Butterflies and Moths of Sri Lanka

Family Sphingidae  Hawk moths


Featurs of Family Sphingidae

1. Commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths and hornworms.

2. The Sphingidae is a family of some 1400 species of small to very large moths occurring on all continents except Antarctica. But It is best represented in the tropics (Scoble, 1995).

3. Wingspan ranging from  35-150  millimetres across.

4. Adults are characterized by narrow wings and streamlined abdomen that are clearly adaptations for rapid flight. Some of the sphingids are some of the fastest flying insects, capable of flying at over 50 km/h. 

5. Most adults feed on nectar, although a few tropical species feed on eye secretions and the Death's-head Hawkmoth steals honey from bees (Pittaway, 1993). Night-flying sphingids tend to prefer pale flowers with long corolla tube (deep flowers) and a sweet odour, employing an unusually long proboscis. The proboscis of certain Sphingidae species can measure a full 30 cm long.  Some Sphingids resemble bees or hummingbirds, and can move sideways and stop in midair ('swing-hovering').

6. The thorax, abdomen, and wings are densely covered in scales. Antennae are generally not very feathery, even in the males (Scoble, 1995).


Pittaway, A. R. (1993): The hawkmoths of the western Palaearctic. Harley Books & Natural History Museum, London.

Scoble, Malcolm J. (1995): The Lepidoptera: Form, Function and Diversity (2nd edition). Oxford University Press & Natural History Museum London.

Family Sphingidae in Sri Lanka

Following five subfamilies have been recoded from Sri Lanka (species of Family Sphingidae in Sri Lanka are under revision and cannot give exact number so far).




4.Subfamily SPHINGINAE.


Species Account



Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Sub-order: Heterocera

Super Family: Bombycoidea

Family: Sphingidae

Daphnis nerii - Oleander Hawk Moth
Oleander Hawk Moth  

Head green, rufous in front ; a grey band on vertex. Thorax green, the collar outlined in grey ; a triangular grey patch on the vertex.

Adult D. nerii were never observed to come to light but only ever captured while nectaring at flowers or as larvae. This photograph- resting adult taken at Peradeniya University.

Lava feed on Nerium (Oleander [E] Kaneru [S]). The distribution of D.nerii possibly following the cultivation of its larval hostplant .

Theretra latreillii  
Tussur Moth

Subspecies T. l. lucasii (Walker, 1856) is recorded from Sri Lanka.

Larva green ; a dark dorsal line ; horn yellow. This photograph -The adult attracted to light trap.

Theretra nessus  Yam Hawk Moth
Tussur Moth

Fore wing olive-brown, the base green with a patch of black and white on the inner margin ; a black dot at end of cell.

Larva blue-green, a subdorsal line with oblique streaks below it. horn yellow. Lava feed on Dioscorea spp. (Yams [E], Kadol [S]). Sometimes it is considered as a pest.


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