The Moths of the British Isles/Chapter 2

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[ 17 ]

PART II.

DESCRIPTIONS OF SPECIES.

HAWK-MOTHS.

About sixty species belonging to this family, scientifically known as the Sphingidæ, are recorded from the Palæarctic region, and of these twenty-seven are found in Europe. About ten only can be considered as true natives of the British Isles; seven others, though found here, are distinctly aliens, and their visits, at least as regards some of them, to our islands, exceedingly irregular.

Most of the moths are of large size, many of the caterpillars are of noble proportions, and in both stages they are not difficult to find, if looked for in suitable places and in their proper season. The caterpillars of several kinds, owing to the exposed way in which they feed or rest, are especially noticeable on bush and hedgerow; the chrysalids, although subterranean, are often freely obtained by turning up the soil around trunks of trees, or under plants, upon which the caterpillars feed.

The Lime Hawk-moth (Dilina (Mimas) tiliæ).

The four specimens shown on Plate 3 represent the more or less ordinary form of this moth. The pale pinkish grey, or reddish brown, fore wings are sometimes tinged with greenish in the paler forms; the irregular shaped band crossing the [ 18 ] central area of the wings is olive green, usually dark, and generally edged with whitish. This band is sometimes entire (typical), but more frequently it is broken about the middle. The outer third of these wings is more or less greenish or mottled with green, and a mark near the tip is whitish.

Variation is chiefly connected with the modifications that occur in the upper or lower, sometimes both, portions of the central band; the lower seems to be the first to disappear, then the upper passes through various stages of reduction until it becomes simply a spot or dot about the centre of the wing. Specimens are occasionally found or reared, in which every trace of the band has departed from one or both fore wings. The greenish outer border of the wings is inwardly margined with darker, well defined and band-like in some examples, but less clearly marked, or even absent, in others. Near the base of the fore wings are often two dusky greenish cross lines. The hind wings, generally pretty much of the same ground colour as the fore wings, have a dusky band-like shade of variable width on the outer third; sometimes these wings are entirely dusky, approaching blackish. Very rarely specimens are bred in which there is no trace of green colour. Such an example was reared by Mr. Frohawk in April, 1882, from a caterpillar he found in Surrey. In this aberration all the markings (normally green) are light burnt-sienna red, the usual whitish blotch at the tip of the fore wings is pink; ground colour also pink, slightly tinged with grey in places. So variable is this moth in colour and markings, that in some collections at least one cabinet drawer is given to it so that the range of aberration may be adequately shown. Already about eighteen colour modifications have been named, and at least eight band variations have also received names.

The egg is similar in general appearance to that of the next species (see Plate 4). Dr. Chapman states that it is more densely covered with an indiarubber-like gum, and this may cause it to seem darker than the eggs of the Eyed and the Poplar Hawk-moths. The eggs are laid singly or in pairs on the underside of elm or lime leaves.

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Pl. 2.
Lime Hawk-moth.
Caterpillar and chrysalis.

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Pl. 3.
Lime Hawk-moth.

[ 19 ] The figure of a nearly full-grown caterpillar (Plate 2) is from a drawing in colour by Mr. A. Sich. Shortly, the caterpillar may be described as green, roughened with yellow points, and with seven yellow oblique stripes on the sides, each edged above with purplish and reddish; the spiracles are ringed with reddish, and the curved horn is blue, inclining to yellowish beneath and at the tip; the roughened shield on the last ring of the body is reddish, marked with yellow. Head triangular, smoother than the body. Quite in its infancy, the caterpillar is a long, thin creature; the horn, which is divided at the tip, is covered with short, stiff hairs, and appears blackish; later on the horn becomes reddish, and the side stripes appear on the body. Although alder, birch, and several other shrubs and trees have been mentioned, there is no doubt that the foliage of elm and lime is the chief food of the caterpillar in a state of nature. Found in July and August.

The chrysalis is dark reddish, and somewhat rough. As a rule, it is enclosed in a very fragile cell which the caterpillar makes for itself after burrowing a few inches underground and near the trunk of an elm or a lime tree. There are, however, records of the chrysalis having been found in crevices of bark high up on elm trees.

In May and June the moth emerges, usually in the afternoon, and may sometimes be found on the trunks of trees, or on palings near limes and elms. When at rest the fore wings are so arranged over the hind ones that they, in conjunction with the upturned body, give the insect more the appearance of a bunch of immature leaves than of a moth.

The species is widely distributed throughout the southern counties of England, and in some of them, more especially around London, it is common. In the Midlands it seems to be [ 20 ] scarce, and apparently does not occur further north than Yorkshire, from which county there is only a single record. It is common in Europe, except in the more northern and southern parts, and its range extends eastwards into Siberia.

The Poplar Hawk-moth (Smerinthus (Amorpha) populi).

On Plate 5 are three slightly different examples of this moth. In colour it is most frequently ashy grey, with a brownish central band, and other markings; there is a white spot on the fore wings and a conspicuous red patch at the base of the hind wings. The female is generally paler than the male, and often has a pinkish tinge. Specimens of a pale buff colour are sometimes obtained, and these are most often of the female sex, although male examples of this form are not unknown. Among unusual aberrations is one described as having the wings, legs, thorax, and abdomen of a colour between brick-red and chocolate, suffused with a whitish bloom as on ripe plums. Another had the hind wings unadorned with red. Specimens from Aberdeenshire and Sutherlandshire are smaller than English examples, and the males are almost always more brightly and distinctly marked.

A very large number of Gynandrous, or "hermaphrodite" specimens have been recorded, several of them from Britain; in most of these the gynandromorphism is bilateral, that is the insect is wholly male on one side, and entirely female on the other. In some the right side is male, in others the left side; the opposite side in each case being female. Much information on this subject and on Hybridism of the Sphingidæ will be found in Tutt's "British Lepidoptera," vol. iii.

The pale shining green eggs are laid, generally singly, but sometimes in twos, threes, or more, on either surface of a leaf of poplar or sallow. Now and then batches of eggs may be found, and these have probably been laid by females that were crippled on emergence, or had been afterwards injured in some way and so were unable to fly.

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Pl. 4.
Poplar Hawk-moth.
Eggs, natural size and enlarged; caterpillar and chrysalis.

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Pl. 5.
Poplar Hawk-moth.

[ 21 ]


Fig. 17.Eggs of Poplar Hawk-moth.

Fig. 17.Eggs of Poplar Hawk-moth.

When full grown the caterpillar is green, roughened with yellow points, oblique stripes on the sides yellow, spiracles reddish, horn of the general colour, sometimes tipped with reddish. Head triangular in shape, but not pointed on the top. A reddish spotted form of the caterpillar is not very uncommon. In its very early life the head is rather triangular than rounded, as is the head of the young caterpillar of the previous species, and also that of the Eyed Hawk. Feeds on poplar, aspen, sallow, and willow, and may be found from July to September and sometimes October. Chrysalis blackish, rougher than that of the Lime Hawk. It lies in the ground so close to the surface that it is often exposed when the garden borders under or near poplars are raked over. The moth appears in May and June as a rule, but in backward seasons it may not emerge until July or even August. Caterpillars from eggs laid in early May are likely to feed up and attain the perfect state in late July, and eggs resulting from these will pass through the caterpillar state to that of chrysalis by about [ 22 ] September. Three broods have been obtained in one year, but this is exceptional and under a forcing method of treatment. The early stages are figured on Plate 4. This is certainly the commonest of our Hawk-moths, and it seems to occur throughout our islands, except that in Scotland it is not recorded further north than Sutherland and Ross. Wherever there are poplars, sallows, or willows, there too most probably will be this caterpillar in its season; the moth also will be almost certainly seen by any one who may care to keep an eye on the stems of poplars or adjacent fences at the right time. Sometimes the insect will introduce itself to the household, after lighting-up time, much to the alarm of those who, not aware of the harmless character of their visitor, look upon it with considerable suspicion.

Distribution abroad—Europe (except the polar regions and Greece), Armenia and the Altai.

The Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellatus).

