Psilogramma menephron
(Cramer, 1780)

Psilogramma menephron

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Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
Subfamily: Sphinginae, Latreille, [1802]
Tribe: Sphingini, Latreille, 1802
Genus: Psilogramma ...........
Species: menephron (Cramer, 1780)


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The Gray Hawk Moth or Privet Hawk Moth, Psilogramma menephron (Wingspan: 82--138mm.), flies in Hawaii, and has an extended range across the Pacific Ocean to Australia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

The adult moth has long narrow wings which are a grey-brown colour, with a darker, wavy pattern. The abdomen is grey with a dark dorsal line.

The moth typically rests with the tip of the abdomen curled under the body.

The male can make a hissing sound by rubbing parts of its body together.


Psilogramma menephron adults probably fly from April to July, but that is just a guess.


When the Caterpillar is fully grown, it leaves the food plant and walks up to 20 metres to pupate under the surface debris of loose soil and leaves.

Emergence or eclosion is from the ground surface under the leaf litter.


Females call in the males with a pheromone released from a gland at the tip of the abdomen. Adults take nectar from flowers.


Eggs are pale green, slightly ovoid (1.4 x 1.6mm), smooth and shiny.

The Caterpillar is an agricultural pest on Olive trees (Olea europaea, OLEACEAE), but is perhaps most often found in suburbia on Privet (Ligustrum vulgare, OLEACEAE ), Jasmine (Jasminum officinale, OLEACEAE ), and Australian Native Olive (Olea paniculata, OLEACEAE), but also feeds on other plants in the families: OLEACEAE and BIGNONIACEAE.

Psilogramma menephron, Waikoloa, Hawaii, January 7, 2007,
courtesy of Michael F. O'Brien

Psilogramma menephron prepupal fifth instar, Kapolei, Hawaii,
December 31, 2012, Leslie and Samuel Rush, via Justin Rush, tentative id by Bill Oehlke.

Many Sphingidae larvae will darken (reddish brown to brown) considerably when they are ready to pupate, especially if they are going into a diapausing state. I suspect this larva from the Rush family is geared to overwinter, and under natural conditions, probably would not emerge until spring (April, guess).

For care of "found larvae/caterpillars" visit Manduca sexta August 21, 2008, Trina Woodall.

This Caterpillar is green with a strong curved horn on its tail pointing backwards, and a series of diagonal white stripes on its sides.

The coloration of the Caterpillar looks very striking, but when the Caterpillar is on a Privet bush, the spacing of the stripes is about the same as that of the leaves, and the Caterpillar becomes very hard to see. This use of colour to hide is a form of camouflage called disruptive coloration.

The Caterpillar is most easily located by observing the black fecal pellets under the bush where it is feeding.

When disturbed, the Caterpillar lifts the front of its body, and bends its head underneath, exposing a series of white warts on its shoulders.

It grows to a length of about 90--110mm and has both green and brown forms.

Larval hosts include the following: Campsis, Clytostoma, Dolichandrone, Oroxylum, Pandorea, Podranea, Spathodea, Tecome (Bignoniaceae); Buxus (Buxaceae); Lonicera, Viburnum (Caprifoliaceae); Casuarina (Casuarinaceae); Pangium (Flacourtiaceae); Perilla (Labiatae); Melia (Meliaceae); Fraxinus, Jasminum, Ligustrum, Notelaea, Nyctanthes, Olea, Osmanthus, Syringa (Oleaceae); Sesamum (Pedaliaceae); Antirrhinum, Paulownia, Hebe (Scrophulariaceae); Callicarpa, Clerodendrum, Gmelina, Tectona, Vitex (Verbenaceae).

The pupa, (48--60mm long) like that of many Hawk Moths, has a separate compartment at one end in which the haustellum develops.

Pupation is under leaf litter and loose soil at ground surface.

Sphingidae of Hawaii

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