Bulletin 5 - July 1978: The Oleander Hawk Moth (Daphnis nerii)

The Oleander Hawk Moth (Daphnis nerii)

by Bish Brown

The Oleander Hawk Moth is a fairly common species in Abu Dhabi and has probably increased in numbers due to the introduction of Oleander bushes (Nerium oleander) from overseas.

A single egg is deposited on the underside of a leaf near the top of the bush. Rarely does the female deposit more than one egg on each bush. The yellow egg is less than 2mm across.

The small hatchling is a voracious eater and rapidly grows to a length of three inches, changing color from pale yellow with a black abdominal horn to green with a yellow horn. It also develops two large "blue eyes" on the side of the body behind the head. Just before pupation the caterpillar darkens to a rich brown.

Transformation into a pupa usually takes place in fallen foliage around the base of the host or an adjacent bush. Pupation may last for a period as short as two weeks or long enough for the species to survive the hottest part of the summer.

The moth (illustration here drawn by David Corfield) may have a wing span of 3.5 inches. It is nocturnal so its beautiful markings of green, pink and a variety of browns are rarely seen.


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