Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Adults diurnal, or crepuscular to nocturnal; relatively long-bodied (exaggeratedly so); heavily built (wingspan less than 8 times the thoracic width) (often very streamlined). The abdomen conspicuously patterned (commonly, often with conspicuous lateral or dorsolateral banding), or plain. Adults of hymenopterous appearance (the ‘Bee-hawks’), or not of hymenopterous appearance; wings in repose partially opened, or packed with the forewings directed backwards to cover hindwings and abdomen.

Antennae very short to of medium length; extending to about 0.31–0.66 times the length of the forewing; inserted fully one half the width of the head apart; clubbed to not clubbed (thickened towards or beyond the middle). The club gradual. Antennae of males simple; non-ciliate (in partial whorls). Eyes glabrous. Ocelli absent. Chaetosemata absent. Maxillary palps much reduced; 1 segmented. Labial palps ascending (thick, appressed); 3 segmented. Proboscis fully developed; not scaly.

Wingspan 41–135 mm; 6–9.5 times the thoracic width. Forewings narrow to broad; (1.75–)2.2–2.85 times as long as wide. The outer and hind margins angled at 115–130 degrees. The outer margin convexly curved to more or less straight (mostly), or sigmoid-curved (sometimes, slightly), or angulated (notably in M. tiliae); forewings apically blunt to pointed. Hindwings ovate-lanceolate to broadly rounded; quite markedly narrower than the forewings to similar in breadth to the forewings; with a pointed apex to with a rounded apex; the upper surfaces conspicuously patterned above (usually, sometimes brighter than the forewings), or plain (H. pinastri); with transverse lines, or with neither discal spot nor transverse lines (the discal mark not apparent, and conventional lines often replaced by bands and /or fasciae); without a frenulum.

Neuration of forewings and hindwings dissimilar. Forewings 11 veined (vein 9 nearly always absent); with 1 anal vein. The anal veins of the forewings representing 1b only. Forewings lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the forewings furcate proximally. The transverse vein complete. Discal cell of the forewings without a tubular media (M) vein. Hindwings 9 veined; with 2 anal veins. The anal veins of the hindwings comprising 1a and 1b. Hindwings exhibiting vein 1a; lacking a tubular vein 1c. Vein 1b of the hindwings simple. The transverse vein complete. 6 veins arising from the hindwing cell. The cell-derived hindwing veins 6+7 proximally joined (connate or stalked). Vein 8 of the hindwings joined to the cell only by a bar (this oblique, before the middle of the cell); approximating to vein 7 beyond the cell (briefly, sometimes only slightly).

Fore-legs with a tibial epiphysis. Tibiae of middle legs 2-spurred. Posterior tibiae 2-spurred (rarely), or 4-spurred.

Tympanal organs absent.

Eggs, larvae and pupae. Eggs markedly flattened to not flattened (spheroidal); smooth or minutely pitted. Larval prolegs 10. Larvae exposed feeders. On a wide range of Dicot trees, shrubs and herbs, and Hyloicus on conifers.

Pupae concealed; subterranean. Empty pupae not becoming protruded.

British representation. Genera 14 (one being adventive only); 21 species (6 adventive). Acherontia atropos (Death's-head Hawk), Agrius cingulata (adventive), Agrius convolvuli (Convolvulus Hawk), Daphnis nerii (Oleander Hawk), Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk), Deilephila porcellus (Small Elephant Hawk), Hyles euphorbiae (Spurge Hawk), Hyles galii (Bedstraw Hawk), Hyles hippophaes (adventive), Hyles lineata livornica (Striped Hawk), Hyles nicaea (Mediterranean Hawk, adventive - moth similar to H. euphorbiae, but much larger), Hemaris tityus (Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk), Hemaris fuciformis (Broad-bordered Bee Hawk), Hippotion celerio (Silver-striped Hawk), Hyloicus pinastri (Pine Hawk), Laothoë populi (Poplar Hawk), Macroglossum stellatarum (Humming-bird Hawk), Manduca sexta (Tobacco Hawk, adventive), Mimas tiliae (Lime Hawk), Proserpinus proserpina (Willow-herb Hawk, European vagrant or migrant), Smerinthus ocellata (Eyed Hawk), Sphinx drupiferarum (adventive), Sphinx ligustri (Privet Hawk).

Classification. Macromoths. Suborder Ditrysia. Superfamily Sphingoidea.

