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the web of life in southern Africa

Nephele comma (Comma nephele hawkmoth)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Panorpida > Amphiesmenoptera > Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) > Glossata > Coelolepida > Myoglossata > Neolepidoptera > Heteroneura > Ditrysia > Apoditrysia > Obtectomera > Macrolepidoptera > Bombycoidea > Family: Sphingidae (hawkmoths) > Subfamily: Macroglossinae > Genus: Nephele

Nephele Comma Male

Nephele comma male [photo J. Joannou ]


Throughout Africa south of the Sahara as well as adjacent islands (Pinhey 1975).

Ecological interactions

Larval host plants in southern Africa

Recorded in Kroon (1999).


Pollinates a variety of long-tubed flowers including:

  • Caricaceae

    • Carica papaya (Papaya, Papaw, Pawpaw). A cultivated species, pollinated by hawkmoths, including Nephele comma. Martins & Johnson (2009) in a study conducted in rural Kenya, found that natural habitats were important in sustaining hawkmoth populations because they contained the larval hostplants needed in completing the life cycle. Hence, papaya plants grown near natural habitats were more likely to be pollinated than those isolated from natural habitats.

Publications (by date)

  • Pinhey, E.C.G. 1975. Moths of Southern Africa. Tafelberg, Cape Town.

  • Kroon, D.M. 1999. Lepidoptera of Southern Africa - Host-plants and other Associations. A Catalogue. Published by the author and Lepidopterists' Society of Africa, P.O. Box 477, Jukskei Park 2153, South Africa. 

  • Martins DJ, Johnson SD. 2009. Distance and quality of natural habitat influence hawkmoth pollination of cultivated papaya. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science 29: 114-123.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1742758409990208