GB: Dogbane Hawkmoth, RU: Kendyrnyi BrazhnikCelerio hippophaes chamyla Denso, 1913, Dt. ent. Z. Iris 27: 37--39.
Type locality: Chamyl [Hami/Kumul], western Gobi [eastern Tian Shan, Xinjiang Province, China].
(Taxonomic note. Subspecies apocyni is not tenable and is, at the moment, best regarded as a form. In many Hyles species which inhabit desert and semi-desert biomes, specimens from the more arid and hotter areas tend to be paler and smaller than those from less hostile environments; such is the case with Hyles chamyla. Shchetkin (1956) himself pointed out that many of the specimens of f. apocyni he obtained from the more fertile southern areas of Tajikistan were virtually indistinguishable from the type series from arid Hami/Kumul, China, although most were larger and darker in colour. However, there is mounting evidence to suggest that Hyles chamyla f. apocyni may be a natural hybrid between Hyles chamyla and Hyles euphorbiae (Linnaeus, 1758), and may be related in some way to Hyles churkini Saldaitis & Ivinskis, 2006: this requires further study. Two possible individuals of Hyles chamyla f. apocyni are illustrated in Yakovlev, Gus'kova, Doroshkin & Titov (2015), as Hyles churkini.)
Holarctic; western Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Monocentric -- Turanoeremic refuge.
Wingspan: 52--75mm. Varies considerably, with some resembling a pale, creamy Hyles hippophaes bienerti (Staudinger, 1874), others Hyles siehei (Püngeler, 1903). Form apocyni can easily be mistaken for a hybrid between Hyles euphorbiae and Hyles hippophaes bienerti. A few even look like Hyles centralasiae (Staudinger, 1887) in having a large dark discoidal area in the pale median stripe of the forewing, which itself can be very faint or pronounced. The pink area of the hindwing can be intense or faint, or even ochreous yellow.
A species of Elaeagnus/Apocynum thickets along river-banks and on river flood-plains. However, with the cultivation of Apocynum (dogbane) as a fibre-plant and the introduction of extensive irrigation projects, Hyles chamyla (or hybrids thereof) has/have spread along irrigation canals and become a local pest of cultivated dogbane in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
An avid visitor to Cistanche flowers at dusk. By day, most adults rest among grass tussocks.
Trivoltine; late April to mid-May, mid-June to mid-July, and late July to late August in Tajikistan (Shchetkin, 1956).
OVUM: Unknown, but presumably as Hyles euphorbiae (Linnaeus, 1758).
LARVA: Full-fed, 55--80mm. Dimorphic: khaki grass-green or bluish-grey.
Similar to that of Hyles hippophaes bienerti, a species with which it probably shares a common ancestor, but with significant differences. The coloration and pattern tend to remain the same for all instars. In the final instar the primary body colour is pale khaki grass-green, although some have a bluish-grey suffusion. The legs, prolegs, anal claspers, head and shield are of the same colour. The body is covered with small yellowish-white dots, but these are usually larger and fewer in number than in Hyles hippophaes bienerti, and may even be absent. The horn is yellow with a black tip. Spiracles pale with, in many, dark marks either side. Unlike in Hyles hippophaes bienerti, no dorso-lateral stripe is present and there is no elongated yellow spot at the base of the horn. A ventro-lateral yellowish-white band runs from thoracic segment 1 to abdominal segment 8. In some individuals the dorsal surface has a slight cinnamon hue, whilst others bear large but regular black patches (Shchetkin, 1956).
The larvae are voracious feeders and grow very quickly, particularly in the fourth and fifth instars.
Occurs from May to June, in July, and from mid-August to mid-September.
Hostplants. Apocynum scabrum and Apocynum venetum (Shchetkin, 1956). Recorded from Hovd Province, Mongolia, on Apocynum pictum (Yakovlev, Gus'kova, Doroshkin & Titov, 2015).
PUPA: Very similar to that of Hyles euphorbiae, but slightly smaller. Formed in a chamber in the soil, as with Hyles hippophaes bienerti. Summer pupae remain at this stage for only nine to fourteen days. Overwinters as a pupa (Shchetkin, 1956).
In Tajikistan, larvae succumb to tachinid flies (Shchetkin, 1956), but the species were not recorded.
Recorded only from southern Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and southern Tajikistan (Shchetkin, 1956; Derzhavets, 1984). It may also occur in river valleys along the entire southern slopes of the Tian Shan into China, and in southern Turkmenistan as far west as the Kopet Dag (Ashkhabad), as its hostplant is common in these areas (Shchetkin, 1956). Reported damage to Apocynum plantations in Kyrgyzstan by larvae of 'Hyles euphorbiae' was probably caused by this species (Durnovo & Pogodina, 1933), but this needs confirmation as hybrids may be involved. Due to confusion with Hyles hippophaes bienerti and Hyles euphorbiae, the exact distribution of Hyles chamyla is unclear.
Extra-limital range. Recorded from Hami/Kumul (the type locality) and Barkol in northern Xinjiang Province, China (Denso, 1913a; Danner et al., 1998), from Xayar farther west (Pittaway & Kitching, 2000), and from neighbouring south-west Mongolia to the north (Saldaitis & Ivinskis, 2006; Yakovlev, Gus'kova, Doroshkin & Titov, 2015; Yakovlev & Doroshkin, 2017).