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Pine Hawk Moth Andy
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Pine Hawk Moth.

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Pine Hawk Moth, mating pair.

Pine Hawk Moth Pupae.

Pine Hawk Moth (Hyloicus Pinastri)

I find Pine Hawk moths in my moth trap, unfortunately they are usually too tatty to photograph so I bought some Pine Hawks pupae from Worldwide Butterflies. I am patiently waiting to emerge for 2014 for some better pictures.  I am growing Scots pine trees in pots to rear any caterpillars if I am successful in breeding Pine Hawk moths.

Pine Hawk-moth eggs start pale green changing yellow then to a reddish-brown and the caterpillars are green with white stripes along their body from head to tail and a brown dorsal stripe down its back which is more noticeable as it matures. It also has the characteristic hawk-moth 'horn' on its tail, which is red with a black tip. The stripes on the caterpillars make it well camouflaged on pine needles from which they feed.

The moths are greyish brown with dark streaks running down the centre of their wings maybe not so attractive as the caterpillars but brilliantly camouflaged resting on a tree bark like a Pine tree. The Pine Hawk-moth usually has one generation a year in the UK and can be seen flying from May to early August.  Wings span is from 65mm to 80mm females. Food-plant Mainly Scots Pine.

"Five Pine hawk moths found resting on the side of a shed.".

When I was a young schoolboy I collected some pine hawk caterpillars found on young pine trees and reared them to adult moths. The day after my moths emerged I returned home from school on my push bike and to my shock there were five Pine Hawk moths resting on the outside of my shed wall which I thought had escaped. The location was Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, Hampshire. To an untrained eye, the moths were so well camouflaged on the dark grey concrete shed they just looked like shadows, even the local birds which were fed food on the green opposite did not see them.  I threw my bike down on the green and ran across the alleyway and collected the moths up in my hands. I then rushed into my shed and very surprised to see my moths still in their cages, so I now had more than I started with. I then realised the moths I found outside were wild males. The concrete shed had a corrugated roof so there were small half round air gaps at the top, all the males from the neighbourhood were attracted by the females and frustratingly could not find a way into the shed eventually resting on the outside during daylight hours. It was from that day that I realised how powerful a female moths scent (pheromones). A male can find a waiting female from several miles away by using its feathery antennae. The only other time I have seen so many hawk moths resting together was hummingbird Hawk moths resting in the side of my house after feeding on buddleia flowers in my garden.

So that year I had a very healthy stock of Pine Hawk moths and I learned how to attract wild male hawk moths into my garden, except you do not need cages. Something I am still doing today.

Andy Newman Images

Pine Hawk Moth, mating pair.

HAWK MOTH EATEN ALIVE INSIDE CAGE

When I go on holiday I sometimes place fertile moths into a hanging cage, which is placed over the larval food plant. These cages have drawstrings at the bottom to close around a branch; a large sleeve tied at both ends can also be used. A captured moth will still lay eggs on the netting but some will be laid on the food-plant. This time I wanted to film Pine Hawk moth eggs naturally on the pine needles. I always wondered one day a clever bird might find a moth in a cage outside, but so far I have been lucky. Well it was May 2014 I checked the Pine Hawk moth at dusk and it was ok. In the morning I checked the moth and to my horror, it was completely destroyed. Its wings had been removed and all the moth's legs missing and most of its head. The moths hairs covering its body had also been removed. My lovely pine Hawk moth looked like a twig without its bark. It was raining in the morning and there were no predators to be seen inside the cage. I could not work out what had killed it, was it a mouse, a wasp. I thought it was a bird at first but no hole in the netted cage. It was not till the afternoon when it stopped raining did I realise who the culprit was or should I say, culprits. It was to my surprise black ants, they had got in through a small hole inside the drawstring. I was impressed that they overpowered such a large healthy moth let alone to do so much damage in one night. But it does take time for a large moth to warm its flight muscles before it can fly. The ants spent the rest of the afternoon cutting open the moths body and removing the rest of the eggs inside. The ant nest was in the potting soil that my Pine tree was growing in. I broke up the soil and put down some ant powder but only worked a few days. The ants were attracted to the aphids which they milk on my pine trees. So I had to make sure all my sleeves were ant proof as I had young larvae feeding on the pine needles. I wish now I filmed the ants eating what was left of my moth, but I was too annoyed at the time. It proves how quick ants can clean up the forest floor from dead animals and insects. Reminds me of a picture I have of a dead shrew being eaten by wood ants. Clever little critters. Andy Newman Images©

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Pine Hawk moth inside netted cage.

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Pine Hawk Moth, mating pair.

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