Except that there is sometimes an absence of rosy tinge on the fore wings, and that the brownish markings may be lighter or darker, this species does not depart very greatly from the typical form shown on Plate 7.

Cross pairings between the Eyed-hawk and the Poplar-hawk are not altogether difficult to obtain, but the female populi pairs more readily with male ocellatus than the female of the last named species will with the male of populi. Very few such cross pairings have been noted in a wild state, but several cases of the kind are known to have occurred in captivity. The results are hybrid moths, and these have some of the characters of each parent, and have received distinctive names. Thus the offspring of ocellatus ♂ × populi ♀ are the hybridus, Steph., whilst that of populi ♂ × ocellatus ♀ are referable to inversa, Tutt.

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Pl. 6.
Eyed Hawk-moth.
Eggs, natural size and enlarged; caterpillars and chrysalis.

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Pl. 7.
Eyed Hawk-moth.

[ 23 ]

The eggs, which are generally laid singly or in pairs on either side of a leaf, sometimes on a stalk, are yellowish-green in colour. The shell is said to be netted, but under a fairly strong lens this does not show. About four hundred is probably the average number for a female to lay in a state of nature, but they seem not to deposit so many when reared from the egg in confinement. As the moth, except under stress of circumstances, places her eggs on the foliage of trees and bushes in selected positions, the business of egg laying takes about six nights to perform. Even when she is unable to fly she will crawl from twig to twig and glue an egg here and there on the leaves, but rarely more than two on a leaf. On a small sallow bush in my garden, I once counted eighty-four eggs on the lower leaves and the main stem. Green, inclining to yellowish or greyish, is the colour of the full-grown caterpillar. It is roughened with white points, and has seven whitish oblique stripes on the sides. These stripes are edged in front with darkish green and occasionally tinged with violet. The horn is bluish, merging into green towards the dark tip, and roughened with white points. Head triangular in shape, the top pointed; face tinged with bluish. Sometimes bright red spots appear on the sides in some examples of the caterpillar. In the quite young stage the head is usually rounded; the horn, which appears reddish, is about one third the length of the caterpillar.

Sallow, willow, and apple are the more general food plants, but poplar and privet have been reported. I have sometimes found the larva on Salix repens, and also on crab-apple (Pyrus malus). It may be found in July and August. In some years, when the moths emerge in May, caterpillars are found as early as June, and this is followed by the occurrence of the caterpillar again, as a second brood, in August and September. When quite mature the caterpillar enters an inch or two into the soil, and there forms a weak sort of cell in which it shortly afterwards turns to a brown, or blackish-brown, smooth and [ 24 ] rather glossy chrysalis. The early stages are figured on Plate 6.

The moth usually emerges in June, earlier or later, according to season. Under very favourable circumstances some of the moths will leave the chrysalis in May and give rise to a second generation in July. An unfavourable year, on the other hand, retards emergence, and the moths do not come up until late June or mid-July; such has been the case this year (1907).

Generally distributed and by no means uncommon throughout the southern half of England, but somewhat local northwards. It has been recorded from the most southern counties of Scotland, and Kane states that in Ireland it is widely distributed but usually scarce.

The method of folding down its wings in repose is very similar to that of the previous two species.

The Death's-head Hawk Moth (Acherontia (Manduca) atropos).

The fine moth represented on Plate 8 is the largest species found in the British Isles, although in measurement from tip to tip when the wings are expanded it does not exceed that of the next species, both varying in this respect from 4½ to 5 inches. It is, however, a stouter bodied insect, and its wings are broader. The colour and markings are so well shown in the illustration that a description is unnecessary. Beyond a greater or lesser intensity of the paler markings on the fore wings and the thorax, also some modifications in the black band of the hind wings, there is nothing very striking in the way of variation. Perhaps the most important aberrations are connected with the inner black band of the hind wings, which may be much widened and diffuse, or, on the other hand, entirely absent.

When full grown, the caterpillar attains a length of nearly 5 inches, and is of considerable thickness throughout. Usually [ 25 ] the general colour is some shade of green, varying to yellowish, but in some examples it is brown, more or less tinged with violet; others again are of a blackish hue. The seven oblique side stripes are purplish or violet brown, edged with yellowish; they are absent from the three rings nearest the head; the rough, double curved horn is of the body colour. The greenish forms are sprinkled with violet dots, and the brownish forms with white ones. Most frequently found on the leaves of potato; it feeds also on the "tea-tree" (Lycium barbarum), woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), and snowberry (Symphoricarpus). Fig. 1, Plate 9, represents the brown form of the caterpillar.

When ready to enter the chrysalis state, the caterpillar burrows from 2 to 4 inches below the surface of the soil, and there forms a large chamber, the walls of which are not very substantial and are easily broken. After resting therein for a week, or two, it turns to a dark brownish, rather glossy, chrysalis. (Plate 11, Fig. 1). The earthen cocoon, frail as it is, seems to be a protection to the chrysalis, guarding it from too much moisture on the one hand, or dryness on the other. I always found that when chrysalids from caterpillars that I have obtained were left undisturbed the moths emerged well enough; but when they were turned up out of the ground by the potato diggers, and, of course, without covering, they were almost certain to perish if the attempt were made to keep them through the winter. In the latter case, the only chance was to endeavour to induce the moth to emerge as soon as possible by bringing them under the combined influence of warmth and moisture.

This species was known to Mouffett, who figured it in 1634, but it does not appear to have received an English name until 1773, when Wilkes figured it as the "Jasmine Hawk Moth." Moses Harris, in 1775, called it the "Bee Tyger Hawk Moth," but three years later he changed the name to the Death's Head, the name by which it is still known, although in some [ 26 ] parts of England, as well as in Ireland, it is referred to as the "bee robber." In connection with the latter name, it may be mentioned that the moth's "tongue," or proboscis, is short, and not adapted for obtaining sweets, of which it is very fond, from long-tubed flowers, consequently it filches honey from the bees, and, with this object, has been known to enter bee-hives, at least those of the old straw-skep pattern. The moth is also said to have a liking for the sap exuded by wounded trees. Although the species may, perhaps, be with us in certain favoured localities every year, it does not often occur, in any stage, in numbers sufficient to attract general attention. I have not searched the chronicles of Atropos in Britain earlier than 1864, but from these it seems that the species was widely distributed and generally common in 1865, 1868, 1878, 1885, 1896, and 1900. More or less common in certain localities in 1867, 1869, 1870-1872, 1877, 1880, 1882, 1884, 1893, 1895, 1899, 1911, and 1917. In the other years it was scarce, or apparently absent.

The moth is always very much less in evidence than the caterpillar, or even the chrysalis. Sometimes the former is seen in May or June, or even earlier, and it has been supposed that these precocious specimens have hibernated after emergence from the chrysalis here during the previous autumn. The question of hibernation need not be entertained, but there may be doubt as to whether the specimens are British born or aliens. I am inclined to the latter view. The moths are often noted at sea long distances from land. A specimen was captured on board a vessel in the North Sea on April 28, 1903, and it was still alive, although it had been roughly dealt with, on May 8 of that year. In 1899 a moth was taken at Chester, about the middle of May, and one on June 20 at Chichester. Probably, although undetected, other specimens were also about the country, and maybe at even earlier dates than those recorded. However, during the year larvæ and pupæ were found, at the end of July, at Chilton, Suffolk, and at Bridgwater, Somerset, and in early August in Somerset, and at Dover. A moth was captured in August at Marlow, Bucks., one was taken at Christchurch on September 19, one at Reigate, September 25. Several specimens occurred in Devon and Cornwall in the autumn, and at Deal early in October. Larvæ were found, too, from the second week in September to the end of that month in several parts of the country. Moths seem to have been reared in early September from the early August caterpillars; whilst the September caterpillars attained the perfect state towards the end of the month and in October. Two pupæ, found at Penarth on September 12, produced moths in from four to six days afterwards; four other chrysalids, obtained in Hants about mid September, yielded moths between September 21 and the beginning of October.

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Pl. 8.
Death's-head Hawk Moth.

