Psilogramma menephron (Cramer, 1780)
Australian subspecies formerly known as
Diludia nebulosa Butler, 1876
Don Herbison-Evans,
Stella Crossley

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

Initially the Caterpillar of this species is green with a (harmless) dark spike on the tail. In later instars, the spike becomes green, and the body develops a series of diagonal white triangles on its sides, edging black spiracles. Sometimes the caterpillars develop grey patches on the back and sides. The final instars have yellow tubercles on the thorax, on the tail spike, and on the claspers.

The caterpillar has been found feeding on

  • African Tulip Tree ( Spathodea campanulata, BIGNONIACEAE ), and
  • Northern Olive ( Chionanthus ramiflorus, OLEACEAE ).

    The caterpillars grow to a length of about 11 cms. Seeking a suitable place to pupate: they have been known to walk up to 2 Kms. They burrow into the soil, creating, and pupating in, an underground chamber, often at a depth about 10 cms. The pupa is brown with separate compartment for the haustellum that is about half the length of the wings. The pupa has a length of about 5.5 cms.

    Psilogramma menephron
    (Photo: courtesy of Graeme Cocks, Townsville, Queensland)

    The adult moth has long narrow brown or grey forewings, each with variable dark grey and white patterns, including a small white spot with some adjacent black streaks near the middle, and white markings near the tornus. The hindwings are generally dark grey with a vague pale spot by the tornus. The head and thorax are dark brown. The abdomen is grey with a dark dorsal line. The wingspan can be over 13 cms.

    Psilogramma menephron
    (Photo: courtesy of SNSB, Zoologische Staatssammlung Muenchen and Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph)

    The male moths can make a hissing sound by rubbing parts of the abdomen together.

    The eggs are ovoid and pale green, with a length of about 2 mms. The eggs are laid singly under leaves of a foodplant.

    The species occurs various subspecies across the south-west Pacific, including

  • Amboina,
  • Borneo,
  • China,
  • Hawaii,

    and the species occurs as the subspecies nebulosa (Butler, 1876) in

  • New Guinea,

    as well as in Australia in

  • Queensland, and
  • northern New South Wales.

    The caterpillars are easily confused with those of Psilogramma papuensis.
    Also adult moths listed for areas south of Port Macquarie, such as

  • Australian Capital Territory, and
  • Tasmania,
    involve possible mis-identifications of Psilogramma casuarinae.

    Psilogramma menephron
    drawing by Pieter Cramer, listed as Sphinx menephron
    Uitlandsche kapellen voorkomende in de drie waereld-deelen,
    Amsterdam Baalde, Volume 3 (1782), Plate 285, fig. A,
    image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library, digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

    Further reading :

    Arthur G. Butler,
    Revisionof the heterocerous Lepidopteraof the family Sphingidae,
    Transactions of the Zoological Society of London,
    Volume 9 (1876), p. 615, No. 15.

    Pieter Cramer,
    Description de Papillons Exotiques,
    Uitlandsche kapellen voorkomende in de drie waereld-deelen,
    Amsterdam Baalde, Volume 3 (1782), p. 164, and also Plate 285, fig. A..

    Max S. Moulds, James P. Tuttle and David Lane.
    Hawkmoths of Australia,
    Monographs on Australian Lepidoptera Series, Volume 13 (2020),
    pp. 226-229, Plates 57, 74.

    Australian Butterflies
    Australian Moths

    (updated 3 April 2013, 24 February 2015, 26 January 2016, 3 May 2019, 13 December 2020)