Pine Hawk Moth (Sphinx pinastri)

Scientific Classification

Domain: Eukaryota

Kingdom: Animalia

Subkingdom: Metazoa

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Suborder: Heterocera

Family: Sphingidae

Genus: Sphinx

Species: Sphinx pinastri

Common name: Pine Hawk Moth

Description

Viewed from above (dorsal side) the wings are mottled grey to brown with a thin white and brown speckled outline. Hindwings are a little lighter than forewings. Both body and wings are covered in setae (it is not fur, it evolved separately, but is soft and has similar properties). There are three dark lines on the wing and two dark lines on the thorax.

Viewed from below (ventral side) patterning is less obvious and colouration is lighter.

Females are usually a little paler than males.

Adult wingspan from tip to tip is from 64mm to 80mm. When resting their wings are folded to form an arrow shape.

Pupae (cocoons) are segmented and green with brown banding.

Larvae (caterpillars) are green with white and cream markings, each segment has a black dot to the lower side. There is a single small horn shaped appendage protruding on top of the body towards the rear, black in colour.


Habitat and Distribution

Mixed coniferous woodland, forests and heathland with open spaces, favouring Pinus syvestris (Scots Pine), Pinus cembra (Swiss Pine) Pinus Sibirica (Siberian Pine) and Picea abies (Norway Spruce), upon which the larvae (caterpillars) feed. They also inhabit parks and gardens from dusk to dawn in search of nectar from night blooming plants.

Distribution is from North West Africa through Europe to Central Siberia and it has also been reported in Northern USA. The American and African populations are thought to possibly be separate species.


Behaviour

Sphinx pinasti adult moths are nocturnal and fly mostly at night. During the day they rest upon the bark of trees within their habitat, against which they are extremely well camouflaged. Mating pairs can often be seen resting together.

Females don't tend to fly until mated. Copulation takes place during the day and pairs can remain attached until dusk. Males then fly off to feed and possibly breed again whilst females begin to lay their eggs. A favourite flower for adult moths to feed upon is Lonicera (Honeysuckle) but they are attracted to most fragrant flowers. Larvae feed on mature pine needles.


Lifecycle

Eggs are laid between late April through to June. Larvae (caterpillars) can been seen from June to early October.

Once fully fed, mature larvae pupate on the ground, often in the shelter of leaf litter. They overwinter as chrysalides. Adult butterflies emerge from May to August.