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Pl. 9.
1. Death's-head Hawk-moth.
Eggs, natural size and enlarged; and caterpillar.
2. Convolvulus Hawk-moth Caterpillar (dark form).

[ 27 ] From the foregoing there can be no question that there are at least two generations of the moth in some years, and in our own country, but we have even clearer evidence of this in the records of 1900, when a moth was taken in the spring at Ayton, Berwickshire, another at Worsborough Bridge on June 18, and a third at Kilmarnock, on a bee-hive, July 11. Caterpillars were found during late July and August in South Scotland and various parts of England, and moths were reared from some of these. In September and October caterpillars were found more commonly, and two or three moths were captured, in various places, between August 19 and October 9; others, reared from September caterpillars, emerged from October 30 to November 24.

By the rustic, and possibly the uninitiated generally, the moth is looked upon as something uncanny. This is probably due to the fact that the creature, when handled, emits a peculiar sound that has been described as a shrill squeak. According to Kirby, the statement made by Rossi that the sound is produced by air from the air-sacs being forced through the [ 28 ] proboscis, has been verified. Another dread-inspiring character of the insect is the marking on the thorax, which has been likened to a skull and crossbones. The squeak is said to have the effect of quieting the bees, they being under the impression that it proceeds from their queen.

It has been taken at some time or another in almost every part of the British Isles, right up to and including the Shetlands. Except that it has not been observed in the more northern parts, the species is found throughout Europe, North and South Africa, the Canary Islands, and the Azores. It is also represented in Southern India, extending to the Malays, and in China, Corea, and Japan.

Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Herse (Sphinx) convolvuli.

The older writers on British moths called this the "Unicorn" or "Bindweed Hawk." The fore wings are whitish grey, mottled with darker tints, and, in the male, clouded with blackish about the middle of the wing; the central third is limited inwardly by a double blackish, wavy line, and outwardly by an irregular, toothed, whitish line; running from one to the other are two black streaks between the veins, and a similar streak nearer the costa is waved upwards to the tip of the wing. The hind wings are whitish grey, with a black stripe near the base, and two blackish bands between the stripe and the outer margin. The thorax agrees in colour with the fore wings; the tapered body has a broad grey stripe, enclosing a central black line along the back, broad red and black and narrow white bands on each side (Plate 10).

The egg has been described as bright green in colour, and smaller than that of the Privet Hawk. A female moth captured at Brighton on July 18, 1898, deposited twenty-five eggs on Convolvulus arvensis up to July 20, and the next day a further eight were counted. The moth died on the 22nd. Caterpillars hatched out July 27-28. These were whitish green, with a rough blackish horn; after second moult they became green, with a darker green stripe along the back, but without oblique side stripes.

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Pl. 10.
Convolvulus Hawk-moth.

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Pl. 11.
1. Chrysalis of Death's-head Hawk-moth.
2. Chrys"lis "f Convolvulus H "wk-m "
3, 3a. Caterpillar and Chrysalis of Pine Hawk.

[ 29 ] In its more usual form the caterpillar, when full grown, is bright apple-green, narrowly streaked with black; oblique stripes on the sides yellowish; horn reddish, tip black. Head green, with black stripes. In some examples the side stripes are edged above with bluish black; in others there are blackish, more or less square, spots on the back, and patches on the sides. Sometimes the general colour is blackish brown, with ochreous bands and streaks. (This form is figured on Plate 9). When it occurs in these islands it is generally found on the small bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), but it will eat C. sepium and C. soldanella, and also the cultivated kinds.

Referring to the caterpillar in Britain, Moses Harris, in 1775, wrote, "I never heard of but two that were ever found—one by Mr. South [or Smith] of Hampshire, which, he said, was green, and appeared in other respects so like the privet that he was deceived. He fed it on the leaves of the lesser bindweed. It changed into the chrysalis in the earth, in July, and the moth was produced in September" (Dale).

The caterpillar figured by Harris is of the brown form, so we see that even at this early date something was known of the life history of this moth and the variation of the caterpillar. Since that date and up to 1894 only very few larvæ appear to have been found in our islands. Barrett states that it is doubtful if more than twenty had then been recorded. In 1895 caterpillars were obtained in Cornwall (four) and in Kent (two). Then for five years little or nothing was reported about this stage, although the moth seems to have occurred in varying numbers each year. In 1901, August and September, over one hundred were reported, rather more than half of which were taken from a hedgerow, overgrown with C. sepium, in [ 30 ] Northumberland; twenty-six were obtained on the bindweed growing on Lancashire sandhills, thirteen or fourteen in Essex, and others in Bedfordshire, Kent, Hants, Dorset, and Devon.

Mr. Bell-Marley obtained thirty eggs, September, 1897, and although these were kept in a cold room, thirteen caterpillars hatched, September 21. They were supplied with Convolvulus arvensis and C. soldanella, and seemed to relish one as much as the other. Seven died during the first three moults. The bindweeds being nearly over, seedlings were raised by forcing, but before these were ready the larvæ had been on short commons, and just immediately before the seedlings came to hand, had been twenty-four hours without food. On these tender seedlings and some endive the remaining larvæ, six in number, attained full growth in December. Two subsequently died in the first half of that month, and the others went under the soil. Only one, however, managed to assume the chrysalis state.

A small caterpillar, about one week old, described by Paymaster-in-Chief G. F. Mathew ("Notes on Lepidoptera from the Mediterranean," Entom., xxxi. 115), was 1¾ inch long, pale glaucous green in colour, and thickly covered with raised white dots; oblique side stripes white, bordered above with dark green. On September 26, 1897, this caterpillar, which had been found on September 18, was nearly full grown, and the writer goes on to state that when gathering bindweed he obtained either eggs or tiny caterpillars at the same time, and he eventually found that he had eight of them altogether. They fed up rapidly, as a caterpillar, hatched about September 27, had gone down on October 18. Owing to accident, four produced deformed chrysalids, but each chrysalis resulting from the others was perfect and healthy on February 15, 1898. The large reddish-brown chrysalis is figured on Plate 11, and it will be noted that the "tongue" case forms a curious bent projection not unlike the handle of a pitcher. To give some idea of the irregular way in which this migratory species visits our islands, it will suffice to note the records only since 1894. Previous to that year it was common, more or less generally, in 1846, 1868, 1875, 1885, and 1887.

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Pl. 12.
1. Privet Hawk-moth.
2. Pine Hawk-moth.

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Pl. 13.
Privet Hawk-moth.
Eggs, natural size and enlarged; caterpillars and chrysalis.

[ 31 ] In 1895 an invasion seems to have effected a landing in the autumn, on the south-west coast, chiefly, perhaps, in the Portland district, where some fifty individuals were captured between August 12 and October 7; twenty-three were caught near Bournemouth in August and September; sixteen were taken at Christchurch, August 11 to October 2; and eight were recorded from Milford. Several were reported from Devon, but only two from Cornwall, although four larvæ were found in October at Port Wrinkle in the latter county. At Cork, in Ireland, ten specimens were obtained in October. Eastward, the captures in September were Norfolk (seven), Essex (one), Lincoln (one). Odd specimens were taken here and there in Kent, Surrey, and Herts. Several were reported from Gloucestershire, and one from South Wales. The northward extension was evidenced by the capture of one example at Alnwick, in Northumberland, in September, and of two in Aberdeenshire, one as early as August 31, the other September 9.

The moth was almost a defaulter in 1896, but in 1897 about forty specimens were taken, twenty-seven of which occurred in the Scilly Isles and eleven at Portland (August 14 to September 16). One example was reported from Yorkshire and another from Sutherlandshire, both in September.

