Meet The Fascinating Oleander Hawk Moth

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 NameDaphnis nerii
Family NameSphingidae
HabitatUrban areas, hillsides, forests, and scrubland
RangeAsia, Africa, and Europe
Host PlantsNerium oleander
Butterfly DescriptionLarge with wing patterns of varying shades of green and brown
Caterpillar DescriptionThey have eyespots, a horn, and a green-to-brown body with white dots

What color is the oleander hawk moth?

Oleander hawk moth
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

Larva Description

Oleander hawk moth caterpillar
Oleander hawk moth caterpillar
First instarBright yellow and is about 0.16 inches
Second instarBecomes apple-green, eyespots start showing
Third instarDorsal lines form white circles with black outlines, eyespots are more visible
Fourth instarLegs turn to pink, horn changes to yellow
Fifth instarHorn 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.

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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 Stage4 to 10 days
Caterpillar Stage21 to 32 days
Chrysalis Stage5 to 21 days
Butterfly Stage10 days

Ideal Habitat

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)
  • Tabernaemontana
  • Desert rose (Adenium obesum)
  • Catharanthus roseus
  • Morning glory (Ipomoea)

Caterpillar Diet

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:

  • Nicotiana
  • Petunia
  • Saponaria
  • Honeysuckle
  • Jasmine
  • Mirabilis

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.

Common Predators

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:

  • Crete
  • Sicily
  • Cyprus
  • Hawaii
  • Japan
  • Finland
  • Singapore
  • Norway
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Sweden

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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