Butterfly hawk moth

Moth hawk moth is a very bright, extraordinary representative of Lepidoptera insects. It can often be found under the name hummingbird. This name is due to the bright color and nutritional characteristics. The butterfly is distinguished by its medium size and the presence of a special proboscis, thanks to which it does not sit on the flower itself, but flutters and soars around it, collecting sweet nectar.

Today, the butterfly is a rather rare insect. Despite the fact that the caterpillars of these butterflies are quite voracious, it is not recommended to use chemical insecticides to control them.

Origin of the species and description

 Photo: Butterfly hawk

Photo: Hawk hawk moth

The hawk moth belongs to arthropods and is classified as Lepidoptera, hawk moth family. The name of one of the most famous subspecies of hawk moth subspecies is the dead head. This is due to the fact that an image resembling the shape of a skull is applied on the outer surface of the head. It is this butterfly that is the hero of many mythical tales and beliefs.

The scientist Heinrich Prell was engaged in the study of the species and its description in the 20th century. This type of insect has always aroused unprecedented interest. These butterflies in ancient times were considered messengers of trouble and signs of failure and illness. People believed that if this insect suddenly enters a human dwelling, then death will soon come here. There was also such a sign: if a piece of the wing gets into the eye, then soon the person will go blind and lose his sight.

Video: Hawk Moth

In zoological atlases, the hawk moth is found under the name Acheronthia atropos. Translated from Latin, the name of this butterfly symbolizes the name of one of the water sources of the kingdom of the dead. Initially, zoologists believed that butterflies appeared on earth after the appearance of flowering plants. However, this theory was not subsequently confirmed. It is problematic to establish the exact period of the appearance of butterflies on earth. This is due to the fact that Lepidoptera have a fragile body.

Findings of the remains of the ancient ancestors of modern butterflies are very rare. They were mostly found in pieces of resin or amber. The most ancient finds of the ancient ancestors of modern Lepidoptera date back to 140-180 million years ago. However, scientists claim that the first primitive moth-like butterflies appeared on earth a little over 280 million years ago. This type of butterfly is divided into a huge number of subspecies, each of which has its own distinctive features.

Appearance and features

Photo: Hawk Moth hummingbird-like

Photo: Hummingbird hawk moth

Hawk hawks are considered relatively large insects and have characteristic features.

Signs of this species of Lepidoptera:

  • massive body;
  • long thin wings. In this case, the anterior pair of wings is much longer than the posterior pair. At rest, most often the lower pair of wings is hidden under the lower one, or they are folded in the shape of a house;
  • antennae without round beads at the end;
  • the body has a characteristic ornament that resembles tree bark.

The wingspan of these butterflies is from 3 to 10 centimeters. The length of the body is 10-11 centimeters. This species of Lepidoptera has pronounced sexual dimorphism. Females are somewhat larger than males. The mass of one adult female is 3-9 grams, male – 2-7 grams.

Size, body weight and color are largely determined by the subspecies. For example, the largest representative of this species is anteus. Its wing span is 16-17 centimeters. The smallest is the pygmy hawk. Its wing span does not exceed 2-3 mm. Wine hawk hawk has a characteristic dark red hue. The color is also largely determined by the region of habitat and food.

The butterfly has antennae, which can be of various lengths, spindle-shaped or rod-shaped. They are pointed and curved upward. In males, they are much wider than in females. The oral apparatus of the hawk hawk is represented by an elongated, thin proboscis. Its length can be several times greater than the size of the body, and reaches 15-17 centimeters. The Madagascar hawk hawk has the longest proboscis, its length exceeds 30 centimeters. In some subspecies, it is short or underdeveloped. During the period when butterflies do not eat, it is simply rolled up.

On the lips of butterflies there are quite developed palps, which are bent upwards and covered with scales. The insect has rather complex, large round eyes. They are slightly covered with shaggy eyebrows. Special infrared locators are built into the organs of vision. With their help, insects not only distinguish colors, but are also able to capture invisible infrared rays. The body of the insect is covered with rather dense, thick villi. At the end of the body, the villi are collected in a brush or pigtail. Insects have fairly developed pectoral muscles, thanks to which they can develop a high flight speed.

Where does the hawk moth live?

