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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Five-Spotted Hawk Moth Facts You'll Never Forget

Discover interesting five-spotted hawk moth facts about its host plants, habitat, size, and much more!

The five-spotted hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculata) is a species of moth that is found in North America and Australia. It ranges from black, gray, and white in color, with yellow spots on its body. These insects become moths after a caterpillar stage and their larvae are green in color with V-shaped markings. These larvae are usually found on tobacco, potato, and tomato plants. They are closely related to their cousin, the tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta), which is also called the Carolina sphinx moth.

Most commonly found in the southern states of North America, these moths can also be found along the Gulf Coast and in eastern states. Some hawk moths have also been spotted in Australia. Young moths usually grow up on host plants until they develop into a pupa and finally then become an adult. Mostly feeding on plant nectar, adults fly at the speed of 12 mph (19.3 kph) and have lots of ecological benefits thanks to their pollinating role.

If you love these five-spotted hawkmoths, you might also like reading more interesting facts about the gypsy moth and the rosy maple moth.

Five-Spotted Hawk Moth Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a five-spotted hawk moth?

The five-spotted hawk moth is species of insects. They develop from a larval stage when they are known as the tomato hornworm and they are a large-sized moth with about 10 noticeable yellow spottings. They look very similar to their cousin species, the Carolina sphinx (Manduca sexta) hawkmoth which is also known as the tobacco hornworm.

What class of animal does a five-spotted hawk moth belong to?

These moths of North America are from the Insecta class of the Sphingidae family. It has the scientific name Manduca quinquemaculata.

How many five-spotted hawk moths are there in the world?

The exact population of these moths is unknown. Since they are regional, their population can be rare in some areas, while they are abundant in others. Therefore, whilst they have a stable global population, in certain parts of their range, their population is steadily declining.  Like other butterflies and moths, they contribute to the overall environmental balance so it is important that their population remains stable.

Where does a five-spotted hawk moth live?

Five-spotted hawk moths are most commonly found in Mexico, the United States, and southern Canada. There are also rare instances of these moths being spotted in the Great Plains. They usually live in farms, gardens, and on agricultural land.

What is a five-spotted hawk moth's habitat?

The five-spotted hawk moth usually lives in areas with abundant food sources, like a vegetable garden, tobacco fields, or wherever host plants can be found. Their favorite pick for a host plant is usually a tobacco plant eggplant or tomato plant, because of which their caterpillars are known as the tomato hornworm.

Who do five-spotted hawk moths live with?

Like other moths, five-spotted hawk moths live a solitary life with little to no contact with other animals unless it is their breeding season. They tend to spend most of their lives alone, either on a host plant or avoiding predatory danger.

How long does a five-spotted hawk moth live?

The average life span of a hawk moth can range from 10 to 30 days. They are nocturnal beings and each generation can be seen flying only for one season.

How do they reproduce?

In mid-spring, adults come together and mate. The eggs hatch and turn into caterpillars (known as the tomato hornworm). These tomato hornworm caterpillars start feeding on an eggplant or tobacco plant, or on potato or tomato plant leaves. After the five spotted hawk moth caterpillar is fully grown, it develops into a pupa and falls from its host plants. The pupa will mature over the winter months and adult moths start emerging in summer.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of a five-spotted hawk moth has not been listed. While they may be rare in some parts of the world, their population is abundant in southern states. Globally, their population is relatively stable.

Five-Spotted Hawk Moth Fun Facts

What do five-spotted hawk moths look like?

The most noticeable feature of the five-spotted hawkmoth is the five yellowish-orange spots on each side of their body, totaling 10 spots. Occasionally, there can be an extra sixth yellow spot. Their color is a mix of white, gray, and black and they have a hairy skin type. While they may look like the Carolina sphinx moth, the two blue eyespots on their chest make it easy to differentiate between them. Five-spotted hawk moths also have black zigzag lines on their wings which are separated by white areas. Their caterpillars, known as the tomato hornworm, look green and have V-shaped markings on their back.

Discover more interesting facts about the five-spotted hawk moth's habitat and size.

How cute are they?

Five-spotted hawk moths of North America are not very cute, although the pattern on their body is interesting to look at. They are large and fast and the caterpillar of this species can be a major garden pest.

How do they communicate?

There are no specific studies into how five-spotted hawk moths communicate. Like the majority of other moths, it is estimated they use low-frequency ultrasounds and pheromones to communicate.

How big is a five-spotted hawk moth?

A five-spotted hawkmoth is about 1.96-2.75 in (5-7 cm) tall with a wingspan of 3.5-5.3 in (9-13.5 cm). Tomato hornworms are about 3.9 in (10 cm) long when fully grown. An average adult will be 10 times the size of a housefly.

How fast can five-spotted hawk moths fly?

It is estimated that an average speed of a five-spotted hawk moth in flight can be as fast as 12 mph (19.3 kph).

How much does a five-spotted hawk moth weigh?

The weight of a five-spotted hawk moth is very low and is almost negligible.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names designated for males or females of this species.

What would you call a baby five-spotted hawk moth?

As caterpillars, tomato hornworms are known as larvae. After maturing, they are called a pupa which hatches to become an adult.

What do they eat?

An adult five-spotted hawk moth feeds on the plant nectar of flowers like honeysuckle, petunia, tobacco, and other white or fragrant flowers. They are active pollinators of moonflower and desert evening primrose plants. The caterpillar of this species eats leaves, stems, and fruits of plants like tomato, tobacco, potato, and eggplant. Their predators include bats, sparrowhawks, lizards, small rodents, and bears. Their pupae are largely hunted by northern paper wasps and ants.

Are they dangerous?

Five-spotted hawk moths are not dangerous and they usually avoid coming into contact with humans. However, their larvae and caterpillars can be extremely harmful to plants and vegetation. Since tomato hornworms have a huge appetite, they can destroy a variety of garden plants.

Would they make a good pet?

These moths do not make a good pet, as they prefer moving from plant to plant for food so must be left in the wild. They also help in pollination and this can be done properly only if they are left in the wild.

Did you know...

Since tomato hornworm larvae are green in color, they can easily blend in with the stem of many plants. Because of this, it is very difficult to locate them unless a lot of visible damage has already been done to the plant.

How many eggs do five-spotted hawk moths lay?

After mating, females lay between one and five eggs on the leaves of every plant they come across. In one season, they can lay up to 2000 eggs!

The five-spotted hawk moth's growth

The life cycle of a five-spotted hawk begins after an adult female lays her eggs on the underside of plant leaves at dusk. By late May or early June, the first set of larvae begin feeding on host plants. After three weeks of vigorous eating, the caterpillar reaches its maximum size of 3.9 in (10 cm). It burrows itself 4-6 in (10-15 cm) underground after turning into a pupa and develops throughout winter. The first set of adults emerge in mid-July, while the second set emerges from August to October.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other insects including the banded tussock moth, or the plume moth.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Five-Spotted Hawk Moth coloring pages.

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