HYLES CHAMYLA (Denso, 1913)

GB: Dogbane Hawkmoth, RU: Kendyrnyi Brazhnik

Celerio 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. The taxon apocyni (Shchetkin, 1956) presented some problems for many years (and still does). It has been treated variously as a good species or as a subspecies/ecoform of Hyles chamyla. 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; this appeared to be 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, Patzold, Marabuto, Daneck, O'Neill, Kitching & Hundsdoerfer (2021) have demonstrated that apocyni is a natural hybrid between Hyles chamyla and Hyles hippophaes bienerti (Staudinger, 1874). Furthermore, their results indicate that the evolutionary relationship between Hyles chamyla and Hyles hippophaes is one of admixture in the context of ongoing ecological differentiation, which has led to shared morphological characters and a blurring of the species boundaries. Interestingly, one possibility which was not addressed in this study is what role Hyles euphorbiae may have played in the formation of the apocyni hybrid.

Two possible individuals of apocyni are illustrated in Yakovlev, Gus'kova, Doroshkin & Titov (2015), as Hyles churkini.)


BIOGEOGRAPHICAL AFFILIATION

Holarctic; western Palaearctic region. Pleistocene refuge: Monocentric -- Turanoeremic refuge.


ADULT DESCRIPTION AND VARIATION

Male Hyles chamyla, Hami/Kumul, Xinjiang, China. SYNTYPE. Male Hyles chamyla, Hami/Kumul, Xinjiang, China. SYNTYPE.

Wingspan: 52--75mm. Varies to some extent, with some resembling a pale, creamy Hyles hippophaes bienerti, others Hyles siehei (Püngeler, 1903). The pink area of the hindwing can be intense or faint, or even ochreous yellow.


ADULT BIOLOGY

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.


Typical open riverine habitat of Hyles chamyla, Turpan area, Xinjiang, China. Photo: © Tony Pittaway.

FLIGHT-TIME

Trivoltine; late April to mid-May, mid-June to mid-July, and late July to late August in Tajikistan (Shchetkin, 1956).


EARLY STAGES

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 appears to 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 venetum var. scabrum and Apocynum venetum (Shchetkin, 1956). Recorded from Hovd Province, Mongolia, on Apocynum pictum (Yakovlev, Gus'kova, Doroshkin & Titov, 2015).


Apocynum venetum, hostplant of Hyles chamyla, Turpan area, Xinjiang, China. Photo: © Tony Pittaway.

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).


PARASITOIDS

In Tajikistan, larvae succumb to tachinid flies (Shchetkin, 1956), but the species were not recorded.


DISTRIBUTION

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).


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