A female was taken at Brighton, July 18, 1898, and in the autumn of that year a good many specimens were obtained in various parts of England but chiefly in the south. Portland again heading the list with over fifty (August 4 to October 3) and a number were taken in the Isle of Wight during September. Captures in 1899 seem to have been only pretty good. Portland twenty, August 25 to September 20, perhaps less than a dozen in other parts of England and one in Scotland, all in September [ 32 ] or October. In 1900 one specimen was taken at an Eastbourne electric light, and one at Portpatrick in Scotland, both end of August. There appears to have been an arrival of moths in this country in early June, 1901. Captures were reported from Portland (June 2), Bedford, and S. W. London. Larvæ and pupæ were found in many parts of England, as already mentioned. Then in August, from about the 14th to September, moths were captured throughout the greater part of England; in some places caterpillars were also obtained in August, chrysalids in September. After a lull towards the end of the latter month, moths suddenly appeared again during the first week in October. Several observers remarked that whereas the August to September moths were mostly females, large in size, and not in the best condition, the later moths were chiefly of the male sex, small in size, and fine in condition. It would seem therefore that these late specimens were the descendants of the early August moths and represented a second generation on British soil and the grandchildren of the June immigrants. Or, possibly, the August-September moths were fresh immigrants, and the October specimens their offspring.

The species was observed in several English counties during August and September, 1911; and again in 1915. In 1917 it seems to have been more widely spread over our islands, as specimens were reported from Ireland and even Shetland.

Plants with tubular flowers, such as those of petunias, and the sweet-scented white tobacco (Nicotiana affinis) are its especial favourites, but it also visits the blossoms of pentstemon, geranium (chiefly the scarlet variety), etc. It does not settle on the flowers but inserts its long "tongue" into the tubes as it hovers on the wing in front of them. Just at twilight it commences operations, but it may be seen pursuing its investigations well on into the night (see Fig. 1, p. 2).

Distributed over Europe, Asia, and Africa. [ 33 ]

The Privet Hawk (Sphinx ligustri).

A specimen of the female sex is figured on Plate 12. The white clouding or mottling on the pale brown colour of the fore wings varies in intensity and is sometimes tinged with pink, especially at the base of the wings; often it is only noticeable at the tips of the wings and on the outer area; the blackish suffusion from the inner margin through the central area and the black streaks between the veins are rather more constant. On the hind wings the pinkish tinge between the black bands may be faint or entirely absent; the central black band varies in width, and is sometimes so much expanded that it absorbs the basal half of the first band.

When full grown the caterpillar measures about three inches in length and has a very substantial appearance. It is of a pretty green colour, with seven oblique white stripes, each of which has a purplish front edging; the spiracles are yellowish. The head is rather more grass green and marked with black in front. The curved horn is blackish on the upper side and yellowish below. The colour of the caterpillar in its younger stage is yellowish, due to the presence of yellow dots, it also has some tiny hairs; the horn, which is bristly and slightly forked at the tip, is a conspicuous feature at this age on account of its length and dark colour as compared with that of the creature itself. Just before changing into the chrysalis, a brownish tinge is assumed, and very rarely caterpillars of a pinkish or purplish tint have been found.

It feeds on privet (Ligustrum vulgare) in July and August; often to be seen resting on the upper part of the longer sprays of the food plant. Sometimes a dozen or more may be found on one short strip of privet hedge. They are much subject to the attack of ichneumons. Other food plants are lilac, ash, lauristinus, and some other shrubs. Mr. Step informs me that on [ 34 ] August 18, 1907, he found three larvæ feeding on teasel at Ashtead.

The caterpillar will burrow some depth underground before constructing its pupal chamber. The chrysalis, which is reddish, or blackish-brown in colour, is figured with the other stages on Plate 13.

The moth usually emerges the following June or July, but there are at least two records of its remaining in the chrysalis during two winters.

The southern portion of England appears to be the principal British home of this moth. It is more or less scarce in the midlands and northwards. In Scotland it has only been recorded from southern counties, and in his "Catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Ireland," Kane states that he has no certain record of its occurrence in that country. Widely distributed through central and southern Europe, extending northwards to south Sweden and Finland, and eastwards to Amurland, China, and Japan.

The Pine Hawk (Hyloicus pinastri).

Stephens, writing of this species in 1828, remarked that about thirty years before that date, a specimen "was taken in June at Colney Hatch Wood, and a second in the neighbourhood of Esher." He also gives Rivelston Wood, near Edinburgh, as a locality, on the authority of Dr. Leach. A specimen was stated to have been seen in Cumberland in 1827 or 1828, and up to the year 1877 four other examples were reported, each from a different part of England. In the year last mentioned a specimen was recorded from Woodbridge, Suffolk, as taken in a rectory garden the previous midsummer (since ascertained that the moth was first seen there in 1875); an example was also found at rest on a tree trunk at Tuddenham, near Ipswich, in July, 1877, and one was reared on August 5, 1876, from a [ 35 ] chrysalis found near Horham Rectory, Wickham Market, Suffolk. In 1878-9, caterpillars were met with at Leiston, Suffolk; the moth was found in the pine woods around Aldeburgh, 1881, and as many as forty specimens were taken in July and August, 1882, and rather more than twenty in August, 1919. In 1895, Lord Rendlesham, when driving through the fir woods in the neighbourhood of Woodbridge, noted two specimens in almost the same spot where he had taken some moths in 1892-93. Mr. F. Mellusson, writing from this district (August 2, 1895), stated that fifteen specimens had been taken, and that others could have been captured; also that about one hundred larvæ were then feeding in confinement. He also mentioned that 1895 was the fourth year out of five that the insect had occurred there. A male moth was found at rest on an oak trunk near Southwold, Suffolk, on July 29, 1900. On August 13, 1906, the Rev. A. P. Waller saw a worn specimen on a pine trunk in the rectory garden at Woodbridge. He also noted a pupa on September 30, 1917. (Plate 12, Fig. 2.)

The mature caterpillar, which feeds on pine needles, is green, with a yellowish-edged reddish line along the middle of the back and a creamy line on each side of this; the interrupted line below the reddish spiracles is yellowish or ochreous. Head yellowish brown; horn blackish brown; both are glossy. It enters the earth and there turns to a reddish brown chrysalis; this is rather glossy, somewhat darker above than below, and appearing blackish between the rings; the rough "tongue" sheath is short and attached throughout to the case; the tail spike is roughened, and has a blunt point on each side of it (Plate 11, Figs. 3, 3a).

It has been recorded that caterpillars hatched from the egg early in August, pupated in October, and the moths emerged the following May-July.

The perfect insect sits upon tree trunks, chiefly pine, often well within reach, although sometimes its position is fourteen or [ 36 ] fifteen feet up the trunk. At night it visits flowers, and seems to be most partial to those of the honeysuckle.

Suffolk seems to be the British home of this species, but odd specimens have been reported since 1860 from Romsey, Hampshire; Hinton St. George, Somersetshire; Herefordshire; Isle of Mull (two caterpillars); and Bournemouth.

The range of this species is through Northern and Central Europe southwards to Northern Spain and Italy, and eastward to the Caucasus. In Japan it is represented by var. caligineus, Butler, which differs but little from typical pinastri.

The Spurge Hawk (Deilephila (Hyles) euphorbiæ).

The fore wings are pale grey, more or less tinged with pinkish and marked with olive at the base, towards the middle of front margin, and a tapered band running from the inner margin to the tip of the wing; the lower part of the basal patch is blackish. Hind wings pinkish with black basal patch and a band before the outer margin; a white patch at anal angle (Plate 15, Fig. 1).

The caterpillar feeds, August and September, on spurge (Euphorbia paralias, and E. cyparissias). When full grown the head is crimson red, marked on the crown with black; the body is black, but so thickly sprinkled with yellow dots that much of the black colour is obscured; the larger spots are often crimson, but sometimes they are yellow, or even cream coloured; the stripes along the back and below the yellow spiracles are crimson, as also are the legs and feet; the spiny horn is crimson with a black tip. In a younger stage the head and the horn are orange, the latter black tipped; the body is yellow with patches of black around the paler yellow spots on the back. Chrysalis pale brownish, minutely dotted with black; the head and thorax are marked with blackish, and the rings of the body have narrow, interrupted, blackish bands; the wing and antennæ cases are covered with fine short blackish streaks; tail spike blackish, somewhat flattened, and the acute point black (Plate 1, Fig. 1; 14, Figs. 2, 2a).

