Hyles livornicoides (Australian Striped Hawk Moth)Instar of the Hyles livornicoides Yeperenye / Yipirinya

The Australian Striped Hawk Moth (Hyles livornicoides), whose larvae are known as the Yeperenye / Yipirinya Caterpillar is a sacred totemic ancestral being for the Arrernte people of Alice Springs in Central Australia.

It is a colourful caterpillar, being either bright to dark green, brown or black. Also known as the White-lined Hawke Moth, the adult moth has brown forewings with white markings, that include a prominent white stripe. The hindwings are brown, each with a broad diagonal pink stripe.

The local name for the caterpillar is ‘Ayepe-arenye‘, anglicised as ‘Yeperenye‘ or ‘Yipirinya‘. The prefix ‘Ayepe‘ is the local name for the Tar Vine plant, the primary food of the caterpillar in Alice Springs.

It has been said that the caterpillar needs a particular kind of rain to emerge. They then spend all their time feeding on a sticky groundcover called tar-vine, after which they go underground where they cocoon to emerge as moths.

Whilst the Hyles livornicoides are totemic creatures in Central Australia, the caterpillar itself has also been used as food by the local Aboriginal people prior to European settlement. They would gather the caterpillar from the tar-vine, and then squeeze the guts out into a little hole in the ground, covering the hole up (as they were sacred caterpillars). The body of the caterpillar would then be cooked in hot ashes. They are said to be like crispy chips.

The Yeperenye is one of three caterpillar species associated with Arrernte creation stories. The other is the Ntyarlke and the Utnerrengatye.

The larvae has also been known to feed on Portulaca oleracea (also commonly known as pigweed, purslane, munyeroo), Boerhavia diffusa (commonly known as punarnava, spreading hogweed, tarvine), Boerhavia schomburgkiana (tar-vine) and Tribulus terrestris (bindii).

As well as Central Australia and the Northern Territory, the caterpillar and moth can be found in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland.

The Yeperenye is also associated and named after various buildings (the Yeperenye Shopping Centre), sculptures and street art in Alice Springs.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Hexapoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Informal: Pterygotes
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Unranked: Ditrysia
  • Superfamily: Sphingoidea
  • Family: Sphingidae
  • Subfamily: Macroglossinae
  • Genus: Hyles
  • Species: Hyles livornicoides
Australian Striped Hawk Moth (Hyles livornicoides), Simpsons Gap, NT
Australian Striped Hawk Moth (Hyles livornicoides), Simpsons Gap, NT

Footnote & References

  1. Australian Caterpillars and their Butterflies and Moths – Hyles livornicoides – Australian Striped Hawk Moth, Don Herbison-Evans and Stella Crossley, http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/sphi/livornicoides.html
  2. ABC Local: Sacred caterpillars plentiful after the rain, by Emma Sleath, 8 February 2015, https://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2015/02/05/4174922.htm
  3. Alice Springs News: Caterpillars as big as a mountain are starving, by Kieran Finnane, 17 January 2017, https://alicespringsnews.com.au/2017/01/17/caterpillars-as-big-as-a-mountain-are-starving/
  4. Indigenous Architecture: The Yeperenye (Ayepe-arenye) caterpillar is the most important of the three caterpillars, 20 January 2014, Facebook.com/IndigenousArchitecture/posts/the-yeperenye-ayepe-arenye-caterpillar-is-the-most-important-of-the-three-caterp
  5. Hawk Moths, Hyles livornicoides (White-lined Hawk Moth), Butterflies Dorrigo by Trev and Carol, http://butterfliesdorrigo.weebly.com/hyles-livornicoides-striped-hawk-moth.html

Hyles livornicoides (Australian Striped Hawk Moth)Instar of the Hyles livornicoides Yeperenye / Yipirinya

MothsMoths Index Aedia arctipennis Agrius convolvuli (Convolvulus Hawk Moth) Anthela guenei (Four-Spot Anthelid Moth) Austrocaligula engaea (Mistletoe Emperor Moth) Case Moths (Variety of Cocoons) Coenotes eremophilae Comocrus behri (Mistletoe Moth) Cosmodes elegans (Green-blotched Moth) Donuca spectabilis (White-spotted Owl-Moth) Four-spotted Cup Moth (Doratifera quadriguttata) Endoxyla cinereus (Carpenter Moth) Hippotion celerio (Vine Hawk Moth) Hyles livornicoides (Australian Striped Hawk Moth) Leaf Case Moth Metura elongatus (Saunders’ Case Moth) Ochrogaster lunifer (Bag-shelter Moth) Opodiphthera eucalypti (Emperor Gum Moth) Plume Moth Ribbed Case Moth Sameodes cancellalis Utetheisa (Rattlepod Moth)