Photo: Hawk hawk moth in nature

Photo: Moth hawk moth in nature

This species of Lepidoptera refers to heat-loving insects. Despite the great variety of subspecies, most of them are concentrated in tropical countries. Some subspecies can be found in the temperate zone of the earth.

Butterfly habitat:

  • North America;
  • South America;
  • Africa;
  • Australia;
  • Russia;
  • Eurasia.

No more than fifty subspecies live in Russia. Most species of butterflies choose areas with dense vegetation as their habitat. However, there are subspecies that inhabit the desert regions of Eurasia. Most varieties of hawk moths are considered night butterflies. Therefore, during the day they are mainly found on the bark of trees, on bushes.

Hawk hawks are cold-blooded insects, so before flying they flap their wings for a long time and quickly, heating the body to the desired temperature. In the tropics, hawk hawks fly all year round. In temperate latitudes, they endure winter in the pupal stage. To survive in the coming cold weather, the chrysalis hides in the soil or moss.

Some species migrate with the onset of cold weather to warmer countries. There are species that, on the contrary, migrate with the onset of summer to more northern regions. Migrations are associated not only with climate change, but also with overpopulation of the habitat. In new regions, they create temporary colonies and breed.

Now you know where the hawk moth lives, let's find out what it eats.

What does the hawk moth eat?

Photo: Hawk Moth

Photo: Butterfly hawk

The main source of nutrition for adults is flower nectar, which is rich in carbohydrates. Due to the fact that the life span of a butterfly is very short-lived, it accumulates the main source of proteins during the period of being in the form of a caterpillar. Depending on the species and stage of development, Lepidoptera prefer to feed on the nectar of various plant species.

What can serve as a food source:

  • poplar;
  • sea buckthorn;
  • lilac;
  • raspberry;
  • datura;
  • belladonna;
  • fruit trees – plum, cherry, apple;
  • jasmine;
  • tomatoes;
  • nectar of coniferous plants;
  • grape;
  • euphorbia;
  • oak

Interesting fact: Tobacco hawk larva is considered poisonous, as it feeds on tobacco leaves and accumulates toxic substances present in the plant. It has a specific coloration that scares away birds of prey, and can also butt, spit, and make specific sounds.

There are also species of hawk moths that are able to feed on honey by climbing into the hive. Surprisingly, the insect manages to eat sweets and remain completely safe and sound. They are able to make sounds resembling bee buzzing. A strong proboscis helps to easily pierce the honeycombs.

Moth hawks have a peculiar way of eating. They hover above the plant and suck up sweet nectar with the help of a long trunk. It is noteworthy that no other insect possesses this ability. With this way of feeding, insects do not pollinate plants.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Hawk hawk moth in flight

Photo: Hawk Moth in Flight

In nature, there are a huge number of subspecies of hawk hawk. Each of the subspecies is characterized by activity at different times of the day. There are hawks who prefer to lead a nocturnal, daytime or twilight lifestyle. These types of butterflies tend to develop a high flight speed. During the flight, they make a characteristic sound, reminiscent of the hum of an airplane.

Interesting fact: The high speed of flight is provided by the rapid flapping of the wings. A butterfly flaps more than 50 times per second!

Some butterflies look like small birds. They are able to cover great distances, flying from one end of the country to the other, or even from continent to continent.

These types of butterflies are characterized by a specific manner of feeding. Due to the rather large weight, not every flower is able to withstand a butterfly. Because of this, they hover over the plant and suck out nectar with the help of a long proboscis. She flies from one plant to another until she is completely sated. After the butterfly satisfies its hunger, it flies, swaying slightly from side to side.

Some species of hawks, including the “dead head”, at the moment of approaching danger, make a characteristic sound resembling a loud squeak. They are able to make such sounds thanks to the air that is released from the foregut, which causes the folds of the mouth apparatus to vibrate.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Hawk hawk moth from the Red Book

Photo: Hawk hawk moth from the Red Book

In their natural habitat, butterflies breed throughout the year. The offspring is bred twice, sometimes under favorable climatic conditions three times. Mating most often occurs at night. It lasts from 20-30 minutes to several hours. Throughout this period, the insects remain motionless.

At one time, one female can lay up to 150-170 eggs. The egg is round in shape, has a white color with a blue or green tint. Eggs are laid most often on fodder types of vegetation. Subsequently, after 2-4 days, a light, milky-white larva with colorless legs appears from the eggs.