Moths of the British Isles Plate014.jpg


Pl. 14.
1, 1a. Bedstraw Hawk-moth.
2, 2a. Spurge Hawk-moth.
Caterpillars and chrysalids.

Moths of the British Isles Plate015.jpg


Pl. 15.
1. Spurge Hawk-moth.
2. Bedstraw Hawk-moth.
3. Striped Hawk-moth.

[ 37 ] The moth usually emerges in June or July of the year following pupation, but it may come out the same year; on the other hand, it has been known to remain in the chrysalis for two winters. Dr. Chapman has noted the emergence of the moth eighteen days after the pupa was formed.

Little, if anything, appears to have been known of this species as an inhabitant of Britain until 1806, when Mr. Raddon, who was staying at Instow, in N. Devon, had a caterpillar brought to him by a fisherman. From that time, and up to 1814, a large number of the caterpillars were obtained from Euphorbia paralias growing on Braunton Burrows, a long stretch of sandhills on the north Devonshire coast, accessible from Barnstaple or Ilfracombe, which, when I visited the locality some twenty-five years ago, was greatly favoured by rabbits. One would suppose that the Spurge Hawk caterpillars must have been pretty abundant at the time Raddon made his observations, as he states in a note on the subject published in the Entomological Magazine for 1835, that on leaving the ground one evening at dusk he hastily cut an armful of spurge, which he took home and put in water. Next morning he "found the food covered with not less than a hundred minute larvæ about a day or two old." This must have happened prior to 1814, because the species seems to have entirely disappeared about that year. The Rev. E. N. Bloomfield, in his catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Suffolk, mentions a moth bred from a larva found near Landguard Fort about 1865. He adds that the food plant was then abundant there. At a meeting of the Entomological Society of London held in October, 1876, a letter was read from Mr. Higgins concerning the reported finding of the caterpillars of this species in a locality near Harwich in 1873. It was stated that the spurge (Euphorbia paralias), had not only been [ 38 ] seen in the particular spot, but in other parts of the same district also.

In the Entomologist for 1893 there is a very circumstantial account of the finding of eighteen or nineteen Spurge Hawk caterpillars on the Cornish coast in the autumn of 1889. From these, eight moths resulted in May-July, 1890, and one in June, 1891.

Although the occurrence of the moth in Britain has been more frequently recorded, probably in error for the Bedstraw Hawk, there are at least two that are undoubtedly authentic. One of these refers to a specimen taken in a private garden near Southampton (Entom., 1872), and the other was captured by the late Mr. C. G. Barrett as it flew at early dusk in a garden at King's Lynn, Norfolk, in September, 1887. Some idea of the scarcity of bonâ fide English specimens may be gained from the fact that about thirteen years ago, two of Raddon's bred specimens were sold by auction at Stevens, when six guineas was given for one, and ten shillings more for the other.

Its distribution abroad extends through Central and Southern Europe into Asia Minor, and it is represented by local races in other parts of Asia.

The Bedstraw Hawk (Deilephila (Celerio) galii).

On Plate 15, Fig. 2, will be found a portrait of this moth, which the ancient fathers of British entomology dubbed the "Spotted Elephant"—at least, Harris, in 1778, figured its caterpillar under this name. Later it was called the "Galium Hawk-moth." The olive-brown fore wings have a tapered, creamy-white stripe running obliquely from the inner margin near the base to the tip of the wing; the lower edge of this stripe is almost straight, but the upper edge is irregular; the outer margin of the wings is greyish. Hind wings creamy [ 39 ] white, the basal area and a band before the outer margin black; the space enclosed is blotched, and sometimes tinged with pinkish red; but the extreme inner portion is almost pure white. Head and thorax are olive-brown, edged with white; the abdomen is olive-brown, with a whitish line along the middle of the back, and ornamented with black and white on the sides.

The full-grown caterpillar varies in colour from greenish olive to pale olive-brown, reddish brown, or sometimes blackish; the spots on the back are yellowish, edged with black, but occasionally these are absent. It feeds in August and September, on the bedstraws (Galium verum, G. mollugo, etc.), preferring the yellow-flowered kind that flourishes on sandhills by the sea (G. verum, var. maritimum). It can be reared very well on willow herb (Epilobium) and on fuchsia.

When ready for the change it burrows underground, and, where the soil is sandy and light, it works down pretty deeply before making the frail cell, in which it turns to a reddish-brown chrysalis with blackish markings, somewhat similar to those of the next species; the anal spike is blackish, rather flattened, terminating in a sharp point (Plate 14, Figs. 1, 1a). Haworth in 1812 mentioned caterpillars from Devonshire, and although single specimens of the moth seem to have been taken here and there in various years between that date and 1854, in only one year during that period was it reported from several parts of the country. This was in 1834, when four moths were captured in August, and eight or nine others seen at Yarmouth; caterpillars were also found on the bedstraw growing on the Denes. Odd examples of the moth were observed that year in Lincolnshire, Somersetshire, and in the Isle of Wight. In 1855-56, caterpillars were obtained in August on the sandhills at Deal, and, in September, at Devonport in the first-named year. A moth was taken in May, 1857, and, later in that year, specimens were captured at Deal, [ 40 ] Brighton, and Taunton. Three moths were recorded in 1858; and in 1859 caterpillars were plentiful on the south-east coast, common on the Cheshire coast, also reported from Devon, Cambs., London, and Darlington; over a score were found within a short distance of Perth. A good many moths were also taken. The species was especially abundant in 1870, in which year caterpillars were collected in hundreds. It seems to have been widely distributed throughout England, and was again found in Perthshire. Perhaps not more than three specimens were taken between 1872 and 1888, but in the rainy and cold summer of the latter year, the moths seem to have invaded the country in great force, and were reported from many parts of England, and also from Aberdeen in Scotland, and from Howth in Ireland. Caterpillars, too, were plentiful on the coast sandhills of Kent, Cheshire, and Lancashire, and also in the Eastern Counties.

In March, 1889, Mr. Elisha had moths emerge from chrysalids of the previous year. These had been placed in a temperature ranging from 60 to 70 degrees, and the moths came out in from fourteen to sixteen days after commencing the forcing process. Some half a dozen chrysalids that I had in 1888, from Lancashire caterpillars, were allowed to remain in the earth, which was contained in a large-sized flower-pot; the moths emerged in May and June, 1889, all but one being perfect specimens.

In 1894 Mr. Harwood obtained five caterpillars on the Essex coast, and in 1897 the Rev. A. Miles Moss found a few, and observed traces of others, on the Lancashire coast, but, apart from these records, very few moths or caterpillars of this species appear to have been noted in the country since 1888, and we still await the advent of another Galii year. So far the periods of scarcity between the seasons of plenty have been twenty-five, eleven, and nineteen years.

The range of this insect extends through Europe and Asia to [ 41 ] Siberia and Amurland. It is represented in North America by the Galium Sphinx (Celerio intermedia, Kirby = chamænerii, Harris), which so greatly resembles it that only an expert could readily distinguish one from the other.

The Striped Hawk (Phryxus (Deilephila) livornica).

Owing to some confusion between this moth (Plate 15, Fig. 3) and the North American Striped Morning Sphinx (D. lineata), which also seems to have had a place in the cabinets of the earlier British entomologists, the localities given by authors previous to 1828 are doubtful. Haworth, however, in 1803, mentions Cornwall, and Stephens, in his remarks on this species, refers to a specimen from Norfolk; one taken off the mast of the Ramsgate steam vessel at Billingsgate, in June, 1824; and three specimens, one of which he figured, captured near Kingsbridge, Devonshire.

