Ulat ngengat is scientifically known in Latin as Hippotion celerio. Previously this species was named Sphinx celerio. The name was made by Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
Internationally, in English, this species is popular with the names hawkmoth, silver-striped hawkmoth, taro, hawkmoth, gabi moth or vine hawk moth.
Origin and Distribution
This caterpillar species can be found in almost all corners of the world except the Americas. However, it is generally very easy to find on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan, Canary Islands, Gambia, Hong Kong, India, Malta, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Africa (Hippotion Celerio, 2019). Other sources state that the species of moth caterpillar or Hippotion celerio occurs from tropical regions of Africa and India (Hippotion Celerio, 2020).
Young taro hawkmoth in the larval stage are pale yellow with black horns that are disproportionately long. It eats the eggshells before moving to find a resting place on the underside of the leaves. After consuming plant material, the body will change color to shiny green. At this stage, the ovum has varying sizes and shapes with a shiny, slightly transparent and green surface skin.
In the adult stage, taro hawkmoth have wide wings measuring 60 mm to 80 mm long. Meanwhile, its body length can reach up to 8 cm. Brown with wings decorated with dotted lines.
Its appearance is very similar to the species Hippotion osiris with slight differences in its smaller size and black venation on its hind wings. The genitals of thetaro hawkmoth or Hippotion celerio are said to be very similar to the Oriental Hippotion velox with the difference being that the uncus is shorter and stockier (Hippotion Celerio, 2020).
When in a state where it feels disturbed, the moth caterpillar will bend its body to form the letter 'C', tuck its head under its chest and widen its segments with eye spots. This is done to divert attention and prevent possible predatory reactions (Hippotion Celerio, 2019).
Taro Hawkmoths as Pests
Taro hawkmoths in the larval stage are said to eat many ornamental plants such as taro trees, lettuce, sweet potatoes, and caladium with symptoms of damage that are easily visible on the plants in the form of small to large holes on the edges of the leaves.
Toward taro plants, this species can consume plants down to the soil surface until severe defoliation occurs. It is also said to be able to feed on young stems and succulents (“Hippotion Celerio (Taro Hawkmoth),” 2022).
The larvae are very damaging to lettuce plants like the H. velox species and their activity on taro plants is less common than the H. velox species (Jeenkoed et al., 2016).
Usually, control and prevention of damage caused by moth caterpillars is done manually by picking or removing taro hawkmoths from plants by hand. However, several biological methods have been reported to have potential to overcome this problem. This includes using the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis and the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae (“Hippotion Celerio (Taro Hawkmoth),” 2022).
However, taro hawkmoth are considered important in plantations, especially in papaya plantations because they are one of several species responsible for papaya pollination (Hippotion Celerio, 2019).