The caterpillar has several stages of development:

  • the caterpillar is light green in color, the diameter of the caterpillar does not exceed 12-13 millimeters;
  • a large brown horn is formed on the body, the size of which visually exceeds the size of the body;
  • the caterpillar significantly increases in size, new signs appear;
  • the formed horn becomes lighter, rougher. Stripes and dark spots appear on the segments of the body;
  • the size of the body increases to 5-6 centimeters, the weight reaches 4-5 grams;
  • the larva significantly increases in size. The mass reaches 20 grams, the length is up to 15 centimeters.

The caterpillars are perfectly adapted to survive in various conditions. Depending on the species, they have a camouflage coloration that allows them to blend in with the vegetation. Caterpillars of some species are streamlined, have stiff bristles, or may emit a foul odor that is deterred by birds and other wildlife that eat caterpillars.

After the caterpillar has accumulated enough nutrients and gained sufficient body weight, it sinks into the soil. There she pupates. At the pupal stage, the butterfly exists for 2.5-3 weeks. During this period, great changes occur in the body of insects. The caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. A beautiful butterfly frees itself from its cocoon, dries its wings, and goes in search of a mating partner in order to continue its life cycle.

Natural enemies of hawk moths

Photo: Hawk Moth

Photo: Moth Moth

The hawk moth has quite a few enemies in its natural habitat. At every stage of their development, they are constantly in danger and a serious threat. The main enemies are parasites. These include wasps, ichneumons, and other types of parasites. They lay their eggs on the surface of the body of butterflies, caterpillars or pupae. Subsequently, parasite larvae appear from the eggs, which feed on the internal organs of butterflies, causing their death. Only fully formed, the larvae of parasites leave the body of butterflies.

Birds are a threat to butterflies. For many species of birds, caterpillars, or even butterflies themselves, are the main source of food. However, not all species of birds are able to catch such a dexterous and fast insect. Not the last role in the extermination of the number of insects belongs to man. As a result of his activities, he uses chemical insecticides and destroys the natural habitat of Lepidoptera.

Population and species status

Photo: Hawk Moth

Photo: Hawk Moth

Despite the variety of species, hawk hawk is listed in the Red Book, and many species of this butterfly are also in the regional Red Books. To date, the total number of insects is considered not threatened. It is even excluded from the Red Book of the Russian Federation. On the territory of Ukraine, as before, the number remains threatening. In this connection, it was assigned the third category, and it is listed in the Red Book of the country.

Various factors contribute to the decrease in the population of hawk moths in different regions:

  • an increase in the number of birds;
  • treatment of fodder crops with chemical insecticides;
  • cutting bushes and burning grass;
  • development of habitual hawk hawk regions by humans.

A more favorable situation with the number of insects in the territory of Transcaucasia. The climate here is milder, so many more pupae are able to survive the winter.

In other regions, mass death of pupae and larvae is observed due to the treatment of vegetation with chemical insecticides for baiting the Colorado potato beetle. Also, a large number of birds, for which caterpillars are the main source of food, contribute to the reduction in numbers.

Protection of hawk butterflies

Photo: Hawk hawk moth from the Red Book

Photo: Hawk hawk moth from the Red Book

The hawk moth was listed in the Red Book of the USSR in 1984. In those regions where the population of hawk moths is a threat of extinction, work is being carried out among schoolchildren and adolescents to prevent the extermination of caterpillars and butterflies.

Work is also underway to limit the use of chemical insecticides designed to control pests. In order to increase the number of insects, it is recommended to sow fields and free areas with flowering plants, the pollen of which is their food source. Also, in regions with the lowest number of insects, it is recommended to limit the amount of vegetation burned.

This is due to the fact that pupae are fixed on various plant species. In areas with a low number of hawk moths, it is recommended to mow the vegetation in a mosaic pattern. The implementation of such simple measures will help not only to preserve, but also to increase the number of pr.

There are no special programs and activities designed to increase the number of butterflies. Butterfly hawk moth is a very beautiful butterfly, which is designed to fight weeds, harmful plants. Of course, such bright and unusual creatures are an adornment of flora and fauna.

Rate article
Add a comment