In 1846 thirteen of these moths were recorded from various parts of England and Ireland, and probably many others were in these islands that year. Between May 12 and 26, 1860, twenty specimens were taken in the south of England, and more than half of them in Devonshire. In 1862 a specimen occurred at Worthing on April 16, and one at Herne Hill on April 29; others were taken between May 2 and May 18 on the south and south-west coasts, and at Colchester. Over a score of specimens were recorded in 1868, chiefly in August, and from localities ranging from Cornwall to Yorkshire. The year 1870 was a good one for the species, and moths were reported from England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Fully fifty specimens were obtained, mostly in May, and caterpillars were also found. In 1904 the moth occurred in May, at several places in the south and south-west of England, also in Gloucestershire, Wales, and at Carlisle; in September of this year a specimen was taken on the pier at Dover, and another on a small [ 42 ] headland at Barry, in Glamorgan. Some of the early captured females deposited eggs; caterpillars resulting therefrom were fed on vine, and at least one moth was reared in September.

A good many specimens visited the south of England, more particularly South Devon, in June, 1906, but the species was reported as occurring in large numbers on rhododendron blossom near Cork in Ireland from June 9 to 13 or 14. In August and September the moth was reported from Kent, Sussex, Hants, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, and South Wales; such specimens probably being the offspring of the early immigrants. During the past forty years the barren seasons for the Striped Hawk appear to have been only ten. The dates of its occurrence have been somewhat erratic. One was captured in 1887 in the month of February, one on March 27 in 1903, but the moth has been observed in each month from May to September inclusive, although May, June, and August would seem to have been the more favoured. The caterpillar has not been seen often in England. Mr. Farn recorded six or seven from Ryde in July, 1870; they were feeding on vine and centaury in a garden. One spun up in the leaves at the bottom of the box on July 27, but the web was so fragile that the caterpillar fell out, and changed to the chrysalis state on the 30th. The moth emerged on August 26. In the same year several caterpillars occurred in Devon and Cornwall, and one of these was found on July 11 in a mangold-wurtzel field in the Exeter district. It was afterwards reared on fuchsia, and produced a moth on August 18. Nine others were reported from a nursery garden at Plymouth; they were fed up on dock—the plant upon which they had been found—and the moth was reared later in the year. In 1902 Mr. Jäger received a caterpillar from Starcross about July 20, and this attained the moth state on September 27. A caterpillar, believed to be of this species, was found in a sunny garden at Lewes in Sussex, July 20, 1906. [ 43 ]

According to Hellins the eggs are light green in colour, and the caterpillars hatch out in about three weeks. When it first emerges from the egg-shell the caterpillar is dirty white without spots, and the head and horn are black. The adult is dark green or black dotted with yellow; three yellow lines on the back and two rows of black-ringed yellow spots, with some black spots above them; each yellow spot is tinged with pink on the upper portion. Head black, marked with yellow; horn reddish, with the tip black. Sometimes the rings of the body are banded.

It feeds in June and July on vine, fuchsia, dock, and probably other plants. It may be noted that the foliage of house vines are stated to be unsuitable food. The blossoms of numerous plants are visited by the moths in the evening, among which are delphinium, petunia, honeysuckle, tobacco, rhododendron, valerian, and silene.

In the daytime it has been found resting on walls, windows, and also the curtains; on grass turf, railway metals, fences, and on plants and shrubs.

The distribution of this species is somewhat similar to that of the Silver-striped Hawk-moth, but it extends into Western China and is represented in North America.

The Silver-striped Hawk (Hippotion (Chærocampa) celerio).

Referring to this species in 1828 Stephens wrote: "The first recorded specimen of the perfect insect was taken flying in Bunhill-fields burying-ground so long ago as 1779: and the specimen now exists in a high state of preservation in Mr. Haworth's collection, having been purchased by him at the dispersion of that of Mr. Francillon. Subsequently to the above capture the larvæ have been found several times in Cambridgeshire.... Two or three were also taken about fifteen [ 44 ] or sixteen years since in a garden at Norwich, and were kept until they changed to pupæ; but unfortunately, in that state their metamorphosis ended. One of these pupæ I have in my collection. Of late, however, the perfect insect has occurred more than once, and in totally different parts of the country. Three specimens, as I am informed by the Rev. F. W. Hope, were taken near Oxford several years ago. In August, 1826, an injured one was found resting on a wall near Birmingham; and last summer a second was secured not far distant from the same locality; the latter I have in my possession. Again, Mr. Marshall informed me in March last, that, on his way to Manchester, he met with an individual who possessed upwards of a dozen living pupæ, which were procured from larvæ found in that neighbourhood during last season."

Humphrey and Westwood mention a specimen taken in Brighton in 1834, and in 1846 eight moths were obtained. Something like one hundred and twenty-five specimens of this species have been recorded between the year last quoted and the present time. Of these only one occurred in Ireland. This was a specimen taken at light on September 17, 1881, at Mullaghmore, County Sligo. Several were captured in Scotland, and one in Wales; but the bulk were obtained at various places in England, not in the south only but in the north also. The majority were met with in the autumn, but a specimen was reported as taken in May, 1848, at Harlestone, another in March, 1862, at Tooting, and a third in the Isle of Anglesea, July, 1865. In the last-named year nine specimens were captured in the autumn. Doubleday recorded a caterpillar found in a garden at Epping (October, 1867), and other caterpillars have been reported from Newmarket and Sussex.

At least one example of the moth has been recorded almost annually since 1846, but captures seem to have been more numerous in 1861, 1866, 1870, 1879, 1881, and especially so in 1885. The caterpillar (figured on Plate 1) varies in ground colour, which may be pale brown, dark brown, or green. There is a black line along the middle of the back, and a pinkish brown stripe on each side; the latter runs from the ring next the head to the horn, but is interrupted on ring four, and the back from this ring to the horn is covered with linear dots arranged in more or less regular rows; the underside is thickly sprinkled with black-ringed white dots; on each side of ring four there is a conspicuous oval mark made up of a blackish outer ring, an inner ring of yellowish, and one of reddish; the centre is blackish, with some yellowish dots upon it. Head small, pale brown; horn blackish and rather rough.

Moths of the British Isles Plate016.jpg


Pl. 16.
1. Oleander Hawk-moth.
2. Silver-striped Hawk-moth.

Moths of the British Isles Plate017.jpg


Pl. 17.
Elephant Hawk-moth.
Egg, natural size and enlarged; caterpillar and chrysalis.

[ 45 ] It feeds on vine (Vitis vinifera) and yellow bedstraw (Galium verum); also on fuchsia and virginia-creeper (Ampelopsis). August and September are given as months for this caterpillar, but the Newmarket and Epping examples referred to were taken in October.

The moth seems to visit us chiefly in September and October. It does not appear to have been so often taken at flowers as at light, or when resting by day, on a wall or window of a dwelling house or shop, to which it had been attracted at night by the illumination within. The species has a wide range through Africa and Southern Asia to Java, Borneo, and Australia. In Europe it is perhaps only native in southern parts; thence it sometimes wanders through Central Europe to Germany and Holland. The specimens visiting our islands may come from the latter country, or possibly in years of comparative plenty the moths come to us viâ the west coast of Europe.

The Oleander Hawk-moth (Daphnis (Chærocampa) nerii).

The forewings of this handsome moth (Plate 16) are pinkish grey, marbled with various shades of green and olive brown; some of the marbling edged with white. Hind wings greyish [ 46 ] brown shaded with greenish, with a whitish, waved cross line. The colours of the head, thorax, and body are similar to those of the wings.


Fig. 18.Chrysalis of Oleander-Moth.(Photo by W. J. Lucas.)

Fig. 18.Chrysalis of Oleander-Moth.(Photo by W. J. Lucas.)

The caterpillar feeds on the Oleander (Nerium oleander), and also on the lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor). When full grown it is olive green on the back from the hinder part of the third ring to the small, rough, and drooping, horn; the under surface and the whole of the first three rings ochreous; there is a divided brown spot on the ring nearest the head (first thoracic segment), and two larger blue-black spots on the third ring. These spots each enclose two whitish clouds; on the front edge of rings five to nine (second to sixth abdominal segments) are whitish dots, but these are fewer on rings eight and nine than on the others; a narrow whitish stripe, edged above and below with whitish dots, runs along the sides from ring five to the horn; spiracles are black with pale margins (Plate 1).

Chrysalis brown with blackish central line, which becomes broken and obscure on the body rings, broken again on the head, but continued thence along the under surface to the tips of the wing cases. The spiracles are blackish; the body is dotted, and the last rings are clouded with blackish.

