Oleander Hawk Moth
Oleander hawk moth caterpillars feed on the foliage of oleander, an extremely toxic plant to which they are immune.
Oleander Hawk Moth Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Daphnis nerii
Oleander Hawk Moth Conservation Status
Oleander Hawk Moth Facts
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The oleander hawk moth (Daphnis nerii) belongs to the hawk moth family. They’re most active at twilight. Due to their stunning appearance, Daphnis nerii is sought by naturalists, lepidopterists, and photographers. The larva of the oleander hawk moth is sometimes a pest, as it feeds on some plants such as the oleander plant (hence the name) and hemp dogbane (Apocynaceae). Adults are essential for the pollination of different garden plants.
Species, Type, Scientific Name
Daphnis nerii is known as the oleander hawk moth or army green moth. They belong to a lepidopteran family known as Sphingidae. Hawk moths or sphinx moths are common names that refer to members of this family. Moths in this family have impressive flying and hovering ability.
There are about 1,450 species of hawk moths grouped into 200 genera. The oleander hawk moth belongs to the genus Daphnis, alongside ten other hawk moth species. The common name of the Daphnis nerii is a reference to the fact that the larvae of this moth mainly feed on the leaves of the oleander plant. They’re immune to this plant’s toxicity and can feed on it safely.
Appearance: How to Identify Oleander Hawk Moth
The oleander hawk moth is a giant moth with a stunning appearance. It has an extensive wingspan of about 9 centimeters to 13 centimeters (3.5 – 5.1 inches). Although they can have variable colors, their wings are typically a mosaic of green and olive color patterns. This gives them an appearance that resembles a military uniform, hence the name, army green moth. There are visible eye spots on each of their wings with banded lines of brown and white all over. The body of the army green moth is green with a black and tan belt across the center.
The caterpillars are typically reddish brown and black with white dots all over their body. They can also be mint and lime green or blue. The larvae have large eye spots on their body that grow in size to scare off predators. They also have a fleshy horn on the rear end of their body, which can be either yellow or black.
Habitat: Where to Find the Oleander Hawk Moth
The oleander hawk moth is native to North Africa, Asia, and many parts of Europe. The species was introduced to Hawaii in the 1970s to help pollinate some endangered plant species in the region. Daphnis nerii is a migratory species, which is why you may find them in places outside their native region. During summer, they typically migrate into southern Europe.
In places where they’re found, the army green moth prefers to stay in warm areas. They spend most of the time on hillsides and scrublands. They’re most active at twilight or after dusk. These moths are usually drawn toward a light source when they live close to human settlements. Adults usually lay eggs on nerium oleander plants, the caterpillar‘s primary food source.
Diet: What Do Oleander Hawk Moths Eat?
Adult oleander hawk moths feed actively on nectar from various flowers. Usually, they prefer the flower of jasmine, vinca, petunia, and honeysuckle plants.
Like many other hawk moths, they hover on top of the flowers like hummingbirds to feed on nectar from various sweet-smelling plants. The larvae of this moth feed on the leaves of the Nerium oleander plant. Although this plant is quite toxic to humans and other animals, the caterpillar is immune to it. They may also feed on plants of the dogbane family, such as Adenium obesum. These are toxic plants as well, but the larvae are able to survive on the plant.
What Eats Oleander Hawk Moths?
Birds eat oleander hawk moths. Other natural predators that feed on moths, such as lizards, also feed on them. As a night-flying species, bats are a major threat to them. Many species of hawk moths have developed evolutionary adaptations that allow them to create ultrasonic signals that disrupt the echolocation capabilities of bats. Some ants, wasps, and spiders feed on the larvae of this moth as a part of their diet.
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Oleander Hawk Moth FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are oleander hawk moths poisonous?
No, oleander hawk moths are not poisonous; however, the larvae form of this insect spends most of its time on the Nerium oleander plant, which is toxic to humans if consumed. The moth is tolerant of the plant’s poison.
How long does an oleander hawk moth live?
Adult oleander hawk moths live for about 10-30 days. They have a life cycle that includes different stages of egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Are hawk moths good?
Although hawk moths are not needed to pollinate food crops, they’re still vital for the survival of many native plant species in various locations. Without these moths, these plant species are likely to disappear.
What is an oleander hawk moth's habitat?
Oleander hawk moths have a preference for warm places. They spend most of their time on hillsides and scrublands, where they live on oleander plants.
- Candide, Available here: https://candide.com/ZA/insects/fba458d3-f9bd-478b-8e0a-11ce535c756d
- Butterfly Conservation, Available here: https://butterfly-conservation.org/moths/oleander-hawk-moth
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphnis_nerii
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daphnis_(moth)
- Kidadl, Available here: https://kidadl.com/facts/animals/oleander-hawk-moth-facts