Hippotion scrofa (Boisduval, 1832)
Coprosma Hawk Moth
(one synonym : Chaerocampa ignea Butler, 1875)
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

Hippotion scrofa
first instars
(Photo: courtesy of Jenny Holmes, Victoria)

Initially, these caterpillars are pale green. There is small harmless horn on the tail which is black at the base and has a pale tip. They feed openly by day on their foodplants, which include :

  • Dahlia ( Dahlia pinnata, ASTERACEAE ),
  • Busy Lizzy ( Impatiens wallerana, BALSAMINACEAE ),
  • Sweet Potato ( Ipomoea batatas, CONVOLVULACEAE ),
  • Fuchsias ( Fuchsia species, ONAGRACEAE ),
  • Lazy Polygonum ( Polygonum prostratum, POLYGONACEAE ),
  • Star Flower ( Pentas lanceolata, RUBIACEAE ), and
  • Slender Grape ( Cayratia clematidea, VITACEAE ).

    Hippotion scrofa
    second instar
    (Photo: courtesy of Jenny Holmes, Victoria)

    Despite being apparently nearly omnivorous, they seem disinclined to attack some plants, such as

  • Snapdragons ( Antirrhinum majus, PLANTAGINACEAE ), or
  • Geraniums ( Pelargonium hortorum, GERANIACEAE ).

    Hippotion scrofa
    later instar
    (Photo: courtesy of Bec Watkins, Tarragindi, Queensland)

    Later instars of the caterpillars develop pairs of subdorsal eyespots on the abdominal segments which degenerate along the body. The eyespots on the first segment have black centres with some white dots. The eyespots on the second segment have brown centres. The others are white bordered with black. The head and thorax become narrower than the abdomen. The tail horn is shorter than that of caterpillars of most other SPHINGIDAE species.

    Hippotion scrofa
    last instar
    (Photo: courtesy of Debra Woods, Emerald, Victoria)

    Mature Caterpillars usually become brown, with a pair of broken pale yellow subdorsal lines outlined in black along the body.

    Hippotion scrofa
    last instar
    (Photo: courtesy of Nathan, Ballarat, Victoria)

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 7 cms. When mature: it often goes walk-about, seeking somewhere nice to pupate.

    Hippotion scrofa
    cocoon covered with debris
    (Photo: courtesy of Bec Watkins, Tarragindi, Queensland)

    The caterpillar pupates in a loose cocoon which it covers with leaves and other debris.

    Hippotion scrofa

    The moths have a wingspan of up to 7 cm. The body is brown and cigar-shaped. The forewings are brown, and the hind wings are red edged with black. The normal resting posture has the hind wings covered. They are revealed if the moth is disturbed, as it opens its wings for flight.

    Hippotion scrofa
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    Underneath, the roles of the wings are reversed. The undersides of the forewings are red, and of the hindwings are brown.

    Hippotion scrofa
    (Photo: courtesy of Clayton Hansen, Warwick, Queensland)

    There is a white stripe runs around the top of the thorax and around under the head. There are also white spots on the sides of the abdomen.

    Hippotion scrofa
    (Photo: courtesy of Joan Fearn, Moruya, New South Wales)

    The eggs are pale green, spherical, and laid in small groups.

    Hippotion scrofa
    (Photo: courtesy of Jenny Holmes, Victoria)

    The moth achieved fame by embarrassing Yvonne Kenny while she was singing the Olympic Hymn in the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, as it landed for a while on her bosom, although less observant announcers at the time erroneously blamed it on a Bogong Moth.

    The species seems to be found over south-east Asia and the western Pacific, including

  • Fiji, and
  • India,

    but more certainly over the whole of Australia, including

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

    Hippotion scrofa
    Norfolk Island 1976

    Further reading :

    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Dechauffour de Boisduval,
    Faune Entomologique de L'Ocean Pacifique: Lépidoptères,
    Voyage de Decouvertes de la Corvette l'Astrolabe,
    Division 7, Part 1 (1832), p. 185, No. 3.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 16.10, pp. 414-415.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours,
    New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 87.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 1,
    Silk Moths and Allies - BOMBYCOIDEA
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2008, pp. 28-31.

    Buck Richardson,
    Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn Science and Art,
    LeapFrogOz, Kuranda, 2015, p. 201.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 7 February 2013, 26 October 2014, 22 February 2015)