I have only seen a preserved example of this caterpillar and a dead chrysalis; descriptions of each are from these.

The first published notification of the occurrence of this moth [ 47 ] in England is that of Stephens in 1835. He wrote: "A noble specimen of this remarkably beautiful insect (five inches three lines in expanse), was taken in the beginning of September, 1833, by a lady in her drawing-room at Dover. Whether the pupa had been imported in some of the numerous packages of foreign fruits, etc., or the insect itself had been brought over in one of the passage-vessels, is a question not easily solved. The larva feeds upon an exotic plant; but has been found in a garden near Charmouth, as appears by a subsequent communication to the Ent. Magazine by Captain Blomer."

The next record of the moth appears in the Zoologist for 1852. "On the 11th of September a specimen of Chærocampa nerii was taken in Montpelier Road, Brighton, by a young gentleman at school, while it was hovering over a passion flower." Two caterpillars were found in a garden at Eastbourne, feeding upon the leaves of potato, in October, 1859. In confinement they ate periwinkle, but they were not reared. The following records are, except where otherwise stated, of single specimens of the moth: Hastings, August 2, 1862; Sheffield, September 14, 1867; St. Leonards, October, 1868 (? 2 examples); Ascot, June, 1873; Lewes, September 3, 1874; Hemel Hempstead, October 15, 1876; Tottenham, Middlesex, Eastbourne, Sussex, and Blandford, Dorset, September, 1884; Hartlepool and Prestwich, July, 1885; Brighton, September 7, 1886; Poplar, September 20, 1888; Dartmouth, September 26, 1890; Stowling, Kent, July, 1896; Yalding, Kent, September 18, Teignmouth, October 23, 1900; Banhead, Scotland, end September, 1901; Liverpool, in a steamship, and Atherstone, Warwickshire, October, 1903; Eastbourne, July 14, 1904; Lancaster, September 18, 1906. A specimen of Daphnis hypothous, Cramer, a native of India, Borneo, Java, and Ceylon, was captured at Crieff, Perthshire, in July, 1873, and was recorded as D. nerii, and the error was not rectified until 1891.

It will be seen from the above that the moth is exceedingly [ 48 ] rare in these islands. The species is an inhabitant of Africa, and its normal range extends along both sides of the Mediterranean through Asia Minor and Syria to India. In Europe, north of the Alps, the moth is seldom observed, and it is probably almost as scarce on most of the Continent as it is with us.

The Small Elephant (Metopsilus (Chærocampa) porcellus).

The fore wings of this hawk-moth are ochreous with a faint olive tinge; the front margin is edged and blotched with pinkish, and there is a broad but irregular band of the same colour on the outer margin. Hind wings blackish on upper margin, pinkish on outer margin, and ochreous tinged with olive between; fringes chequered whitish, sometimes tinged with pink. Head, thorax, and body pinkish, more or less variegated with olive; the thorax has a patch of white hairs above the base of the wings (Plate 19, Figs. 3, 4).

In most specimens there are at least traces of two cross-lines in the fore wings, the space between these is sometimes brownish olive; the outer border of the hind wings varies in tint, and may be purplish. Occasionally the ground colour of the fore wings is greenish olive.

A hybrid, resulting from a pairing between Chærocampa elpenor and Metopsilus porcellus has been named elpenorcellus (Staud).

The egg is a rich full green and rather glossy; it is laid in June on yellow bedstraw and other kinds of Galium.

A full-grown caterpillar will measure quite two inches in length, and in general appearance is not unlike that of the next species. It is, however, greyish brown in colour, merging into yellowish brown on the front rings. The head is greyer than the body; the usual Sphingid horn is absent, and in its place there is a double wart. When quite young the caterpillar is pale greyish green with blackish bristles, and the head and under surface are yellowish.

Moths of the British Isles Plate018.jpg


Pl. 18.
Small Elephant Hawk-moth.
Eggs, natural size and enlarged; caterpillar and chrysalis.

Moths of the British Isles Plate019.jpg


Pl. 19.
1, 2. Elephant Hawk-moth.
3, 4. Small Elephant Hawk-moth.

[ 49 ] It feeds, at night, in August and September, on bedstraw growing in dry places. It will eat almost any sort of Galium; also willow herb (Epilobium), and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

The chrysalis is pale ochreous brown sprinkled with darker brown; the wing cases and the ring divisions are also darker. The body rings are furnished with reddish hooks. It is enclosed in a cocoon similar to that of the Elephant, and usually is on the ground. The early stages are figured in Plate 18.

The moth, which chiefly affects drier localities than the next species, is on the wing in May and June in the south of England, and June and July in the north. It has a weakness for the flowers of honeysuckle, and spur-valerian (Centranthus), but will take toll in the way of sweets wherever found, even from the sugar patches of the nocturnal collector. Except that it does not appear frequently in the Midlands, the species seems to be widely distributed throughout the country. In Scotland its range extends to Perthshire and Aberdeen; and in Ireland it is found all over the island, and is fairly plentiful in some localities, but especially attached to the coast.

Abroad, its distribution covers nearly the whole of Europe, and eastward to north-eastern Asia Minor, Bithynia, and the Altai.

The Elephant (Chærocampa (Eumorpha) elpenor).

The fore wings are olive brown with two pinkish lines, both shaded with dark olive brown; the first is rather broader than the second, and terminates just above the centre of the wing and near a white dot; the second line runs from the white inner margin to the tip of the wing, and the area beyond it is flushed with pinkish; there is a black mark at the base of the wings and the fringes are pinkish. The hind wings are black on the [ 50 ] basal half and pinkish on the outer half; fringes white. The head, thorax, and body are olive brown marked with pinkish, the thorax being additionally ornamented with white on the sides. The moth is shown on Plate 19, and the early stages on Plate 17.

The eggs are whitish-green in colour and rather glossy. Those I had were laid in June on a leaf of willow herb (Epilobium).

When newly hatched the caterpillar is yellowish white, and paler between the rings; the head is tinged with greenish, and the horn is black. The full-grown caterpillar measures nearly three inches in length, and is rather plump. It is blackish or brownish grey, thickly sprinkled with black dots on the back and more sparingly on the sides; the spiracles are ochreous ringed with blackish, and below them is an ochreous line, which is most distinct on the front rings; on each side of the third to fifth rings there is a round black spot, the second and third pairs enclosing black centred whitish lunules which are sometimes tinged with pink or yellow; the horn is much of the same colour as the body. There is a green form of this caterpillar.

It feeds, chiefly, at night, in July and August, on Epilobium hirsutum and on bedstraw especially the kind (G. palustre), growing by the side of brooks and streams. The chrysalis is palish brown freckled with darker brown, the divisions between the rings and the spiked tail appearing blackish; enclosed in a cocoon formed of earth and sundry fragments of stalks, leaves, etc., spun together with silk and generally on the ground, but sometimes just under the surface.

The moth is on the wing in June, and very occasionally there is a late summer emergence. It does not fly until dusk, and may then be seen hovering over the blossoms of honeysuckle, etc. It is also known to be attracted now and then to "sugared" trees. The best plan, however, for obtaining a few fine specimens [ 51 ] is to rear them from eggs or caterpillars. The latter are said to come up to sun themselves about four o'clock in the afternoon, but they may be found at any time in their season, and in likely spots, by turning back the herbage and looking for them in their hiding-places. When in repose the head and front rings are drawn inwards, and this distends the eyed rings, thus bringing these into prominence and giving the creature a rather wicked look, from which the uninitiated would be likely to retreat. The caterpillar, however, is quite harmless, and may be handled with impunity.

Although somewhat scarce in the more northern counties, this is a pretty common species throughout most of England and Wales. Its range extends into Scotland as far as Dumbarton, and, according to Barrett, along the east coast to Aberdeen. Kane states that in Ireland it is met with everywhere and is abundant in some localities. Distributed over Europe, except the more northern parts, and extending through Asia to Japan.

