Friday, 22 June 2007

Spurge Hawkmoth

Every now and again something happens in my hobbies that make it all seem worthwhile. Counting all the Heat and Darts and Large Yellow Underwings in my moth traps may eventually add the our knowledge but finding something both spectacular, new and rare is what it really is all about. I leave my moth traps over night and check them in the morning, but last night I had a quick look before I went to bed at about 12.15 a.m.

The first thing I saw was a Hawkmoth that was new to me. I put it in a container and checked what it was and then popped it in the fridge. Insects, being cold blooded survive very well in a fridge, their metabolism slows down and they stay nice and quiet. The moth turned out to be a Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae. They are quite common in southern Europe, but a rarity in the UK, Kent is one of the best counties, by virtue of its position. There were three reported in Kent between 1998 and 2003 (the latest report published) so they are quite scarce.

Sean Clancy has supplied me with this summary of its historic status in Kent:- "- there were singles at Dungeness in 1993 & 97, and one at Smeeth in 1981. Otherwise Chalmers-Hunt listed five records he regarded as reliable, most of single larvae, the most recent in 1937."

The caterpillars feed on members of the the euphorbia family (Spurges), particularly Sea Spurge, Euphorbia paralias and Cyprus Spurge, E. cyparissias, hence both the common and scientific names.

A few people are popping round the see it and then it will be released back into the wide world, but I'll have its picture as a reminder of what wonders the natural world can bring.

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