Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

Maxwell S. Moulds


The Sphingidae are among the best sampled moths. The majority of the sphingid species occurring in Australia have distibutions extending well into south-east Asia and beyond. As a consequence many species occurring in Australia were first described from localities outside Australia. Becuase of the considerable interest in the family many taxa have been named repeatedly, and many forms described, creating often complex synonymies.

A significant early list of the family was part of Francis Walker's catalogue of lepidopterous insects in the British Musuem; Walker (1856b) listed 436 species of which 19 were recorded from Australia. Both Boisduval ([1875]) and Butler (1876b) revised the family and Butler increased the number of species to 615 with 28 from Australia.

Miskin (1891b) revised the Australian fauna listing 45 species. In the same year T.P. Lucas (1891b), because of rivalry between himself and Miskin, preempted Miskin's revision by describing nine new Australian sphingids in a paper published both privately and in The Queenslander newspaper. The following year Swinhoe (1892) published his catalogue of the sphingids in the Oxford University Museum and Kirby (1892) catalogued the world fauna and corrected several errors first introduced by Miskin (1891b). Miskin, Swinhoe and Kirby were all unable to refer to the paper published by Lucas (1891b).

The most significant single advancement in sphingid systematics came when Rothschild & Jordan (1903) published their monograph which still remains one of the most important references to the group. It included numerous illustrations many of which detail genitalia structures, a practice almost unheard of at the time. This work combined with their update of the family (Rothschild & Jordan 1907) established a classfication that is still widely accepted. Shortly after, Wagner (1913-1919) catalogued the world fauna and provided, for the first time, detailed literature references for every species, subspecies and synonym.

Seitz's multivolumed Macrolepidoptera of the World (1907-1935) complemented Rothschild & Jordan's monograph and Wagner's catalogue wih a comprehensive set of quality colour plates illustrating most species. At the time of publication of the Indo-Australian volume on moths (Seitz 1928-1929) nearly all Australian sphingids had been named with only one, Langia tropicus Moulds, 1983, having been named since 1911. Seitz remained the standard reference for sphingid identification until D'Abrera ([1987]) published his lavish pictorial work illustrating over 1000 species. Fletcher & Nye (1982) catalogued the generic names of the sphingids of the world and Bridges (1993) the family-group, genus-group and species-group names of the world fauna.

A recent review of the Australian species in the genus Macroglossum has been published (Moulds 1985) and Common (1990) provides a detailed account of the family. Moulds has in preparation a monographic account of the Australian sphingid fauna and has published on larval food plants (Moulds 1998).

This Checklist includes 64 Australian species placed in 22 genera. The systematic arrangement largely follows the classification of Rothschild & Jordan (1903, 1907) which was subsequently adopted by D'Abrera ([1987]) on the advice of the late Alan Hayes.


General References

Bridges, C.A. 1993. Catalogue of the Family-group, Genus-group and Species-group Names of the Sphingidae of the World. Introduction, Parts 1–12, Appendix 1–3. Urbana : C.A. Bridges.

Butler, A.G. 1876. Revision of the Heterocerous Lepidoptera of the family Sphingidae. Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 9(3): 511-644, pls 90-94

Common, I.F.B. 1990. Moths of Australia. Carlton : Melbourne University Press vi+535 pp., 32 pls.

D'Abrera, B. 1987. Sphingidae Mundi. Hawk moths of the world. Based on a Checklist by Alan Hayes and the Collection he curated in the British Museum (Natural History). Faringdon. : E.W. Classey ix+226 pp. [Note: The title page is dated 1986 but the Book was not available until the following year]

Fletcher, D.S. & Nye, I.W.B. 1982. Bombycoidea, Castnioidea, Cossoidea, Mimallonoidea, Sesioidea, Sphingoidea, Zygaenoidea. In, Nye, I.W.B. (ed.). The Generic Names of Moths of the World. London : British Museum (Natural History) Vol. 4 xiv+192 pp., frontispiece.

Kirby, W.F. 1892. A Synonymic Catalogue of Lepidoptera Heterocera (moths). Sphinges and Bombyces. London : Gurney & Jackson Vol. 1 xii 951 pp.

Miskin, W.H. 1891. A revision of the Australian Sphingidae. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 8: 1-28

Moulds, M.S. 1985. A review of the Australian hawk moths of the genus Macroglossum Scopoli (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Australian Entomological Magazine 12(5): 81-105

Moulds, M.S. 1998. New larval food plants for Australian hawk moths (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae). Australian Entomologist 25(1): 13-22

Rothschild, L.W. & Jordan, K. 1903. A revision of the Lepidopterous family Sphingidae. Novitates Zoologicae Supplement 9: i-cxxxv, 1-972, pls 1-67

Rothschild, L.W. & Jordan, K. 1907. Lepidoptera Heterocera. Fam. Sphingidae. Genera Insectorum 57: 1-157, pls 1-8

Seitz, A. 1929. Family Sphingidae. Pp. 523-576, pls 47, 56, 56c, 60-68 in Seitz, A. (ed.). [1928-1929]. The Macrolepidoptera of the World. 10. Bombyces and Sphinges of the Indo-Australian Region. Stuttgart : Alfred Kernen Verlag 2 vols 909 pp., 100 pls.

Swinhoe, C. 1892. Catalogue of eastern and Australian Lepidoptera Heterocera in the collection of the Oxford University Museum. Part 1. Sphinges and Bombyces. Oxford : Claredon Press viii+324 pp., 8 pls.

Wagner, H. 1913. Sphingidae: Subfam. Acherontinae. Lepidopterorum Catalogus 12: 1-77

Wagner, H. 1914. Sphingidae: Subfam. Ambulicinae, Sesiinae. Lepidopterorum Catalogus 18: 79-220

Wagner, H. 1915. Sphingidae: Subfam. Philampelinae. Lepidopterorum Catalogus 21: 221-304

Wagner, H. 1919. Sphingidae: Subfam. Choerocampinae. Lepidopterorum Catalogus 23: 304-440

Walker, F. 1856. Sphingidae. List of the Specimens of Lepidopterous Insects in the Collection of the British Museum 8: 1-271


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
07-Mar-2013 07-Mar-2013 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)