Hippotion velox (Fabricius, 1793)
(one synonym : Panacra lignaria Walker, 1856)
Don Herbison-Evans
Stella Crossley

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

These Caterpillars are initially green with a long straight dark tail horn. Later instars develop one pair eyespots: one on each side of the first abdominal segment. Uniquely: the horn on the tail of later instars curves forwards.

In Australia, the caterpillars feed on plants from NYCTAGINACEAE, including

  • Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea spectabilis),
  • Pullback (Pisonia aculeata),
  • Grand Devil's-claws (Pisonia grandis), and
  • Birdlime Tree (Pisonia umbellifera),

    sometimes in population explosions, defoliating all their foodplants in large areas.

    Overseas they have been found on other plants from NYCTAGINACEAE, as well as plants from other families such as

  • Cunjevoi (Alocasia macrorrhizos, ARACEAE), and
  • Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas, CONVOLVULACEAE).

    The caterpillar grows to a length of about 8 cms. It pupates in a shelter of leaves joined by silk, sometimes on its food plant several metres above the ground, if the ground is subject to flooding. Otherwise in ground debris some distance from it foodplant. The pupa has a length of about 5 cms.

    Hippotion velox
    (Photo: courtesy of Paul Kay, Queensland)

    The adult moth has brown or grey forewings, each with a variable pattern of curved stripes, and a dark spot near the middle. The front half is generally darker than the hind half. The hindwings are dark fawn with a vague dark submarginal band, and a pale hind-margin.

    Hippotion velox
    (Photo: courtesy of Paul Kay, Queensland)

    The forewings have a recurved wingtip, and a concave hind margin. The hindwings have a slightly recurved margin, and slightly pointed tornus. The moth has a wingspan of up to 9 cms.

    Hippotion velox
    Cocos Islands 1982

    The species occurs from India to Fiji, including :

  • Borneo,
  • China,
  • Philippines,
  • Thailand,

    and has been found in Australia in:

  • Cocos Islands,
  • Western Australia,
  • Northern Territory,
  • Queensland,
  • Norfolk Island and
  • New South Wales.

    Hippotion velox
    drawing by Félix Édouard Guérin-Méneville, listed as Sphinx vigil,
    in Adolphe Delessert : Souvenirs d'un voyage dans l'Inde exécuté de 1834 à 1839,
    Part 2 (1843), Plate 23, fig. 1,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, contributed by NCSU Libraries.

    Further reading :

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, fig. 41.8, pp. 43, 410, 414.

    Johan Christian Fabricius,
    Entomologia systematica emendata et aucta,
    Volume 3, Part 1 (1793), p. 378, No. 68.

    Max S. Moulds, James P. Tuttle and David A. Lane.
    Hawkmoths of Australia,
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Series, Volume 13 (2020),
    pp. 148-151, Plates 33, 77, 87.

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

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 8 November 2011, 10 December 2020)