Bedstraw Hawk Moth Facts: A Fascinating Guide for Curious Minds

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The Bedstraw Hawk Moth, scientifically known as Hyles gallii, is a fascinating creature that belongs to the Kingdom Animalia and the Genus Hyles. These moths are known for their distinct appearance and unique behaviors that draw the interest of researchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

One striking feature of the Bedstraw Hawk Moth is its ability to maintain relatively high body temperatures for flight by shivering. In fact, they can often maintain temperatures around 40 degrees Centigrade on cool nights, allowing them to fly in various conditions. Additionally, their wings are covered with long tapering scales that resemble fur, which helps trap air and keep them warm during their nightly activities.

Some hawk moth species, such as the Spurge Hawk Moth and Hummingbird Moth, are common visitors to gardens in various regions. For instance, the Hummingbird Moth, also known as Hemaris thysbe, is smaller than its counterpart and is frequently found in Michigan gardens, hovering at flowers while sipping nectar during daylight hours.

Bedstraw Hawk Moth Overview

Hyles Gallii Species

The Bedstraw Hawk Moth, also known as the Hyles gallii, is a large moth species. Some of its distinguishing features are:

  • Long, pointed abdomen
  • Long forewings with pointed or irregular margins
  • Antennae that widen and then narrow again towards the tip

These moths are often found hovering near flowers, where they feed on nectar using their long proboscis, also known as a “tongue” or “mouth tube.”

Sphingidae Family

Bedstraw Hawk Moths belong to the Sphingidae family, also known as Hawk Moths or Sphinx Moths. Members of this family share some common characteristics:

  • Large and heavy-bodied moths
  • Long, pointed abdomens
  • High body temperatures for flying on cool nights
Feature Hyles Gallii Sphingidae Family
Size Large Large and heavy-bodied
Abdomen Long, pointed Long, pointed
Feeding mechanism Long proboscis Long proboscis
Preferred environment Near flowers Near flowers
Body temperature N/A High for cool night flights

In conclusion, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth is an interesting species with unique features, belonging to the Sphingidae family, which includes other large Hawk Moths and Sphinx Moths. With their impressive size and fascinating feeding habits, these moths continue to captivate researchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Physical Characteristics


The Bedstraw Hawk Moth, also known as Galium Sphinx or Hyles gallii, has a significant wingspan size. In general, the size of the wingspan varies among individuals:

  • Males: 60-70 mm
  • Females: 70-90 mm


Bedstraw Hawk Moth has unique wings, which play a major role in their appearance and flight abilities. Their wings have the following characteristics:

  • Shape: Like many other hawk moths, their wings are relatively long and narrow.
  • Color: The overall color of the wings is usually a mix of brown, gray, and green hues.

Yellow Spots

A key feature of the Bedstraw Hawk Moth is the presence of yellow spots on its body. Here is some essential information about them:

  • Location: The yellow spots are found on the abdominal area or the hindwings.
  • Purpose: These spots serve as a form of camouflage or even mimicry to deter predators.

Forewings and Hindwings

There are differences between the forewings and hindwings of the Bedstraw Hawk Moth, which include:

  • Forewings: Usually darker in color with a more uniform pattern.
  • Hindwings: Lighter in color, sporting the distinctive yellow spots and usually hidden when the moth is at rest.


The eyes of the Bedstraw Hawk Moth play a crucial role in their ability to navigate at night. They have:

  • Large, round eyes: This feature enables them to maximize light intake and to have better vision in low-light conditions.
  • Brightness sensitivity: Their eyes are highly sensitive to brightness, which helps them maneuver during nighttime activities.

In conclusion, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth has unique physical characteristics that make it a fascinating species to study. Its wingspan, wings, yellow spots, forewings and hindwings, and eyes all contribute to its incredible appearance and adaptation to its environment.

Life Cycle


The life cycle of the Bedstraw Hawk Moth (Gallium Sphinx) begins with the eggs. These eggs are tiny and typically laid either singly or in small groups on the leaves of their host plants. Some common host plants for the Bedstraw Hawk Moth include:

  • Bedstraw (Galium)
  • Willowherb (Epilobium)


Once the eggs hatch, the larvae, or caterpillars, emerge. These caterpillars have several distinct stages of growth, called instars, with each stage having a specific appearance. During their larval stage, Bedstraw Hawk Moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of their host plants to grow and develop.

As the caterpillars mature, they may display one of two different color forms:

  • Green
  • Brown


After the caterpillars have reached full growth, they enter the pupa stage. During this stage, they transform into a chrysalis, which is a protective casing that encloses them while they undergo metamorphosis. The pupa stage is typically spent in the soil or under leaf litter, providing camouflage from predators.


