HYLES NICAEA ORIENTALIS (Austaut, 1905)

GB: Greater Spurge Hawkmoth, F: Sphinx Nicéa, D: Riesenwolfsmilch-schwärmer, RU: Nitstskii Brazhnik, H: görög szender

Deilephila nicaea var. orientalis Austaut, 1905, Ent. Z., Frankf. a. M. 18: 143.

Type locality: Crimea [Ukraine].

(Taxonomic note. Since the Pleistocene, this formally more widespread subspecies appears to have been progressively absorbed into the eastward and northward expanding populations of subsp. nicaea (de Prunner, 1798) and subsp. sheljuzkoi (Dublitzky, 1928), respectively. This may explain the occurrence of 'orientalis-like' individuals in northern Iran and the Caucasus.)


BIOGEOGRAPHICAL AFFILIATION

Holarctic; western Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Monocentric -- Caspian refuge (which includes the Crimea).


ADULT DESCRIPTION AND VARIATION

Male Hyles nicaea orientalis, Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine. Male Hyles nicaea orientalis, Tarkhankut, W. Crimea, Ukraine. Photo: © Nickolai Ivshin.

Wingspan: 90--100mm. Immediately distinguished from other subspecies by the heavy, dark blotching on the wings; also less variable in colour and pattern.


Male Hyles nicaea orientalis, Tarkhankut, W. Crimea, Ukraine. Photo: © Nickolai Ivshin.

ADULT BIOLOGY

Occurs on sunny, dry, stony slopes of hills.


Typical habitat of Hyles nicaea orientalis, Tarkhankut, W. Crimea, Ukraine. Photo: © Nickolai Ivshin.

FLIGHT-TIME

Univoltine; June/July, June in the Abrau Peninsula, NW Transcaucasia (Poltavsky, pers. comm. 2003).


EARLY STAGES

OVUM: Very similar in size (1.6 x 1.4mm) and shape to that of Smerinthus ocellatus (Linnaeus, 1758), spherical and smooth; pale shiny green. The coloration changes to green and gold prior to hatching.

LARVA: Full-fed, 100--120mm. Polymorphic: pale grey to black.


Full-grown larva of Hyles nicaea orientalis, Tarkhankut, W. Crimea, Ukraine. Photo: © Nickolai Ivshin.

On hatching, the larva is 5mm long and a rich canary-yellow in colour, with a brownish black tail horn. With feeding, the yellow coloration is soon replaced by apple-green. This primary colour persists into the second instar, during which longitudinal rows of black dots appear; the horn and ventral surface also become black. In the third instar the final coloration of most individuals develops: pale grey with dorso-lateral and ventro-lateral rows of black-ringed yellow or red eye-spots. The horn remains black and there is no red dorsal line. However, some larvae become totally black with red eye-spots and buff lateral patches; the amount of black pigmentation is very variable.

At first, the young larva rests along the midrib on the underside of a leaf, but growth is rapid and the large larva soon rests on the stem, where it is difficult to spot.

Occurs mainly during July and August, although a few may still be found feeding in September.

Hostplants. Euphorbia petrophila and Euphorbia seguierana in the Crimea (Efetov & Budashkin, 1990).

PUPA: 45--50mm. Yellowish brown with fine black outlines to the legs and antennae. Enclosed in a loosely spun yellow cocoon amongst dead leaves and litter. The overwintering stage.


Pupa of Hyles nicaea orientalis, Tarkhankut, W. Crimea, Ukraine. Photo: © Nickolai Ivshin. Pupa of Hyles nicaea orientalis, Tarkhankut, W. Crimea, Ukraine. Photo: © Nickolai Ivshin.

PARASITOIDS

None recorded.


DISTRIBUTION

The southern and western Crimean Peninsula (Ukraine) and western Transcaucasia (Abrau Peninsula to Georgia).

Extra-limital range. None.


Global distribution of Hyles nicaea. Map: © Tony Pittaway.

OTHER SUBSPECIES

The Atlas mountains of northwest Africa as subsp. castissima (Austaut, 1883). From southern Portugal and Spain across southern Europe to Turkey (including the Balearic Islands and south-western Bulgaria) as subsp. nicaea. From Lebanon and northern Israel to western Xinjiang Province, China, and western Mongolia as subsp. sheljuzkoi. Eastern Afghanistan (Ebert, 1969), northern Pakistan (Rafi et al., 2014), north-west India (Kashmir) and China (Xizang Province/Tibet) as subsp. lathyrus (Walker, 1856).


Male Hyles nicaea lathyrus, Sudhan Gali,  Bagh District, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, 7000', vii. 2012. Leg. Abdul Azeemi. Photo: © Mark Vincent.
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