Hippotion celerio (L.)
(Formerly known as Chaerocampa celerio L.)
Common name: Taro hawkmoth, vine hawk-moth or silver-striped hawk-moth.
Distribution: Cosmopolitan, except in the Americas.
Host plants: More than 25 species in several families, especially Vitaceae, Liliaceae and Rubiaceae.
Morphology: Adults up to 40 mm in length. Body mostly brown, forewings with a pale-brown stripe along their entire length and another and smaller, silvery stripe along the margin. Hindwings brown with a central pale-red spot and a similar stripe along the posterior margin. The larvae (caterpillars) reach a length of 80 mm, are initially brown, then green, brown, red or dark grey, dependent on the host plant, and bear a dark, broken, mid-dorsal line. In addition, they usually have a large, yellow and green eyespot, on either side of the first and second abdominal segments, and a long horn at the distal end.
Life history: Oviposition is usually on the underside of the leaves on which the larvae feed; towards pupation they move to the soil and form a cocoon at the surface. The adults emerge 2-3 weeks later, fly mostly at night for long distances, feed on nectar and are attracted to light. A female produces about 150 eggs, placing them underneath the leaves of host plants. There are 4 annual generations, the calculated threshold of development is at 15ºC and about 320 day degrees are required to complete a generation. The eggs and young larvae of H. celerio are very susceptible to low temperatures and khamsins, which cause much mortality.
Economic importance: Hippotion celerio is an occasional, serious pest of sweet potato (Beta vulgaris L.), beetroot (Ipomoea batatas) (L.) Lam.) and grapes. The larvae feed on the foliage, leaving only the veins, causing severe defoliation. When feeding on taro (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott), the leaves may be consumed down to ground level, along with the young succulent stems and shoots. Outbreaks are uncommon due to the extensive mortality under harsh climatic conditions and to natural enemies.
Monitoring: The injury may be noticed by the damage: leaves that are eaten between the veins, causing severe defoliation, and/or by small-to-large holes in the leaf margins. In addition, the large larvae that feed on the underside of leaves during the day can be seen.
Physical control: The larvae on the undersides of leaves may easily be removed.
Biological control: Several parasitoids, including Snellenius hippotionus Austin and Dangerfield (Braconidae), Palexorista sp. (Tachinidae) and a trichogrammatid, as well as several entomopathogenic fungi attack the pest and often control it.
Samoa and Fiji have issued stamps showing this species, at: https://www.google.co.il/search?q=Hippotion+celerio+samoa+stamps+insects&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiH9-vx9ZzhAhWGDuwKHTSkByQQsAR6BAgJEAE&biw=1280&bih=644
Barlow, H.S. 1982. An introduction to the moths of South East. Kuala Lumpar: Malayan Nature Society, pp.305.
Bodenheimer, F.S. 1926. An Outbreak of Chaerocampa celerio L. in Palestine. Palestine Agriculture Experiment Station and Colonisation Department, Leaflet 15: 1-8.
Chatterjee, S.N. and Ram, R.D. 1970. Occurrence of the grape vine sphinx, Hippotion celerio (Linnaeus) (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae) on Cissus quadrangularis Linnaeus (family: Vitaceae) in Poona, India. Indian Journal of Entomology 32: 392-393.
Diongzon, O.C.E. Jr. and Gapasin, D.P. 1981. Biology of taro hornworm, Hippotion celerio L. Annals of Tropical Research 3: 101-110.
Jeenkoed, R., Bumroongsook, S. and Tigvattananont, S. 2016. Biology and Host Plants of Hippotion celerio (L.) (Lepidoptera: (Sphingidae). International Journal of Agricultural Technology 12: 2089-2094.
Talhouk, A.M. 2002. Insects and Mites Injurious to Crops in Middle Eastern Countries. 2nd Edition. American University of Beirut Press, pp 269.