The Humming-bird Hawk-moth (Macroglossa stellatarum).

The brown fore wings with black cross lines, and the brownish bordered orange hind wings, at once separate this from any other hawk-moth occurring in our islands. Its greenish eggs are laid on bedstraw, and in July and August the caterpillars may be found on the same kind of plant. They are greenish or brownish covered with white dots; a whitish line runs along each side of the back and a yellowish one lower down on the sides; the spiracles are blackish, and the horn bluish shading into yellow at the tip. The yellow-flowering bedstraw (Galium verum) seems to be the kind upon which the caterpillar is most often found, but it also occurs on the hedge bedstraw (G. mollugo). It has been known to eat wild madder (Rubia peregrina), and is [ 52 ] stated to thrive in confinement on goose-grass or cleavers (G. aparine). When full grown a loosely woven cocoon is formed on the ground beneath the food plant, or other herbage, and therein the caterpillar changes to an ochreous grey or brownish chrysalis. This is marked with darker brown on the wing covers and around the spiracles; the "tongue" case forms a small beak-like projection.

Like the Bee Hawks, referred to presently, the moth is a day flyer, and delights in the sunshine, although it has been several times seen on the wing quite late in the evening, and has also been observed hovering in front of flowers and probing them with its long "tongue" even in the pouring rain. Blossoms of very many plants, both wild and cultivated, seem to receive its attention, but it is perhaps most partial to those of the jasmine where available. In the south of Europe the species is generally abundant throughout the year; but there would seem to be at least two distinct broods, one appearing in June, and the other in October. Possibly there may be an intermediate brood in August, as the period from egg to moth is known to be less than two months. In the British Isles, so far as one can gather from the records, caterpillars have only been found in July and August. Single specimens of the moth have been seen in the earliest months of the year, as for example, January 31, 1898 (Bath), January 3, 1899 (S. Wales), February 2, 1900 (London); it has also been observed several times in December. These facts and others connected with this species in Britain certainly lend colour to the oft-repeated statement that the moth hibernates in this country. The insect is known to enter houses, and to examine holes and cracks in walls, dry banks, etc., in the autumn. Mr. J. P. Barrett, in a note, written in November or December, 1900, states that six or seven moths came into his house at Margate in October, and that one was still hidden in his bedroom. However, if it be granted that the moth does hibernate here, the instances are so rare and isolated that, unless such specimens are impregnated females, the chances of these reproducing their kind the following year are not great. We have, therefore, to fall back upon immigration as the probable source of the Humming-Bird Hawk-moth in Britain. Except the more northern portion, this species is distributed over the whole of the Palæarctic region, including India, China, Corea, and Japan.

Moths of the British Isles Plate020.jpg


Pl. 20.
1. Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth: caterpillar.
2, 2a. Broad-bordered Bee Hawk: caterpillar and chrysalis.

Moths of the British Isles Plate021.jpg


Pl. 21.
1. Humming-bird Hawk-moth.
2. Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, male; 3 female.
4. Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, male; 5 female.
[ 53 ]

The Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (Hemaris fuciformis).

We have but two kinds of Bee Hawk-moths in our islands, and the present species (Plate 21, Figs. 2, 3) is easily recognized by the broad reddish brown borders of the wings and especially those on the front pair, which also have a black bar at the end of the cell. When freshly emerged the wings are not clear and transparent, but covered with greenish-grey scales, which are so loosely attached that they are lost after the moth's first flight.

The egg is bright green, and is laid on the underside of a leaf of honeysuckle. When very young the caterpillar is yellowish white, but when full grown (Plate 20, Fig. 2) it is whitish green on the back, green on the sides, and reddish brown beneath. Along the middle of the back there is a darker, much interrupted, green line and a yellow line on each side of it; the spiracles are reddish, the head is dark green, and the horn reddish brown merging into violet at the base, and brown at the tip. Sometimes there are blotches of reddish brown on the sides. When quite mature and ready to assume the chrysalis stage the caterpillar changes in colour to purplish brown. At all times it is difficult to detect, as its colour and markings agree so well with the stems, stalks, and leaves of the food plant. If a leaf of honeysuckle having round holes on each side of the midrib be noticed, examination of the underside of that leaf may reveal a young caterpillar of this species. [ 54 ]

The common honeysuckle, or woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum) is the usual food, but in confinement the caterpillars will eat the foliage of the cultivated kinds of Lonicera, and, it is stated, even snowberry (Symphoricarpus racemosus). In rearing it will, however, be safer to supply them with the ordinary food wherever this is to be obtained. July and August are the months in which to look for them. The chrysalis is blackish brown, the skin is rather roughened, and the ring divisions are paler brown. It is protected by a silken cocoon, the interior of which is smooth, and the exterior coated with earth, etc.

From mid-May to mid-June in average years, the moth is on the wing. The blossoms of the rhododendron are its favourite attraction, and the best time to see it at these flowers is on a nice sunny morning between ten o'clock and midday. The flowers of the bugle (Ajuga reptans) growing in meadows, wood-ridings, on railway banks or hedgerows, are hardly less attractive, but these are less easily worked than the higher shrubs. The collector has simply to stand before the latter and await the arrival of the active Bee Hawks. Among other flowers that this moth has been observed to visit are those of its own food plant; ragged robins (Lychnis flos-cuculi), ground ivy (Nepeta glechoma), and also blue-bell and primrose.

The species is widely distributed and locally common throughout England, but its northern range does not extend apparently beyond Yorkshire. According to Kane it is absent from Ireland; and the reports of odd specimens from Scotland are probably erroneous. Its distribution abroad extends over Europe, except the most northern parts, a large portion of northern and central Asia, and southwards to North Africa.

Moses Harris, it may be mentioned, figured this moth in 1775 as "The Clear-winged Humming-bird Sphinx." [ 55 ]

The Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth (Hemaris tityus).

This moth (Plate 21, Figs. 4, 5) has long been known as "bombyliformis" and was so mentioned by Haworth in 1802, but for some years past there has been a growing tendency to discard the name altogether, and as most recent authors follow Kirby's identification of this species as the tityus of Linnæus, that name is here adopted.

The chief characters separating this moth from the preceding are the narrow blackish borders of the wings and the absence of the black mark at the end of the cell of fore wings. It has been suggested that the female deposits its green oval eggs on the undersides of the leaves of devil's-bit scabious (Scabiosa succisa) whilst on the wing, but as she will lay freely in a box it is most probable that she settles on the plants when engaged in egg laying.

The caterpillar (Plate 20, Fig. 1) is green, roughened with white points, from which tiny hairs arise; the green colour varies in tint from whitish to bluish; the lines along each side of the back are yellowish, and often have purplish red spots, or patches, upon them; the spiracles are set in purplish red patches, and the roughened reddish-brown horn is finely pointed. The under side is traversed by a purplish-red stripe. There is some modification in the reddish markings, both as regards number and intensity; these are well developed in the specimen from the New Forest figured on Plate 20. The caterpillars may be found in June and July on the under sides of the lower leaves of the scabious, and as they eat holes in the leaves these marks should afford a clue to their whereabouts.

A few days before changing to a dark brown chrysalis, which is enclosed in a coarse and very loosely constructed cocoon, the caterpillar assumes a reddish colour.

This moth, which much resembles a large humble bee, is on [ 56 ] the wing from about the middle of May to the middle of June. It should be looked for in places where its food plant flourishes, such as rough fields adjoining woods, woodland glades, marshy heaths, fens, bogs, etc. It visits the blossoms of various low growing plants, among which the louseworts (Pedicularis palustris and P. sylvatica) and the bugle (Ajuga reptans) are perhaps favourites. In some localities the blossoms of the rhododendron and of the bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) are very attractive. When seen hovering over the flowers it must be approached cautiously, as, although seemingly fully engrossed in the business in hand, it is quickly alarmed and its movements are rapid.

It occurs throughout the greater part of England and Wales and northwards to Sutherlandshire in Scotland. In Ireland it is abundant in many localities.

Distributed over Europe its range extends northwards to Lapland, southwards to north-west Africa, and eastward to Amurland.