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Daphnis nerii
Oleander Hawkmoth

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Photograph by Melissa Teo

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Footnote Macro

A. R. Pittaway, “Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic,” 1997-2013. [Online]. Available: tpittaway.tripod.com/sphinx. [Accessed 9 September 2013].

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© Photograph by A. R. Pittaway

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As with all Lepidopterans, D. nerii is holometabolous and undergoes a four stage lifecycle in which each stage shows a significantly different morphology.

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Ova to fourth instar, and imago male © photograph by A. R. Pittaway; fifth instar to imago female photograph by Melissa Teo

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Footnote Macro

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, “Nerium oleander (oleander),” 2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.kew.org/accessibility/index.htm. [Accessed 10 November 2013].



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Video 1. Feeding behaviour of D. nerii caterpillar. Only the head and rear end make significant movement.


When provoked, the caterpillar first straightens itself out to resemble and oleander leaf. If the threat continues, it curls its upper segments to display the prominent eye-spots on the third thoracic segment

Footnote Macro

T. M. Leong and V. D'Rozario, “Final instar larvae and metamorphosis of the Oleander Hawkmoth, Daphnis nerii (Linnaeus) in Singapore (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae: Macroglossinae),” Nature in Singapore, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 297-306, 2009.

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Fig. 3. Display of eye-spots in green phase of last instar (left) (photograph by Pearlynn Sim) and in the brown phase (right) (photograph by Sabrina Tang).


While the larvae of D. nerii are able to pupate in almost any environment, they sometimes build a cocoon of leaves to disguise and protect themselves before they enter the vulnerable pupa stage.

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Video 2. Final instar larva of D. nerii building a cocoon out of the leaves of a Jasminum plant

One complete lifecycle from the time of hatching to egg-laying takes approximately 28 days to upwards of 30 days.

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Footnote Macro

A. R. Pittaway, “Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic,” 1997-2013. [Online]. Available: tpittaway.tripod.com/sphinx. [Accessed 9 September 2013].

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Video 3. Eclosion of D. nerii and mating behaviour (at 2:10) . (by ririlaphoto on YouTube)


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. They are found throughout Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, with less concentrated ranges in the Middle East and Far East.

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Map. 1. Map of the worldwide distribution of D. nerii (top) and of its distribution in Southeast Asia (bottom) (Beck & Kitching, 2004-2008)

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Although adults are generally used as standard type references, it is important when identifying this species, to be familiar with each stage of the lifecycle. The descriptions taken from Pittaway (1997-2013) are as follows:

Imago (final moult): Adults generally reach a wingspan of about 10 cm. At rest, the head tends to be tucked in 
and wings are held dorso-ventrally horizontal, angled towards the posterior, but not folded over the abdomen. The adults have wings with entire edges and a pointed apex on the forewing. The wings and body are usually green, pink, white and grey on the dorsal side with a smooth, banded pattern of curved lines.


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Photograph by Melissa Teo

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Photograph by Melissa Teo


Fig. 4. Daphnis nerii with head tucked in and wings horizontal at rest lateral (left) and dorsal (right).


The eyes are large and lack pendant lashes. Its labial palps are large and with smooth scales. The first tergite is relatively large, and weak, elongated spines occur in several rows on the abdomen. The M2 vein in the hindwing is before the centre of the cell. A basal comb is present on the midtarsus and two pairs of spurs occur on the hind tibiae with the pair closer to the body longer than the distal pair. None of the tibiae have spines.

The antennae of the male and female are slightly different with the female’s having mildly clubbed tip, and the male having bristle-like (setiform) antennae.

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Fig. 5. Female specimen – external anatomy (information from Pittaway, 1997-2013) (Photograph by Melissa Teo)


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© Photograph by A. R. Pittaway

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Photograph by Melissa Teo

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Footnote Macro

A. R. Pittaway, “Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic,” 1997-2013. [Online]. Available: tpittaway.tripod.com/sphinx. [Accessed 9 September 2013].

Ovum

The eggs of D. nerii are almost spherical and about
1.5 mm in diameter. They are generally pale green in
colour with a smooth chorion that is shiny.
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© Photograph by A. R. Pittaway
Larva (first instar):


The caterpillars are about 3 to 4 mm in length when they 
first hatch and are bright yellow in colour. They possess 
a long, thin, black horn on their posterior which tapers
towards the end.
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© Photograph by A. R. Pittaway
Larva (second instar):

After the first moult, a pair of dorso-lateral lines start
to appear on the first abdominal segment to the last. 
The larva assumes an apple-green colour and the 
tail horn gains a white tip. Eye-spots start to appear 
on the third thoracic segment.
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© Photograph by A. R. Pittaway
Larva (third instar):


The eye-spots become more pronounced and the 
white lateral lines separate into circles with a pale 
blue ring with a white centre,outlined by black.
The spiracles become an obvious black.
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© Photograph by A. R. Pittaway
Larva (fourth instar): 

The walking legs begin to turn pink and the tail horn 
becomes yellow instead of black. The lateral lines seem
to consist a more dorsal band of yellow and below that a
band of pale blue with the ringed circles as in earlier instars.
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© Photograph by A. R. Pittaway
Larva (final instar): 

The tapered horn becomes rounded and bulbous with 
bright yellow colouration. As it comes closer to pupating, 
the larva changes from green to brown as shown on the
right. The white spots of the dorso-lateral line remain as 
in the earlier instars
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Photograph by Melissa Teo
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Photograph by Melissa Teo
Pupa

Pupae are cream coloured when freshly moulted, but eventually darken as they harden to a light wood brown. They are generally about 60 to 75 mm in length with a prominent black line bisecting the ventral head and thorax region which demarcates the future proboscis. The caterpillars sometimes make cocoons out of leaves before pupating.
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Photograph by Melissa Teo
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Photograph by Melissa Teo



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Taxonomy:

Ø Classification

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 Of particular note is Macroglossinae* to which D. nerii belongs. This molecular analysis has strongly corroborated the previous hypothesis for the monophyly of Macroglossinae* with a bootstrap percentage of 91% under the maximum likelihood model. The maximum parsimony model did not receive as much support, but it had overall weaker support as well.

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Fig 8. Phylogenetic tree of maximum likelihood for Macroglossinae* (including D. nerii marked out in red)

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