Convolvulus Hawk Moth

Agrius convolvuli

Convolvulus Hawk Moth, Sweetpotato Hornworm, Sweetpotato Hawk Moth, Sweetpotato Moth

profile iconAgrius convolvuli MHNT dos
by Didier Descouens (CC BY-SA 3.0)
1 of 10
A close up photograph of a Convolvulus Hawk-moth Agrius convolvuli against a white background to scale
profile iconAgrius convolvuli MHNT dos
by Didier Descouens (CC BY-SA 3.0)
1 of 10
The Convolvulus Hawkmoth belongs to the hawkmoth family, also known as the sphinx moths and hornworms. They're a nocturnal moth with activity levels peaking at night-time, but it's still possible to see the caterpillars and moths during the day. The caterpillars are large and impressive, boasting diagonal stripes with a distinctive spike on their tail-end. The caterpillars feed primarily on plants within the Convolvulus genus, hence their common names. The adults possess unusually large feeding tubes (proboscis), so favour the nectar of large tubular flowers such as tobacco plant, petunia, lilies and phlox. These moths aren't to be confused with the hummingbird hawkmoth who feed during the day.
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Traits

A large and beautiful moth that contributes to the pollination of deep, tubular flowers.
Big, chunky caterpillars may be found on some garden plants.

Appearance

Adult: Mature moths (wingspan: 8- 12cm) possess attractive patterning and colouring. The wings are held especially close to the body compared with other hawkmoths. The forewings (front wings) show typical moth patterning, displaying an irregular mottling of black, grey, brown and white. The hindwings (back wings) demonstrate black-brown and diagonal cream streaks. The body is large and chunky. It displays a grey-brown vertical dorsal stripe as well as alternating pink and black-brown horizontal stripes. Larvae: The caterpillars can grow big too (as large as 8cm in length). They can be green or brown and possess a distinctive black, curved spike on the tail-end of the body.

Symptoms

The adult moth is a nectar-feeder, so won't cause any damage to garden plants. May defoliate small plants. They feed on leaf blades, leaving behind tears and irregular sized holes. Young caterpillars begin eating leaf margins, eventually stripping the leaf. Prefer the new shoots, but will eat older leaves when food is short. Black lumps of insect excrement (frass) may be found near plant and foliage.

Activity

Nocturnal

Personality

Order

Lepidoptera

Family

Sphingidae

Metamorphosis

Complete

Distribution

Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific and Europe

Biological treatment

These pretty moths won't cause much damage to garden plants, with caterpillars focussing their feeding to bindweeds. The adults are some of the only insects to pollinate plants such as tobacco, due to their unusually large feeding tube (proboscis).

Chemical treatment

Where ever possible, please try to tolerate these insects! We understand they have large appetites and can defoliate smaller plants. If you feel like there are too many for your plant to support, you can feed them to the birds or relocate them to a nearby park. They provide essential pollination services to garden plants and should be welcomed, if possible.

Attracts

Adults feed on the nectar of tubular flowers, whereas the caterpillars feed on the leaves of bindweeds or in some cases vegetable crops, such as sweet potato. Sometimes they feed on legumes and Chrysanthemum spp. if other food plants are lacking.

Repels

Bats, birds, reptiles and other predatory insects will eat the moths and caterpillars.
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Knowledge and advice

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