Monday, 16 January 2017

Moth Mondays - The Convolvulus Hawkmoth


The Convolvulus Hawkmoth
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Sphingidae
Genus: Agrius
Species: A. convolvuli
Binomial name
Agrius convolvuli

A migrant species, the Convolvulus Hawkmoth [Agrius convolvuli] le Sphinx du liseron is a very large Hawkmoth... and, as you can see above, very well camouflaged at rest!
I call it The Cloaked Alien because it has a very '90s sc-fi alien head on its thorax.

Can you see the face?
The one we caught here had slightly damaged wings... but the wing area is so big, I doubt if it harmed its ability to fly easily. According to the literature they fly extremely strongly.

This one was about 7cm head to tip of wings... seen below against a convolvulus flower... as it stood out like a sore thumb, I did not leave it there but placed it on a Crack Willow trunk... [top picture]... where it almost vanished.
The forewings are pale grey with somewhat irregular darker markings.... the hindwings are pale brown with darker horizontal stripes.... the antennae are thin in both sexes... the female's being shorter... and they have huge dark eyes.

The huge eye... this picture closer... showing spines on the front leg...
something I hadn't noticed earlier.
The top of these two pictures shows wear on the wings...
this is an old girl... I hope she laid in the meadow...
although there is little or no chance of survivors!!

The abdomen looks very similar to our more common Privet Hawkmoth with alternate brown, grey and pink horizontal stripes, not the pink and black stripes of the Privet, with a fine black line on a broader grey background, rather than a brown background.

This is the faded abdomen of an elderly Privet Hawkmoth....
to give some indication of colour of the Convolvulus abdomen...
The black line extends across all segments....
and the grey of the last two segments extends all the way either side of the black line.
A fresh Privet Hawk is much richer in colour.
Susan, of Loire Valley Nature, blogged about a Convolvulus Hawkmoth....
that they had found in 2008... the abdomen is very clearly visible.
The females are larger than the males... and, going on size and shape of the abdomen, this was the female of the species. and probably had a wingspan of around 100 to 110mm.
It has an exceptionally long tongue which can reach the bottom of some of the deepest sources of nectar in flowers like convolvulus and tobacco [Nicotinia]

There are two flight periods... May>June and mid-August > mid-October and the migration usually occurs in the second one... which ties in with this capture at the end of September. They very rarely breed this far north... and the pupae do not survive the winters.
From looking this up, I discover that the caterpillars are some of the most variable I have ever seen... both in colour and pattern!!
The caterpillars on the German site are some of the best as are the pictures.... and the latter also shows the enormous tongue on seven of the pictures pictures.

Next Monday... a... er... er.... a surprise.... I haven't decided yet!
(I've close on 200 to choose from....)

NB: The information from the other sources is now placed at the bottom of the post.
Other than Wikipedia.... and personal observations!
Moths and Butterflies of Europe and North Africa [ also known as]
A superbly illustrated site.... marvellous on the Micromoths...
but difficult to use on a tablet/iPad.... an awful lot of scrolling needed.   An excellent resource... with distribution maps

UK Moths This is quite a simple site... but nicely put together.

The German site - For really good samples of photos...
including museum specimens: to use....
Enter the Latin name and then select the Latin name from the list of pages found.
There is probably a lot more on this site... but I don't read [or speak] German!!

From the Wiki:

The Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Agrius convolvuli, is a large  hawk-moth. It is common throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, partly as a migrant.

Description and habits
The wingspan is 80–105 mm. This hawkmoth's basic coloration is in grayish tones, but the abdomen has a broad gray dorsal stripe and pink and black bands edged with white on the sides. The hindwings are light gray with darker broad crosslines.

Its favourite time is around sunset and during the twilight, when it is seen in gardens hovering over the flowers. This moth is very attracted to light, so it is often killed by cars on highways. Its caterpillars eat the leaves of the Convolvulus, hence its Latin name "convolvuli". Other recorded foodplants include a wide range of plants in the Araceae, Convolvulaceae, Leguminosae and Malvaceae families. It can be a pest of cultivated Ipomoea. It feeds on the wing and has a very long proboscis (longer than its body) that enables it to feed on long trumpet-like flowers such as Nicotiana sylvestris.

The caterpillars can be in a number of different colours. As well as brown (pictured on the Wiki page) they have been seen in bright green and black.

Similar species
A. convulvuli is unmistakable in the eastern area of distribution, in the western area of distribution it can be mistaken for Agrius cingulatus. This species, found mainly in South and Central America is repeatedly detected on the western shores of Europe. Agrius cingulatus can be distinguished on the basis of the clearly stronger pink colouring of the abdominal segments and a similarly coloured rear wing base. In addition, Agrius convolvuli forma pseudoconvolvuli [Schaufuss, 1870] has some resemblance with North American species in the genus Manduca, for instance Manduca sexta.

From UK Moths

Convolvulus Hawk-moth Agrius convolvuli
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Wingspan 80-120 mm.

A large species, with a wingspan of over 10cm, this is a migrant in Britain, appearing sometimes in fairly good numbers.

It most often occurs in late summer and autumn, usually with influxes of other migrant species, when it turns up in light traps and feeding at garden flowers, especially those of the tobacco plant (Nicotiana)

Although larvae are sometimes found in Britain, usually on bindweed (Convolvulus), it does not regularly breed.


Susan said...

One of my very favourite moths. So beautiful -- and BIG. I see the wiki says they occur in Australia. I didn't know that. I wonder if I've seen them there too. I've certainly seen something similar. Here is my blog post on the one we got on the laundry: Convolvulus Hawk Moth. The thing that really struck me was the mammal like pelt, all swirls and curls.

LaPré DelaForge said...

The actual Wiki page has a distribution map... and Australia is very clearlt shown as having these... all down the East coast...

Yes, it is odd how some species of moth are "furry"...
I wonder if it has evolved for heat conservation?
The thorax on yours is exceptionally clear...
I am going to add a link next to the Privet thorax...