Location: Akrotiri, Crete, Greece
October 24, 2010 12:06 pm
I spotted this caterpiller on October 20th near Souda harbor on the Greek island of Crete. Can you help me identify?
We had to do a bit of creative information extrapolation in order to arrive at our assumption that this is a subspecies of the Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles tithymali cretica. We were confident that we had the genus correct, so we did a websearch of possibilities from Crete and we found the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic page for Hyles tithymali cretica, but alas, there was no image of the caterpillar. We did find images of the caterpillar of another subspecies of the Barbary Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles tithymali tithymali, a subspecies from the Canary Islands, also on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic website, and they look like your individual. We learned on Wikipedia that: “It is thought that Hyles tithymali had a much larger range in Europe, but has been pushed further south after the cooling ca. 3600 years ago. Its place has been taken over by Hyles euphorbiae, which is more resistant to the cold. Because of this, many isolated populations exist today, many of which have developed to distinct subspecies.” To further complicate matters, the caterpillar of the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae, which may be viewed on the Sphingidae of the Americas website, looks nearly identical. That Eurasian species has been introduced into North America to help control the spread of the invasive exotic plant, Leafy Spurge, and the Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth is now established in North America, but it prefers a cooler climate. The Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, which is also pictured on the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic Website, has several subspecies as well.
Thank you for the speedy reply! I appreciate your assistance.
All the best,