale stripe from base to wingtip containing two closely spaced thin dark parallel lines. The hindwings are dark brown shading to a pale area at the tornus. The abdomen has a gold stripe along each side and underneath. The moth has a wingspan of about 9 cms.

    Theretra nessus
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    The undersides are orange with some greenish-brown wiggly lines.

    Theretra nessus
    underside
    (Photo: courtesy of Ian McMillan, Imbil, Queensland)

    The coremata of the males have is composed of grey-brown hairs.

    Theretra nessus
    close-up of coremata of male
    (Photo: courtesy of Dianne Clarke, Mapleton, Queensland)

    The species is found from India to the south-west Pacific, including

  • Borneo,
  • China,
  • Hawaii,
  • Hong Kong,
  • Philippines,
  • Taiwan,
  • Thailand,

    as well as in Australia in

  • Queensland, and
  • New South Wales.

    Theretra nessus
    "Nessus nestling nicely on the sheet"
    (Photo: courtesy of Buck Richardson, from
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art)


    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 42.3, p. 415.

    Dru Drury,
    in John Obadiah Westwood:
    Figures and Descriptions of Foreign Insects,
    Illustrations of Exotic Entomology,
    Volume 2 (1773), p. 50, and also Plate 27, fig.1.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, pp. 195, 204.


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    (updated 19 November 2011, 24 March 2017)