Name that bug?
Location: Perth, Western Australia
May 13, 2011 3:50 am
We have passed this around our office (staff of over a hundred), and no one has been able to identify.
Please help us!!
Signature: Unknown

Vine Hawkmoth Caterpillar

Dear Unknown,
We quickly identified your caterpillar as
Hippotion celerio on the Butterfly House website devoted to the Lepidoptera of Australia.  It is commonly called a Gabi Moth or Vine Hawkmoth.  The Butterfly House website indicates:  “This Caterpillar occurs world-wide. It can occur in several different colour forms: green, brown, red or dark grey. It usually has an eyespot each side of the first and second abdominal segments, those on the first segment being larger. There are variable cryptic stripes and bands along the rest of the body. The Caterpillar has a tailhorn curved slightly backwards which tapers to a point.”  This is actually an Old World species and it is not found in North America or South America.  According to the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website, it is described as:  “A notable migrant in most years from tropical Africa and India to the western Palaearctic region. In warm years, new colonies may even be established in North Africa and Europe, so the delineation between resident and migrant ranges cannot be clearly defined. It is, however, resident in the Canary Islands, and probably also in the Azores and along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. It is certainly resident in many areas of the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula (Pittaway, 1979b), and Egypt (Badr et al., 1985).  Extra-limital range. Tropical Africa, Asia and Australia, with occasional records from northern New Zealand.”  The caterpillar in your photo is reacting as though it was threatened based on this information on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website:  “As with most larvae exhibiting anterior eye-spots, the head is retracted when the larva is alarmed, expanding the large eye-spots on the first abdominal segment. When feeding, it rarely consumes the whole of a leaf; shoots with quarter- or half-eaten leaves often indicate the presence of a larva. Whereas young larvae may be found beneath a leaf, fully-grown specimens usually rest away from the feeding area, farther down the stem.”  This species is known to feed on grape as well as numerous other plants.

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Location: Australia

33 Responses to Vine Hawkmoth Caterpillar from Australia

  1. daniddt says:

    haha it looks like a toy.

  2. Barbara Hart says:

    I have just found a Vine Hawkmoth in my Adelaide garden. I wondered if it pupated underground, as it seemed to want to stay on the earth. I had put it back on the vine, thinking it had fallen off.

  3. In recent weeks, we have found 3 green Vine Hawkmoth caterpillars in our garden in Maida Vale WA, on our backdoor step courtesy of our retriever – barking & growling at them [presumably in an attempt to warn us of them!] Does anybody know what the adult moth looks like, please?


  4. Can anybody tell me if the colour of the Vine Hawkmoth caterpillar depend according to sub-specie, or if it is a matter of what it is currently feeding on; or it’s age/maturity? I’ve seen photos of both green or brown caterpillars but the moth itself would seem to be basically brown.

    Thank you; NB

  5. Nige says:

    What is this are they harmless to your lawn and are they poisoness

  6. Nige says:

    I live on the mid North Coast of Australia

  7. Annemarie Linton says:

    Hi. We found these in our gum trees in Poukawa, Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

    Are they poisonous and what do they turn into?

  8. chris Newton says:

    I just found one in Glebe Sydney

  9. jon says:

    Found one in lower blue mtns nsw

  10. Anne Marie Finnegan says:

    I just found on in the suburb of Cork, Ireland

  11. Shirley Heath says:

    I found one in southern coastal NSW in Australia and we do have an ornamental grape within close proximity to where I found it. I also found a smaller green one the following day with the same eye markings and spike on the end.

  12. MareeS. says:

    Wow!! Thank you for the explanation for this intriguing caterpillar. At lunch time, one almost fell on my cats head from the grape vine on the pergola. Mine has two large white eyes with a black oval center and above the eyes what looks like two little ears and a smiley mouth. It is an olive green colour and when I enlarge the photo you can see that the eyes are false because they have little dots on the black.

  13. Christine Barker says:

    Have just identified one in our Tokay grapevine that protects the verandah from the western sun, in Malmsbury, central Victoria. While we are diligent in eradicating the young this one slipped by – a very impressive caterpillar.

  14. Blaiz Smith (8) says:

    I found one under my Big Pop’s grape vine in Melville Western Australia on 27/05/2017. The cat did not like it and flicked it away.

