An Oleander hawk moth, also known as Army green moth or Sphinx moth, lives in Asia, southern Europe, and Africa and is unique for its tail horn which is why it is nicknamed the Hornworm.
Oleander Hawk Moth Species Summary
|Scientific Name||Daphnis nerii|
|Habitat||Urban areas, hillsides, forests, and scrubland|
|Range||Asia, Africa, and Europe|
|Host Plants||Nerium oleander|
|Butterfly Description||Large with wing patterns of varying shades of green and brown|
|Caterpillar Description||They have eyespots, a horn, and a green-to-brown body with white dots|
What color is the oleander hawk moth?
Oleander hawk moths have large eyes but don’t have pendant lashes. Adults’ wingspan can reach 3.9 inches (10 cm). The adult’s forewing has a pointed apex.
The body and wings are quite colorful, with green, white, pink, and grey colors. The green color can be in shades of forest, camel, and olive. The variation in green is similar to camouflage clothes common in the military, which explains the name Army green moth.
Female moths have cubed tip antennae, while male moths have setiform (bristle-like) antennae. Other physical features include:
- Large first tergite
- Basal comb on the mid tarsus
- Tan legs
- A pair of spurs on hind tibiae
- Elongated abdominal spines
|First instar||Bright yellow and is about 0.16 inches|
|Second instar||Becomes apple-green, eyespots start showing|
|Third instar||Dorsal lines form white circles with black outlines, eyespots are more visible|
|Fourth instar||Legs turn to pink, horn changes to yellow|
|Fifth instar||Horn is bright yellow, larva changes from green to brown|
At the first instar, the newly hatched larva of the Oleander hawk moth is bright yellow and is about 0.16 inches. The newly hatched larvae have a thin horn at their posterior.
At the second instar (after the first molt), the color changes to apple-green, and the horn assumes a white tip. Dorsal lines appear from the first abdominal segment to the horn. Eyespots also appear on the third thoracic segment.
At the third instar, the dorsal lines form white circles with black outlines. The eyespots are more visible.
The tail horn changes from black to yellow at the fourth instar, and the legs turn pink.
At the fifth instar, the horn assumes a bright yellow color and is fatter and round. As the larva nears pupation, its color changes from green to brown.
When the larva molts, the pupa is creamy but changes to a light wood brown after hardening. The pupae are 2.36 to 2.75 inches (60 to 75 mm) long. Pupation is on soil and leaf litter.
How long does an oleander hawk moth live?
The Daphnis nerii moth’s life cycle takes 28-30 days.
|Egg Stage||4 to 10 days|
|Caterpillar Stage||21 to 32 days|
|Chrysalis Stage||5 to 21 days|
|Butterfly Stage||10 days|
Oleander hawk moths prefer warm places and live around hillsides, dry riverbeds, forests, scrubland, and urban areas.
Preferred Host Plants
The major host plant for the Oleander hawk moth is Nerium oleander, but there are other minor host plants such as:
- Periwinkle (Vinca)
- Grape (Vitis vinifera)
- Milkweed (Asclepias)
- Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)
- Jasmine (Jasminum)
- Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
- Blue star (Amsonia)
- Desert rose (Adenium obesum)
- Catharanthus roseus
- Morning glory (Ipomoea)
Oleander hawk moth caterpillars feed on young oleander leaves and other plants from the Dogbane family (Apocynaceae), such as milkweed and periwinkle.
Adult moths nectar on various flowers, including:
Daphnis neriis can also drink sucrose solution in captivity.
When threatened, an Oleander hawk moth caterpillar will uncoil to resemble its host plant. It will then display its eye spots if the threat continues.
Oleander hawk moths rest during the day, suspended on foliage or hard surfaces with the head tucked in. Their flight periods are before dawn, but adults can fly during the day when disturbed. Flight time is from May to September.
The larvae can disguise themselves with a cocoon of leaves during the pupa stage for protection.
Mating is usually 4 hours long, but can last till morning once in a while.
Before egg-laying, female moths fly around a host plant and then approach it while hanging down. They will then lay small, light-green eggs on isolated bushes.
The natural predators of this member of the moth family include birds, bats, ants, spiders, wasps, and tachinid flies. Tachinid flies and Ichneumonid wasps lay eggs on the caterpillar.
The Oleander moth produces an acoustic signal that deters bats, one of its predators.
Is the oleander hawk moth poisonous?
Oleander hawk moth caterpillars feed on the oleander plant, which is highly toxic to humans. These caterpillars soak in the toxins and remain unpalatable to predators. Still, adult moths are not toxic to humans.
Where are oleander hawk moths found?
Daphnis nerii is native to Nothern Africa, parts of Europe, and Asia and lives in these countries:
- United Kingdom
Army green moths have one of the largest ranges and have also been reported in Southern Italy and Greece, where they don’t last long because of winter.
Do Oleander Hawk Moths Migrate?
Army green moths are migratory and will move during summer. This explains why they are found in many different countries at different times of the year.
Are oleander moths rare?
While native to most Asian and African areas, the Oleander hawk moth is considered rare.
How to Attract Oleander Hawk Moths?
The best way to attract the Oleander hawk moth is by planting Nerium oleander plants in your garden. You can also plant other plants that adult moths feed on, such as honeysuckle and petunia. Still, keep in mind that this is a rare moth, so chances are you won’t be able to attract it.
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Tabitha is a nature lover who loves nothing more than a day spent outdoors. With her introverted personality, she often finds herself seeking solitude in the outdoors. She loves the feeling of being surrounded by nature and the peace it brings her. She also finds herself drawn to the beauty that exists in this world, whether it’s a majestic waterfall or a butterfly fluttering by.