Once the metamorphosis is complete, the adult Bedstraw Hawk Moths emerge from their pupae. Adult moths have a few notable features:

  • Long, pointed forewings
  • Large, heavy bodies
  • Long proboscis (mouth tube) for feeding on nectar

Some common predators of Bedstraw Hawk Moths in their various life stages include:

  • Bats
  • Birds
  • Wasps
  • Spiders
  • Shrews

Adult moths are important pollinators, as they feed on nectar from flowers, aiding in the process of pollination.

Distribution and Habitat

Europe and North America

Bedstraw Hawk Moths (Hyles gallii) have a widespread distribution, spanning across Europe, North America, and Asia. In Europe, they can be found from the Arctic Circle down to the Mediterranean, while in North America, their range extends from Alaska to Quebec.

Asia and Africa

In Asia, their distribution stretches from Japan and Central Asia to parts of western Africa. These moths prefer warm forest edges, sandy heaths, and calcareous places where they can find an abundance of flowering plants during dusk and night.

Forest Edges and Sandy Heath

Some typical habitats for Bedstraw Hawk Moths include:

  • Warm forest edges
  • Sandy heathlands
  • Open areas near sea level

These habitats provide plenty of flowers for the moths to feed on, such as catchweed bedstraw, which can be found in shady, moist conditions.

Plantations and Calcareous Places

In addition to forest edges and sandy heaths, Bedstraw Hawk Moths can also be found in:

  • Plantations
  • Calcareous environments

These environments offer a diverse range of flowers and plants for the moths to feed on.

Comparison of Bedstraw Hawk Moth Habitats:

Habitat Environment Example Locations
Forest edges Warm, open areas with abundant flora Europe, North America, Asia
Sandy heaths Open sandy areas with heathland vegetation Central Asia, Japan
Plantations Human-created habitats with diverse plant life Europe, North America
Calcareous places Habitats rich in calcium carbonate soils Mediterranean, parts of western Africa

Overall, the Bedstraw Hawk Moth can adapt to a variety of habitats, making it a versatile and widespread insect species.

Diet and Host Plants

Feeding Habits

The Bedstraw Hawk Moth (Hyles gallii) is a species of Sphingidae, known for its beautiful appearance and fascinating feeding habits. These moths primarily feed on nectar from various plant species. As caterpillars, they consume the leaves of host plants, which can include various species within the Galium, Fuchsia, and others.

Galium and Fuchsia

Two primary host plants for the Bedstraw Hawk Moth caterpillars are the Galium (bedstraws) and Fuchsia plant species. For example, they may feed on:

  • Galium verum (yellow bedstraw)
  • Galium mollugo (white bedstraw)
  • Fuchsia species

These plants provide essential nutrients to the developing caterpillars, allowing them to grow and eventually transform into adult moths.

Other Plant Species

In addition to Galium and Fuchsia, Bedstraw Hawk Moth caterpillars can also feed on a variety of other plant species, such as:

  • Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium)
  • Madders (Rubia spp.)
  • Clarkia (Clarkia spp.)
  • Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea spp.)
  • Plantago major (Broadleaf plantain)

Here is a comparison table of some host plants:

Host Plant Plant Family Caterpillar Preference
Galium verum Rubiaceae High
Galium mollugo Rubiaceae High
Fuchsia Onagraceae High
Rosebay Willowherb Onagraceae Moderate
Clarkia Onagraceae Moderate
Circaea Onagraceae Moderate
Plantago major Plantaginaceae Low

Understanding the diet and host plants of Bedstraw Hawk Moths is essential for conservation efforts and helps gardeners create an optimal environment for these fascinating creatures.

Behavior and Flight Period

Daily Activity Patterns

Bedstraw hawk-moths (Gallium Sphinx) are most active during summer months such as June, July, and August. These moths are known to be crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dusk and dawn. They exhibit a hummingbird-like behavior, using their long proboscis to feed on nectar from flowers.

Seasonal Flight Patterns

During the summer season, Bedstraw hawk-moths have a specific flight period that generally lasts from June to September. This flight period can be divided into two generations:

  • First generation: June to July
  • Second generation: August to September

These generations are essential for the moth’s life cycle, as they involve the laying of eggs and the development of larvae. The larvae feed on bedstraw plants, which is how they receive their name.

