Sphingidae : Sphinginae
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Pine Hawk-moth
Sphinx pinastri

(Linnaeus, 1758) 1978 / 69.007
=Hyloicus pinastri
Photo © Terry Box, Aug 2019,  SE4571Brafferton, VC62

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Yorkshire Status: Local resident.

The 2020 ramblings (below) during lockdown document the spread of this species into Yorkshire, and the situation remains the same since then. It can't quite make up its mind whether it is going to colonise the county any further and the distribution map remains unchanged, though numbers in the last few years have been very healthy. The situation at the time obviously reminded me of Boris dithering over Covid!

Sutton & Beaumont, 1989: Not recorded since Porritt (1904). A single specimen was taken in a garden at Linthorpe, Middlesbrough (VC62) in 1900. It may well have come in by ship from the south of the country or the continent.

2020 (CHF): Pine Hawk-moth can't quite decide what to do. It's not sure whether it's invading us or not. It's a bit of a ditherer. It's prone to make U-turns. It seems to wait and see what other moths are doing before it makes its mind up. Does it remind you of anyone?

Early records of this species, once known by the rather splendid name of the Fir-tree Arrow-tailed-moth are controversial to say the least. Our new Atlas has a single old dot in Scotland, but there are in fact several unconfirmed old Scottish 19th century records. Old writers considered these to be errors or fraud. Many thought they were deliberate introductions or accidental on imported trees or aboard ships. Whether it was ever resident is a very debatable point and Stainton said in 1857 that it was "by many doubted as a British species". Records kept on coming however, often on the east coast of England. We even had one in Yorkshire - Porritt writes "Mr T. Ashton Lofthouse informs me that a specimen was taken in a garden at Linthorpe, Middlesbrough in the summer of 1900. He has seen the specimen". Sutton and Beaumont comment on this record that "it may well have come in by ship from the south of the country or the continent". In the late 19th century for a while, it was resident and locally common in Suffolk. Argument again raged as to whether it had been present all along or locally reared and released. Numbers however dwindled after 1907 and it virtually disappeared from Suffolk. There were also sightings in Dorset, mostly in the Poole area, and in the 1920s it became more common here. In the 1930s it finally decided it was time to seek pastures new, and the Dorset moths spread gradually north and east, so that by 1960, there were records in many areas to the south and east of a line drawn from Dorset to the Wash. So, it seems likely that all the current moths stem from Dorset stock. I wonder if this was genetic mutation enabling easier colonisation or whether climatic change was the reason. Curiously it has not managed to spread much further west, and some say the current maps reflect lower rainfall where the moth now occurs.

Progress was slow. Our first record was unsurprisingly at Spurn in 1992. There were no more until 1995 but since then we have had records every year. In 2005 there was a major push forward and there were three records in my area near Ripon. I looked forward to seeing it regularly but it contracted back. It moved forward again in 2010 but again contracted back to the south east of the county. Dithering yet again. Since another trough in 2017, records have increased substantially. In 2020 we had 63 records of 96 moths from 37 sites, 12 of them new locations. There is just the hint of some movement at the borders of the range. What will happen next? Is this a false dawn or the start of some further proper "Dorset style" movement Will we see a further U-turn or will we get a proper "road map" to enable proper colonisation of the county? What is the mothing equivalent of the 1922 committee urging it to do?

The food plant is of course Scots Pine, though it will occasionally use other conifers. It doesn't need old gnarly ones, as it will also use younger trees. My own 30-year-old Scots Pines are ready and waiting but so far have had no visitors [Hutton Conyers, VC65].

For those wanting to know more about the past history of this enigmatic species, there is a fabulous article by Colin Pratt written in 2002. Ent. Rec. 114: 235-268.

Recorded in 74 (37%) of 200 10k Squares.
First Recorded in 1900.
Last Recorded in 2023.
Additional Stats

< Privet Hawk-moth  |  Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth >
Forewing: 35-41mm
Flight: May - August
Foodplant:   Scots Pine, Corsican Pine, Norway Spruce
Red List Status: Least Concern (LC)
GB Status: Common
Verification Grade:  Adult: 1
List Species Records   [Show All Latest]
Latest 5 Records
Date#VC10k Area
09/09/2023161SE63 - Selby
19/08/2023261SE64 - Wheldrake
11/08/2023161SE94 - Middleton-on-the-Wolds
10/08/2023163SE51 - Askern
09/08/2023362SE66 - Strensall
  Immature   Adult   [Show Flight Weeks]
Show Details | 1990 to 2023 | 2000 to 2023 | Graph Key
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