  15. Richard says:

    Found one yesterday in Joondalup WA! Freaked us out, but the curator of Entomology Museum of WA helped us out – and also sent us to this site!

  16. Joshua says:

    Found one this afternoon in Nedlands Perth.

  17. Carla says:

    Found one in Burgos, Sardinia, Italy.

  18. Susan says:

    My neighbour brought one over that she had discovered climbing up her leg. I put it on soft earth under a lillypilly close to our grapevines

  19. Jude says:

    Last year, I found one of these Hawkmoth Caterpillars on lower part of trellis frame. It seemed to be rather “groggy”, perhaps after gorging itself. As several leaves had been seriously nibbled, it was a very unwelcome visitor! I’ll be keeping a wary eye out this year.

  20. Bronte says:

    Found six green Vine Hawkmoth caterpillars on our grape vine today in Perth, Western Australia! They are huge, the size of my little finger!

  21. Nadine says:

    My son and I have just found one of these moths on our patio. Do you think it would be ok if built a terrarium or something for it so we can watch it go through it’s cycle?

  22. Judy Cribb says:

    I think I’ve found one in Woodvale Western Australia. No grape vine. Not much movement from the big fella.

  23. Brian says:

    Perhaps a photo of the moth to go with the caterpillar?

    • bugman says:

      Typing “Vine Hawkmoth Australia” into our search engine will lead you here. There are numerous postings of the Caterpillar on our site, but this is likely our only image of an adult. We do not post images pilfered from the internet to our site. We rely solely on submitted images.

  24. Bronte says:

    Hi Nadine, sorry about my late reply. We fed our caterpillars on grape vine leaves and butter leaf lettuce. They ate night and day. The very next day, 2 had turned brown. We thought they’d all died overnight as they had run out of food and were very still. However, they came back to life. Within a couple of days, all had turned brown. They remained active for a day but stopped eating, then wanted to make cocoons, so we had 2 per ice cream container half filled with shredded tissues and a few leaves and sticks. We put tiny holes in the lids and within about 3 weeks, they hatched into moths. It was a terrific experience for my daughter and I. I can’t seem to attach a photo, but the moth is brown, grey and white, with a little red under the wings. It’s about 3 1/2cm long.

  25. Julie Atty says:

    Just found 15 if these on my grapevine, in central WA. Not much left of the vine! When touched the large ones spat out a green slime- revolting.

  26. Ann Ellison says:

    I have found a small colony of vine hawk moth caterpillers on my seedling grapevine (now leafless!)in Narrogin WA. I have housed them, for the last week, in a large balloon glass (size of a bucket) and they have grown very quickly. I clean them out everyday as the are so messy (but it shows they are feeding well). They nearly strip most of the grapeleaves I give them and also arum lily leaves. They do not seem keen on lettuce. Most are now turning brown although a couple are still green. It is fascinating to observe them.

  27. Mithila Ratnayake says:

    Can someone please email/send me a link for vine hawk moth’s (brown form caterpillar) life cycle?
    I want to show this to my children in the kindergarten.

  28. Mithila Ratnayake says:

    Can someone please email/send me a link for vine hawk moth’s (brown form caterpillar) life cycle?
    I want to show this to my children in the kindergarten.

  29. k says:

    I found a v large hawkmoth caterpillar just now Wed 7 jul 2021 4pm- nowhere near our grapevine. I’m in Perth metro.
    he’s in a jar and I hope he survives long enough until i can take him to my youngest grandson.
    what should I include in the jar with him?
    or is that wishful thinking—
    I recall saving one as a kid in SA where we called them grapevine caterpillars – developed into his flying form.
    today’s is as green as I recall the SA fatties.
    he was hiding in low-growing strappy plants where he could even lie underneath on the warm concrete; even tho it is raining on and off there has been enough sun for his ‘home’ to have warmed.
    from old gamma

  30. Catherine Arrese says:

    We found one of those gorgeous, big, green, with white spots that look like eyes, Vine Hawkmoth caterpillar under our patio, in Karrinyup, Western Australia. We were amazed by it as it was the first time we ever saw one, so thanks to your website, we were able to identify it. It now lives in our Jasmin vine!

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