Illustrations. • Acherontia, Agrius, Sphinx: Newman 1869. • Daphnis, Hemaris, Laothoe, Macroglossum, Mimas, Smerinthus: Newman 1869. • Macroglossum stellatarum (Humming-bird Hawk-moth hovering: Giles Watson, photos). • Laothoe populi (Poplar Hawk: Giles Watson, photo). • Agrius convolvuli (Convolvulus Hawk: photo). • Deilephila elpenor and ichneumonid parasite, Amblyjoppa proteus (photos). • Proserpinus proserpina (Green Humming-bird Hawk, Willowherb Hawk): Kirby. • Deilephila, Hippotion, Hyles, : Newman 1869. • Acherontia atropos (Death's-head Hawk: B. Ent. 147). • Acherontia atropos (B. Ent. 147, legend+text). • Acherontia atropos (B. Ent. 147, text cont.). • Daphnis nerii (Orleander Hawk): B. Ent. 626. • Daphnis nerii: B. Ent. 626, legend+text. • Daphnis nerii: B. Ent. 626, text cont.. • Daphnis nerii: Hubner II, 63. • Hyles euphorbiae, H. galii, H. livornica, H. nicaea: Hubner II. • Hyles lineata (White-line Hawk-moth, American adventive): Weidemeyer, 1903. • Hyles livornica (Striped Hawk, female): Stephens I, 1828. • Hyles galii (Bedstraw Hawk, female): Stephens I, 1828. • Hyles euphorbiae: (Spurge Hawk: B. Ent. 3). • Hyles euphorbiae: B. Ent. 3, legend+text. • Hyles euphorbiae: B. Ent. 3, text 2. • Hyles euphorbiae: B. Ent. 3, text 3. • Hyles euphorbiae: B. Ent. 3, text 4. • Macroglossa stellatarum (Humming-bird Hawk): B. Ent. 747. • Macroglossa stellatarum: B. Ent. 747, legend+text. • Macroglossa stellatarum: B. Ent. 747, text cont.. • Smerinthus ocellata (Eyed Hawk: B. Ent. 482). • Smerinthus ocellata: B. Ent. 482, legend+text. • Smerinthus ocellata: B. Ent. 482, legend cont.. • Smerinthus ocellata (Eyed Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, 1790). • Smerinthus ocellata (Eyed Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Sphinx ligustri and Agrius convolvuli: Hubner II, 69. • Sphinx drupiferarum (Wild Cherry Sphinx, N. American adventive): Weidemeyer (1903). • Agrius convolvuli (Convolvulus Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, about 1807). • Agrius convolvuli (Convolvulus Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Agrius cingulata (Pink-spotted Hawk-moth, N. American adventive): Weidemeyer, 1903. • Daphnis nerii (Oleander Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, 1799). • Daphnis nerii (Oleander Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Macroglossum stellatarum (Humming-bird Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, about 1810). • Macroglossum stellatarum (Humming-bird Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Laothoe populi (Poplar Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, about 1810). • Laothoe populi (Poplar Hawk: Shaw and Nodder, text). • Hyles (Celerio) livornica (Striped Hawk), Daphnis nerii (Oleander Hawk: Kirby). • Hyles hippophaes, Hippotion celerio (Silver-striped Hawk: Kirby). Hippotion celerio. Hyles hippophaes. • Hippotion celerio (Silver-striped Hawk): Hubner II, 167. • Hippotion celerio (Silver-striped Hawk): photo. • Hyles livornica (Striped Hawk): photo. • Hyloicus pinastri (Pine Hawk), Hyles galii (Bedstraw Hawk): Kirby. • Hemaris tityus (Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk: B. Ent. 40). • Hemaris tityus: B. Ent. 40, legend+text. • Hemaris tityus: B. Ent. 40, text cont.. • Hemaris tityus (Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk), Hemaris fuciformis (Broad-bordered Bee Hawk), Macroglossum stellatarum (Humming-bird Hawk: Kirby). • Laothoe populi (Poplar Hawk), Mimas tiliae (Lime Hawk: Kirby). • Manduca sexta (Tobacco Hawk-moth or Tomato Sphinx - adventive: B. Ent. 195). • Manduca sexta (B. Ent. 195, legend+text). • Manduca sexta (B. Ent. 195, text cont.). • Manduca quinquemaculatus, M. rustica and M. sexta: N. American adventives (Weidemeyer, 1903). • Hyloicus pinastri and Acherontia atropos: Hubner II, 67. • Laothe populi, Mimas tiliae and Smerithus ocellata: Hubner II, 72. • Sphinx ligustri (Privet Hawk), Acherontia atropos (Death's Head Hawk), Agrius (Herse) convolvuli (Convolvulus Hawk: Kirby). • Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk), Deilephila porcellus (Small Elephant Hawk: Kirby). • Larva and pupa: Acherontia atropos (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae, pupae: Sphinx ligustri, Agrius convolvuli (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae, pupae: Daphnis nerii, Hyloicus pinastri (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae and pupae: Deilephila elpenor, Deilephila porcellus (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae, pupae: Hemaris fuciformis, Macroglossum stellatarum (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae, pupa: Hyles euphorbiae, Hyles hippophaes (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae and pupa: Hyles nicaea (Duponchel, 1849). • Larvae, pupae: Laothoe populi, Mimas tiliae, Smerinthus ocellatus (Duponchel, 1849). • Deilephila porcellus: neuration.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Lepidoptera. Version: 8th June 2016.’.