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Family: Sphingidae, Latreille, 1802
copyright C. Odenkirk
Previously known from all the main islands, this rare endemic Hawaiian sphinx moth is now known only from Maui. It is normally found in coastal and dry forests. It is a close relative of the tomato horn worm of North America. It is the first Hawaiian insect to be proposed as endangered.
Manduca blackburni green form, Puu o Kali, Maui, Hawaii,
November 23, 2002, courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr.
Manduca blackburni brown form, Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii,
December 14, 2006, courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr.
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September til January
Previously known from all the main islands, this rare endemic Hawaiian sphinx moth is now known only from Maui. It is normally found in coastal and dry forests. It is a close relative of the tomato horn worm of North America. It is the first Hawaiian insect to be proposed as endangered. Here you see the large caterpillar of the sphinx moth (Manduca blackburni) which may occur in either gray or green color forms with white ‘racing stripe’ designs. Previously believed extinct, this large moth had not been seen for many years.
(Photos: Betsy Gagne) green and dark forms Development from egg to adult can take as little as 56 days, but pupae may aestivate (dormancy during a period when conditions are hot and dry) in the soil for as long as a year. Adult moths can be found year round but seem to be most active during two periods, January to April and September to November. Adult moths are strong fliers.
Once found on six Hawaiian islands, the moth now exists only on Maui, Kaho`olawe, and the island of Hawai`i. They were believed extinct until 1984 when a small population was rediscovered in a lowland dry forest on the south coast of East Maui (Kanaio area). Additional small isolated populations are now known from other parts of Maui. Populations were recently discovered on Kaho`olawe (the first record of this species on this island) in 1997 and in 1998 in North Kona on the island of Hawaii.
Threats to Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth include introduced ants and parasitic wasps that prey on the eggs and caterpillars, and the loss of its native host plant, `aiea, which is a dryland forest tree.
Eric Hossler writes, December 2011: Manduca blackburni - fully mature larvae very commonly observed on Nicotiana glauca, on Maui,
along Mokulele highway, March 2011. Damage to the plant was pretty easily spotted, and larvae were right on the tips of the branches. I also saw one ova in
October 2010, and leaf damage, but both of these could have been old.