Privet Hawkmoth

With another cold night predicted I nearly didn’t set the trap yesterday evening, but I decided to put it on anyway. As is often the case it brought me a wonderful surprise come the morning in the shape of my first ever self-caught Privet Hawkmoth.

This isn’t an uncommon moth, and I’ve seen one caught by someone else, but somehow it has evaded my trap in the past. Measuring about 2.5 inches long it has beauty and beast rolled into one, with a jet black head and beautiful white antennae – feathered here which I’m assuming means it’s a male.

Although this is impressive enough, it’s when it opens its wings that you really appreciate the beauty, revealing pink and black stripes on body and hind-wings.

What a fabulous moth. Surely one of the most impressive UK moths of all … and, as a short coda, up for a fight too. When I’d laid it back in the herb bed by the trap it flipped itself down onto the ground where a male blackbird decided to have a go at it! In defence the moth spreads its wings and ‘flips’ forward so that it appears to be rearing up, stripes and all. This is a common defense among the Sphingidae (Hawkmoths) as well as with other moths at this time of year including the Notodontidae such as the Prominents. In this case it was enough for the blackbird to back off; 1 – 0 to the moths!

Elsewhere, on Saturday I took a new pheromone lure up to the coastpath above the house to look for Thrift Clearwing. There’s a lovely patch of thrift up there, and more, smaller patches heading up the path beyond it too. Unfortunately, after 45 mins or so there were still no males around so I’m assuming that there are none about at the moment – quite probably at all. I’ll try again in a couple of week’s time. For info, there’s a picture here.

Thrift Clearwing is pretty much restricted to the far west and south of England and Wales, with a few Irish records too. The latest Atlas of macro moths (Randle et al, 2020) suggests that Devon records are restricted to the south and west of Exeter, down the coast of the South Hams and into Cornwall. I was therefore keen to see if there were any in this area, further East than the Atlas records them, but they are hard to come by and no luck so far.

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Budleigh Salterton resident; keen birder; moth-er.

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