Oleander hawk moth

Oleander Hawk Moth and Its Stunning Transformation

Nestled in the enchanting corners of the natural world, the Oleander Hawk Moth captivates with its striking beauty and unique ecological role. This article explores the intriguing life, behavior, and ecological significance of this moth, revealing the hidden wonders of this remarkable insect.

<strong>Oleander Hawk Moth</strong>
Scientific name: Daphnis nerii
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Sphingidae
Genus: Daphnis

They have a distinct look

The Oleander Hawk Moth (Daphnis nerii) is a large, beautiful moth with a wingspan of around 10 cm (4 inches). This species is also known as army green moth due to its special green color. It has a green body with a black and tan belt across the middle and tan legs.

Its wings are a mosaic of green colors, ranging from light green to olive to dark forest green, resembling camouflage fatigues. The wings have tan eyespots where they attach to the body and hints of pink on the inner edges. You can see bands and lines of white, brown, and tan crisscrossing over the wings. These features help the oleander hawk moth blend into its surroundings and protect itself from predators.

Oleander hawk-moth (Daphnis nerii)
Oleander moth

The caterpillars of this species are plump and green. They come with two light blue eyespots surrounded by black just behind the head. On the body, you can see a white line running along the length of the body on either side. These creatures have an orange-yellow horn at the rear, which resembles a thorn or stinger.

Oleander hawk moth habitat

The oleander hawk moth lives in various regions, from Asia to Africa to southern Europe and the Middle East. You can find them in Thailand, Japan, India, Cyprus, Spain, Sicily, and Portugal. They are usually seen in the UK in southern England, with sightings as far north as Scotland. Their preferable habitats are river beds, oases, and warm hillsides with scattered oleander bushes.

Diet

These moths are widely known for their distinctive appearance and unique dietary preferences. Like other hawk moth species, the oleander hawk moths feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, particularly those with strong fragrances like petunia, jasmine, and honeysuckle. They are most active during twilight hours, hovering over flowers after sunset.

Oleander hawk moth caterpillar

However, their caterpillars prefer a poisonous diet. They mainly eat the leaves of oleander plants, which are highly toxic to most animals. However, the caterpillars are immune to these toxins. This unique adaptation allows them to avoid competition for food and have a reliable source of nutrition. The caterpillar’s ability to sequester the plant’s toxins may also make it unpalatable to predators like ants, wasps, and spiders.

In addition to oleander, the larvae also consume other plants from the dogbane family, such as adenium, tabernaemontana, and alstonia. They may also eat unbloomed flowers of tabernaemontana at night.

Life cycle

Similar to other moths, the  life cycle of the oleander hawk moth includes 4 stages:

Eggs: The female moth lays green oval eggs on the host plant, typically oleander or other plants in the dogbane family.

Larvae: The newly hatched larvae are bright yellow with a black horn at the rear. As they grow, they become green to brown with a large blue-and-white eyespot near the head and a yellow horn. They have a white band along the side of the body with small white and bluish dots. The larvae feed on the leaves and flowers of their host plants.

These caterpillars go through several instars, with distinct changes in appearance. In earlier instars, the tail has a white tip, which later changes to yellow with a black tip and a translucent extension. The eye spots grow larger, and the body develops white spots with blue circles on both sides.

Pupa: Before pupating, the larvae turn brown and roam for hours to find a suitable place to pupate. They burrow under leaf litter and create a shelter using silk and dry leaves to protect themselves from predators. The pupation process takes around 2 days. The pupa is light brown with black spots and a black line down the middle.

Adult: After 16 days, the adult emerges. They feed on nectar and find mates to start a new cycle again. The lifespan of oleander hawk moths lasts for about 10-30 days.

In the warmest areas of its range, the oleander hawk moths can have several overlapping generations per year. However, in the northern parts of Europe where it is seen as a rare migrant, they cannot survive the colder winters at any stage of their life cycle

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Animal Facts 276

We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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