MACROGLOSSUM NYCTERIS Kollar, 1844 -- Himalayan hummingbird hawkmoth

Male Macroglossum nycteris. Photo: © NHMUK.


Macroglossa nycteris Kollar, 1844, in Kollar & Redtenbacher, in Hügel, Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek 4(2): 458. Type locality: [India, Uttarakhand,] Massuri [Mussoorie].

Synonym. Macroglossa volucris Walker, 1856.

Synonym. Rhopalopsyche nycteris (Butler, 1875).


Wingspan: 40--48mm. Head, thorax and abdomen greyish-brown, abdomen with maize-yellow side-patches on the first three segments; the penultimate segment fringed with white; four lateral tufts increasing in size posteriorly, the first two white, the others black tipped with orange, anal tufts black. Forewing greyish-brown; some subbasal indistinct lines, an antemedian band recurved towards base at inner margin; three postmedian curved lines; a square brown spot on costa before apex with a black spot below it from which a waved, oblique line runs to apex. Hindwing blackish-brown with a broad, median, maize-yellow band (Bell & Scott, 1937).

In the male genitalia, uncus slender, pointed. Gnathos rounded apically. Valve without stridulatory scales. Harpe slender, pointed, somewhat longitudinally grooved dorsally. Aedeagus with a very long, pointed process, curving at least halfway round the aedeagus; the base of the process projecting, with few teeth; the proximal and distal edges of the process denticulate; internal rods obtuse apically, the longer one clubbed, denticulate on one edge.

Adult Macroglossum nycteris feeding from a Tagetes flower, Anantnag, Jammu & Kashmir, India. Photo: © Meenakshi Mallik.



China: v (Hubei; Shandong; Yunnan); vii (Beijing; Shaanxi; Shanghai; Sichuan; Zhejiang); viii (Yunnan); 19.x (Beijing); 21.x (Henan); xi (S Gansu).


OVUM: Bright green, nearly spherical, shiny and smooth (Bell & Scott, 1937).

LARVA: Full-fed 40mm, width 7mm, horn 6mm. According to Bell & Scott (1937), in the first instar head round, body short and cylindrical, horn very short, nearly cylindrical, a long bristle on each point of the bifid tip. Head and segments 2, 3 and 14 covered with bristle-like hairs; median segments with four lines of similar hairs on each side of the dorsal line one subdorsal, one dorso-lateral, one supra- and one subspiracular. Colour greyish-green, the hairs and dots from which they rise black; horn black. In the second instar, head, body and horn covered thickly with short hairs, finer than those of the first instar. Head and body green, with a whitish dorso-lateral stripe from segment 2 to base of horn; horn and hairs black. In the third instar, horn of medium length; hairs short except on head, horn and anal segments. Head and segments 2 and 3 apple-green, rest of body dark bluish-green dotted with white; dorso-lateral stripe bluish; horn dark purple, paler at base. The fourth instar is similar to the third instar, with body still covered with very fine hairs; stripe yellow on segments 2 to 7.

In the fifth and final instar, head round; true clypeus with apex acute, less than half length of head; false clypeus vestigial; labrum one-third length of clypeus and one-quarter as broad as clypeus; ligula kidney-shaped, as long as labrum and as broad as clypeus; cutting-edge of mandible not toothed. Surface of head dull, set sparsely with minute, shiny tubercles. Body dull, Macroglossine in shape. Horn of medium length, tip conical; segment 2 with a broad saddle-shaped marking covered with small tubercles. There is a row of minute tubercles encircling each secondary ring, one tubercle of each row, on the dorso-lateral stripe, larger than the rest, these larger tubercles most prominent on segments 3 and 4, hardly noticeable on the other segments. Horn covered with large, conical tubercles directed distad; anal flap and clasper faces covered with small tubercles (Bell & Scott, 1937).

In the green form, head green with a pale stripe separating face from cheek; labrum and ligula green; basal segments of antenna green, end-segment rusty; mandible green, tip narrowly dark reddish-brown. Body green, the tubercles white. There is a dark green dorsal stripe from segment 2 to base of horn, bordered on each side by paler green. The dorso-lateral stripe is yellow on the anterior segments, white to base of horn; subspiracular region tinged with yellow. Horn purple, tip yellow, tubercles black; legs reddish; prolegs reddish with a black band on the shank; anal flap edged with yellow. Spiracles oval, flush with a narrow rim, reddish in colour.

In the dark-coloured form, head pale brown with a darker stripe separating face from cheek; body-colour dark purple with markings as in the green form (Bell & Scott, 1937).

Full-grown dark form larva of Macroglossum nycteris on Rubia cordifolia, Haidian District, Beijing, China. Photo: © Tuozhan Fang, 2018.

PUPA: 29mm, width 7mm, cremaster 1.5mm. Colour ochreous; frons black; tongue-case suffused with brown; tongue black. With a narrow brown dorsal stripe on thorax. Tibiae of both legs brown; wing-case suffused with brown; inner margin of wing black. Hind margins of abdominal segments 5 to 7 narrowly black; hind bevels of 8 to 10 broadly brown; spiracles black lying on small black patches; cremaster black (Bell & Scott, 1937).

Macroglossine in shape, but abdomen less flattened dorsally. Tongue-case fairly prominent; antenna slightly longer than fore leg; no coxal piece. Surface moderately shiny; head and wing-case smooth; thorax minutely shagreened. Abdomen more coarsely shagreened and pitted laterally towards hind margins of segments; front bevel of segment 9 with a wide deep channel at its front margin, and the rest of bevel covered with narrow, short ridges. Spiracle of 2 indicated by a narrow oval depression almost covered by a small transverse oblong lobe projecting from the front margin of 3; other spiracles oval, flush, edges of central slit raised. Cremaster elongate-triangular, ending in a simple point, flattened dorsally and ventrally, surface shiny, dorsum finely rugose, venter finely longitudinally striate, tip smooth (Bell & Scott, 1937).

Pupa of Macroglossum nycteris, Haidian District, Beijing, China. Photo: © Tuozhan Fang, 2018.

Larval hostplants. So far, only known from Rubia cordifolia in China (Tuozhan Fang, pers. comm. 2018) but recorded on Galium and Rubia cordifolia in the Himalaya (Bell & Scott, 1937).




China: Beijing (Changyang); Shandong (Tai'an; Qingdao); Shaanxi (Taibai Shan); south Gansu (Beishui Hu); Henan; Shanghai (Jiading, 1000'); Zhejiang (Jiakou, 1700'); Hubei (Yichang); Sichuan (Baoxing; Emei Shan; Kangding; Yu Shan; Zhaotong); Chongqing (Fengjie); Yunnan (Kunming; Wenshan; Weixi; Zhaotong; Gaoligong Shan); Guizhou; Hunan (Dayong); Jiangxi (Tiancun).

Japan: Kyushu; Ryukyu Archipelago.

(There are 5 specimens in the NHMUK labelled "Loo Choo Is.", the old name for the Ryukyu Islands; all have the same data. This may be a labelling error as this temperate zone species has never been found in Korea, central and northern Japan, nor Taiwan. Even in eastern China it is a rarity, and confined to the north.)


Occurs from Afghanistan and Pakistan (Rafi et al., 2014) east around the southern margin of the Himalaya (Pathania, Sunita Sharma & Gill, 2014) to northern Burma/Myanmar, then northeast through China as far as Beijing and Shandong. Absent from tropical southeast Asia, including lowland southeastern China.

Global distribution of Macroglossum nycteris. Map: © NHMUK.


Holarctic; eastern Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Polycentric.

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© A.R. Pittaway & I.J. Kitching (The Natural History Museum, London)