What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Mediterranean Spurge Hawk Moth Hyles nicaea
Location: From Southern Europe to Central Asia
July 4, 2016 4:23 am
Dear Daniel,
today I’d like to contribute another interesting hawkmoth caterpillar by a slightly older drawing – that of the Mediterranean Spurge Hawkmoth (Hyles nicaea) from southern Europe; though not from the New World, the asian and european species of the genus Hyles probably represent a relatively young neotropic branch of the Macroglossinae subfamily with a miocene transition to the Old World. A few amazing parallels in coloration and behaviour of these species can be noticed – to those of the Dilophonotini from the other continent; the striking colour pattern, physiognomy and habitus make them look very similar to members of the Pseudosphinx and Isognathus kinds (though they are officially not directly connected to them!) – and indeed many of them feed on very poisonous plants, making themselves unpalatable for most birds and other animals. And then, they also show a tendency for some gregarious behaviour in their younger instars… a very unusual characteristic for Old World Sphingidae. — Hyles nicaea is a quite big animal (compared with H. euphorbiae and other members), but its larvae live on poisonous Euphorbiaceae as well; their colour pattern could be associated with that of the orca-whale. The species’ living area is highly split into different biogeographical regions – making it difficult to define their real requirements on climate and landscape… and presenting quite some puzzles; they can be found along mediterranean coasts, or in high altitudes above 2000 m. I could occasionally observe them in the Karst area along the northern Adriatic coast. They pupate under stones or in other shelter, within a few provisional silk files. — Only a few information can be found on larvae of the New World – species (eg. H. annei, H. calida, H. wilsoni), and I didn’t see any picture of their caterpillars so far.
Many Thanks and Wishes for the great site, and a nice Independence day!
Signature: Bostjan Dvorak

Hornworm:  Hyles nicaea

Hornworm: Hyles nicaea

Dear Bostjan,
Thank you so much for allowing us to publish your latest drawing.  The information you provided is so interesting considering that a North American species,
Hyles lineata, has an edible caterpillar that appears in such large numbers in southwestern desert habitats that Native Americans used them for their highly nutritious qualities.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Southern Europe

2 Responses to Hornworm: Hyles nicaea

  1. Bostjan Dvorak says:

    Thank You so much for Your kind answer and information, Daniel. Indeed, Hyles lineata, as well as the closely related H. livornica from the Old World and H. livornicoides from Australia, are quite different from the rest of the tribe Hyles; their larvae mostly feed on non-poisonous plants, and they are highly polyphagous – and all the three members are migrating species… It is fascinating to get the information that these caterpillars can even serve as food for people!! So far I knew about some Saturniidae (Gynanisa, Athletes, Gonimbrasia) and a few Sphingidae (eg. a Nephele-species) from Africa, that they are regularly eaten, and an important source of food. Some Saturniidae species are eaten in the Oriental region as well.

    • bugman says:

      Hi Bostjan,
      Lest we get into an endless cycle of thanking, we want to thank you for all your wonderful contributions through the years.

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