Theretra oldenlandiae (Fabricius, 1775)
Impatiens Hawk Moth
(one synonym : Deilephila argentata Stephens, 1828)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Theretra oldenlandiae
young instars
(Photo: courtesy of Jan MacDonald, Mackay, Queensland)

These Caterpillars can sometimes be a pest on :

  • Busy Lizzie ( Impatiens wallerana, BALSAMINACEAE ), and
  • Fuchsias ( Fuchsia species, ONAGRACEAE ),

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Michael Manning)

    in Sydney gardens. The caterpillars are black with yellow spots, and a thin spine on its tail. As they walk, this spine does a cute wiggle. The head and thorax are rather narrower than the abdomen. Late instars develop yellow bands between segments.

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Clint Siggins, Newcastle, New South Wales)

    The caterpillars have also been found feeding on a wide variety of other plants, including :

  • Arum Lily ( Zantedeschia aethiopica, ARACEAE ),
  • Argentine Trumpet Vine ( Clytostoma callistegioides, BIGNONIACEAE ),
  • Climbing Guinea Flower ( Hibbertia scandens, DILLENIACEAE ),
  • Billy Goat Plum ( Planchonia careya, LECYTHIDACEAE ),
  • Godetia ( Clarkia amoena, ONAGRACEAE ),
  • Star Cluster ( Pentas lanceolata, RUBIACEAE ),
  • Australian Native Violet ( Viola hederacea, VIOLACEAE ), and
  • Slender Grape ( Cayratia clematidea, VITACEAE ).

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Simon Hunt)

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Genevieve Schebeck)

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of David Lewis)

    However, in captivity, the caterpillars quite happily consume and thrive on:

  • Lettuce ( Lactuca sativa, ASTERACEAE ).

    They grow to a length of about 7 cms.

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Catriona Coote, Sydney, New South Wales)

    The caterpillars pupate in a sparse dark cocoon in the leaf litter on the soil near the food plant. The pupa has a length of about 4 cms.

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: copyright Lyn Finn,
    Hunter Region School of Photography in Newcastle,
    Macquarie Hills, New South Wales)

    The adult moth is brown, with a light stripe edged with dark brown extending from the hind margin to the tip of each forewing. It also has a pair of white stripes running along its back from its nose to its tail.

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Merlin Crossley, Melbourne, Victoria)

    The species is found as various subspecies across most of south-east Asia, from India to Australia, including :

  • Borneo,
  • China,
  • India,
  • Japan,
  • Papua,
  • Philippines, and
  • Taiwan.

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Specimen: courtesy of the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney)

    In Australia, specimens have been taken in :

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

    Theretra oldenlandiae
    (Photo: courtesy of Scott Gavins, Fraser Coast, Queensland)

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pls. 16.9, 29.10, 29.11, p. 415.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Historiae Natvralis Favtoribvs,
    Systema Entomologiae,
    1775, p. 542, No. 21.

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

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (written 16 August 1996, last updated 29 March 2018)