Philodila astyanor (Boisduval)

Tahitian Hawk Moth (Philodila astyanor)

As far as I know, this species occurs exclusively on the island of Tahiti. It was originally described in the year 1875 from a single specimen (the one shown here), whose origin was not known resp. was wrongly (Mexico) labelled.

The species was redescribed again in 1990, it is a monotypic genus, that means it is a genus that contains only a single species.

The Tahitian Hawk Moth reaches a wingspan of about 7 to 8 cm.

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There is a hybrid form of this species with the White-brow Hawk Moth (Gnathothlibus eras (Boisduval)), which had been described in the year 2002 as a distinct species (Papenoo Hawk Moth (Gnathothlibus collardi Haxaire)).

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References:

[1] J. Haxaire: Description d’un nouveau Sphingidae de l’ile de Tahiti: Gnathothlibus collardi (Lepidoptera Sphingidae). Lambillionea 102: 495-499. 2002

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Photo: Peter T. Oboyski; by courtesy of Peter T. Oboyski

http://nature.berkeley.edu/~poboyski/Lepidoptera/SocietyIslands.htm

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Hippotion velox (Fabricius)

Swift Hawk Moth (Hippotion velox)

In January 2002 the small island of Maninita in the Tongan Vava’u group was hit by the cyclone Waka, one of the most destructive tropical cyclones ever to affect the Tongan islands. The island’s forest, dominated by three tree species, puopua (Guettarda speciosa L.), fao (Ochrosia oppositifolia (Lam.) K. Schum) and puko (Pisonia grandis R. Br.), was indeed badly damaged, but the trees appeared not to have been defoliated by the cyclone itself but by an immense outbreak of caterpillars following the disaster.

These caterpillars were identified as belonging to the Fijian Bee Hawk Moth (Cephonodes armatus Rothschild & Jordan) and to the Swift Hawk Moth (Hippotion velox), whose occurrence on the Tongan islands was verified thereby for the first time.

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The Swift Hawk Moth is a middle-sized species, reaching a wingspan of 5,5 to 7,5 cm.

The species has a wide distribution and occurs from Asia and Australia to Polynesia, where it is now known from the Cook Islands, the Fijian Islands, from Samoa and the Tokelauan atolls. The Swift Hawk Moth has only recently begun to colonize New Zealand as well.

The caterpillars are able to use a wide range of plant species as food, including members from the Aroid family (Araceae), the Morning Glory family (Convolvulaceae), the Four O’Clock family (Nyctaginaceae) and the Coffee family (Rubiaceae).

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References:

[1] Alden D. Hinckley: Ecology of Terrestrial Arthropods on the Tokelau Atolls. Atoll Research Bulletin 124: 1-18. 1969
[2] Karin S. Kami; Scott E. Miller: Samoan Insects and related Arthropods: Checklist and Bibliography. Bishop Museum Technical Report 13. 1998
[3] D. M. Houston: Eradicating rats from Maninita Island, Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga August 2002. New Zealand Agency for International Development, Tonga Visitors Bureau, Ministry of Land, Survey and Natural Resources, Department of Environment, Kingdom of Tonga

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Photo: John A. Clayton; by courtesy of John A. Clayton

http://www.usp.ac.fj/fijimoths

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edited: 29.06.2017

Theretra nessus (Drury)

Fijian Yams Hawk Moth (Theretra nessus ssp. albata)

The Yams Hawk Moth is indigenous to large parts of Asia and occurs also in Melanesia, for example in Australia, New Caledonia and on the Fijian Islands.

The caterpillars feed on a wide range of plant genera, including such that are quite widely distributed in many parts of Melanesia and Polynesia, like Barringtonia, Boerhavia, Dioscorea, Morinda, Oldenlandia and Pongamia.

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The Fijian subspecies (Theretra nessus ssp. albata Fukuda), which also occurs in New Caledonia and on the Loyalty Islands, was scientifically described in the year 2003. [1]

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References:

[1] Hiroki Fukuda: A new subspecies of Theretra nessus (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae: Macroglossinae) from Fiji. Transactions of the Lepidopterological Society of Japan 54(2): 116-119. 2003

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theretra-n-albata-jac

Photo: John A. Clayton; by courtesy of John A. Clayton

http://www.usp.ac.fj/fijimoths

Hippotion hateleyi Holloway

Hateley’s Hawk Moth (Hippotion hateleyi)

Hateley’s Hawk Moth was discovered in the year 1986, the species was described in 1990.

The species seems to be restricted to Henderson Island / Pitcairn Islands, while most other sphingid moth species are very widespread.

This is probably the species whose larvae periodically defoliate the Pisonia trees on the island. [1]

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References:

[1] J. D. Holloway: The Lepidoptera of Easter, Pitcairn and Henderson Islands. Journal of Natural History 24(3): 719-729. 1990

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hippotion-hateleyi-ry

Photo: Robert Young

(under creative commons licence (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Gnathothlibus fijiensis Lachlan

Fiji Hawk Moth (Gnathothlibus fijiensis)

This species was described in the year 2009.

The Fiji Hawk Moth wasn’t previously recognized as a distinct species and was thought to be identical with the White-brow Hawk Moth (Gnathothlibus eras (Boisduval)), with which it occurs sympatrically, at least on Viti Levu.

The female Fiji Hawk Moth is indeed very similar to both sexes of the White-brow Hawk Moth, but, however, differs of course from this species in some respects. The male in contrast has bright green colored forewings (see picture) by which it can easily be distinguished from the other species.

The Fiji Hawk Moth is still known only from Viti Levu, where it seems to be much less commonly encountered than the other, more widely distributed hawk moth species. (pers. comm. Robert B. Lachlan)

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References:

[1] Robert B. Lachlan: Two New Species of Gnathothlibus Wallengreen from Fiji and Samoa and a New Species of Theretra Hübner from New Guinea (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Records of the Australian Museum. 61: 73-87. 2009

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gnathothlibus-fijiensis-rbl

Photo: Robert B. Lachlan; by courtesy of Robert B. Lachlan (Australian Museum, Sydney)

Macroglossum hirundo Boisduval

Hummingbird Hawk Moth (Macroglossum hirundo)

The Hummingbird Hawk Moth occurs from Australia to Melanesia and Polynesia, and is sometimes split in several, local subspecies, for example ssp. samoanum Rothschild & Jordan, ssp. tonganum Gehlen, ssp. vitiense Rothschild & Jordan, which are probably not valid.

The species reaches a wingspan of about 4 to 5 cm.

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of various native and introduced species of the Coffee family (Rubiaceae). In Fiji, and of course also in other places, they are considered a agricultural pest in some areas, since they feed on cultivated plants, like kura (Morinda citrifolia L.) as well.

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The photo shows Macroglossum hirundo ssp. lifuensis Rothschild, which occurs in Fiji, and probably in the rest of Polynesia as well.

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References:

[1] Alden D. Hinckley: Ecology of Terrestrial Arthropods on the Tokelau Atolls. Atoll Research Bulletin 124: 1-18. 1969
[2] Karin S. Kami; Scott E. Miller: Samoan Insects and related Arthropods: Checklist and Bibliography.Bishop Museum Technical Report 13. 1998

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macroglossum-h-lifouensis-ry

Photo: Robert Young
http://sphingidae.myspecies.info

(under creative commons licence (3.0))
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

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edited: 31.08.2015