Table: Bedstraw Hawk-Moth Seasonal Flight Pattern

Generation Flight Period
First June – July
Second August – September

Bedstraw Hawk-Moth features:

  • Crepuscular activity pattern
  • Hummingbird-like behavior
  • Long proboscis for feeding on nectar
  • Two distinct generations during the summer season
  • Larvae feed on bedstraw plants

In comparison, hummingbird moths are similar in appearance and behavior to Bedstraw hawk-moths, as they both hover while feeding on flower nectar and exhibit a rich reddish brown color. However, hummingbird moths have shorter tail ends that open up into a fan, distinguishing them from Bedstraw hawk-moths.

Conservation Status and Distribution

UK and Europe

The Bedstraw Hawk Moth (Hyles gallii) is considered an uncommon species in the UK, where it primarily lives in open grasslands, sand dunes, and heathlands. Throughout Europe, it has been recorded in various countries, with a significant presence in Scandinavia and East Europe.

North America and Asia

In North America, Bedstraw Hawk Moths have been observed but are not as frequently found as in Europe. Distribution stretches from Siberia through Asia to Japan, demonstrating this moth’s adaptability to different habitats.

Conservation Efforts

Given its status as an uncommon species, conservationists are taking measures to preserve Bedstraw Hawk Moth populations. Some examples of these efforts include:

  • Monitoring populations in the UK through the Lepidoptera Recording Scheme
  • Habitat preservation in areas where the moth is commonly found
  • Raising awareness about this species and engaging in public education campaigns

Comparisons of Bedstraw Hawk Moth distribution:

Region Status Habitat
UK and Europe Uncommon Grasslands, sand dunes, heathlands
North America Rarely found Various regions, less common
Asia Widespread, adaptable Broad range of habitats

Notable features of the Bedstraw Hawk Moth:

  • Red horn on the caterpillar’s tail
  • Uncommon in the UK, considered a conservation concern
  • Strong, adaptable species found throughout the world

Species Within the Hyles Genus

Hyles Dahlii

  • Known as the Dahli’s hawkmoth
  • Native to southern Europe and Asia Minor

Hyles dahlii is a moth species that belongs to the Hyles genus. It is predominantly found in southern Europe and Asia Minor.

Hyles Euphorbiae

The Hyles euphorbiae species mainly focuses on the leafy spurge plant as its primary food source. This moth is often utilized as a biological control agent to manage the invasive leafy spurge.

Hyles Livornica

  • Also called the striped hawkmoth
  • Distribution includes Europe, Africa, and Asia

Hyles Livornica, or striped hawkmoth, is recognized by its distinctive appearance of a brownish-gray forewing with several white streaks. Its range spans across Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Hyles Nicaea

  • Endemic to southern Europe and the Middle East
  • Caterpillars feed on bedstraw plants

The Hyles nicaea species is native to southern Europe and the Middle East. Its caterpillars mainly feed on bedstraw plants found in their native habitat.

Hyles Tithymali

  • Found in North Africa, Canary Islands, and southern Europe
  • Prefers Euphorbia plants as a food source

The Hyles tithymali moth is predominantly present in North Africa, the Canary Islands, and southern Europe. Its caterpillars preferentially feed on various Euphorbia plants in their environment.

Species Primary Food Source Distribution
Hyles Dahlii N/A Southern Europe, Asia Minor
Hyles Euphorbiae Leafy spurge Europe, Africa, Asia
Hyles Livornica N/A Europe, Africa, Asia
Hyles Nicaea Bedstraw plants Southern Europe, Middle East
Hyles Tithymali Euphorbia plants North Africa, Canary Islands, Europe

Further Reading and Resources

The Illustrated Natural History of British Moths

  • Written by Rottemburg
  • Covers the hawk moths found in Britain

The Illustrated Natural History of British Moths is a great resource to learn about bedstraw hawk moths and other species found in Britain.


Wikipedia provides easily accessible information on the bedstraw hawk moth, including its habitat, behavior, and life cycle.

DNA Testing and Species Identification

DNA testing plays a crucial role in identifying and differentiating moth species. Through DNA testing, researchers can discover new species, like the ones mentioned in the Florida Museum article.

Comparison Table: DNA Testing and Traditional Identification Methods

Method Pros Cons
DNA Testing Accurate identification, discovers new species More expensive, requires lab equipment
Traditional methods Less expensive, easier to access Less accurate, can miss new species

Palaearctic and Alps Region

These moths reside in a diverse range of habitats spanning the Palaearctic region, such as the Alps, demonstrating their adaptability to various environments.

Nectar as Diet

  • Bedstraw hawk moths feed on nectar

Their diet primarily consists of nectar, which is essential in maintaining their high energy levels required for their nighttime flights.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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Tags: Hawk Moth

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