RETHERA KOMAROVI (Christoph, 1885)

(Taxonomic note. The various subspecies and forms of Rethera komarovi appear to have developed in several isolated refugia during the last (Pleistocene) ice-age. They have since re-established contact and appear to be merging in a manner similar to Deilephila porcellus (Linnaeus, 1758.)


GB: Madder Hawkmoth, RU: Komarova Brazhnik, FI: Venäjänkiitäjä.

Deilephila komarovi Christoph, 1885, in Romanoff, Mem. Lepid. 2: 169.

Type locality: Askhabad [Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan].


Holarctic; western Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Polycentric -- mainly Syrian and Iranian refugia. The isolated population in Europe appears to have been the result of a post-glacial expansion in range, followed by a small contraction.


Male Rethera komarovi komarovi f. drilon, Amasya, Turkey. Male Rethera komarovi komarovi f. rjabovi, Ordubad, Azerbaijan.

Wingspan: 55--65mm. Similar to subsp. manifica Brandt, 1938, but smaller with better-defined, darker markings on the forewings, particularly in more northern examples. The species is confusable only with Rethera brandti O. Bang-Haas, 1937 and the other two Rethera species from Afghanistan, but is considerably larger than any of them.

Exhibits little variation except for the intensity of 'tint' colours, which range, ventrally, from pale orange to deep pink. Newly-emerged examples often have a magnificent rose sheen. However, due to the fact that the dorsal green coloration fades in strong sunlight, those collected from drier regions tend to be paler than examples from more verdant areas. The same applies when killing agents such as diethyl ether and ethyl acetate are used.

The presence, width and intensity of black lines and specks on the forewings also varies, with specimens from colder areas being darker and more heavily marked.

Female Rethera komarovi komarovi, Bulgaria. Photo: © Emil Enchev. Male Rethera komarovi komarovi, Karadut, Nemrut Dagi, Turkey. Photo: © Cor Zonneveld.


Occurs in mountains and hilly areas where it frequents 'vegetation islands' on sparsely vegetated cliffs and rocky slopes which are cold in winter and become parched in summer. Little is known of the behaviour of this species, except that it is attracted to light. In Turkey, especially partial to dry, herb-rich hillsides and vegetation-fringed, dry riverbeds, generally at 600--1600m.

Many individuals are attracted to most forms of light and, by day, seem to have a preference for resting on boulders (Rebel & Zerny, 1934).

Typical habitat of Rethera komarovi komarovi, Kresna Gorge area, Bulgaria. Photo: © Tony Pittaway.


Univoltine; mid-April to the second week of June, depending on location and season. In Turkey, from early April/May until late June, depending on altitude, but only during July above 1500m (Danner, Eitschberger & Surholt, 1998).


OVUM: Illustrated by Danner, Eitschberger & Surholt (1998) and identical to that of subsp. manifica.

LARVA: Full-fed, 70--90mm. A full-grown larva is illustrated by Pelzer (1991), while Danner, Eitschberger & Surholt (1998) picture every instar. These, as well as the full-grown larva, are identical to that of subsp. manifica.

Occurs during May, June and/or July.

Major Hostplants. Rubia and Galium spp. (Pittaway, 1979a), especially the flowers and immature seeds. On Rubia rigidifolia in Armenia (Danner, Eitschberger & Surholt, 1998).

Hostplant (Rubia) of Rethera komarovi komarovi in typical location, Mount Hermon, Israel/Syria. Photo: © Tony Pittaway. Hostplant (Galium) of Rethera komarovi komarovi in typical location, Kresna Gorge area, Bulgaria. Photo: © Tony Pittaway.

Minor Hostplants. Reputedly Euphorbia (Melnikow, 1922; Buresch & Tuleschkow, 1931), but this is highly unlikely. In captivity it readily feeds on the ornamental Plocama pendula, especially the flowers and immature seeds.

PUPA: As for subsp. manifica, but smaller. The overwintering stage.


None recorded.


The mountains of eastern Albania (Rebel & Zerny, 1934; Eichler & Friese, 1965), southern Yugoslavia, northern Greece and southern Bulgaria (Ganev, 1984; S. V. Beschkow, pers. comm.) as an isolated population. Then western, central (Daniel, 1932; de Freina & Witt, 1987) and southern Turkey (Hariri, 1971; Feza Doganlar, pers. comm.; de Freina, 2012), Lebanon (Müller et al., 2005a), northern Jordan (Müller et al., 2005a), eastern Turkey (Daniel, 1979; de Freina, 2012; Akin, 2012), the Republic of Georgia (Didmanidze, Petrov & Zolotuhin, 2013), Armenia (Wąsala & Zamorski, 2015) and Azerbaijan (Didmanidze, Petrov & Zolotuhin, 2013), northern Iran (Danner, Eitschberger & Surholt, 1998), southern Turkmenistan (Tashliev, 1973; Danov & Pereladov, 1985) and just into Iraqi Kurdistan (Wiltshire, 1957).

Locations for Bulgaria are: Kresna; Slavyanka Mountains; Eastern Rhodopi Mountains.

A very sparsely distributed species, though large colonies sometimes occur in certain localities. It may have a wider distribution than indicated due to the remote, inaccessible nature of its habitat.

Extra-limital range. None.

Global distribution of Rethera komarovi. Map: © Tony Pittaway.


Iraqi Kurdistan (Wiltshire, 1957) south along the Zagros Mountains of Iran (Barou, 1967; Ghassemi, Alemansoor & Alehossein, 2009) to the rest of central, southern and eastern Iran (and maybe also western Afghanistan (Ebert, 1969)) as subsp. manifica. Afghanistan (Ebert, 1969), Balochistan and the Hindukush area of western/northern Pakistan (leg. Z. Varga & G. Ronkay, ex coll. György Fábián, coll. Sphingidae museum of Czech Rep.), southern Uzbekistan (Western Gissar Mountains), Tajikistan (Derzhavets, 1984), Kyrgyzstan and southern and eastern Kazakhstan (Eitschberger & Lukhtanov, 1996) as Rethera komarovi stipularis (Swinhoe, 1885).

Return to species list