New moths (to me anyway)

Matthew Smith MatSmith1 at
Sun Jul 18 17:52:29 EDT 1999

>The Death's-head Hawk-moth is indeed a migrant which lays its eggs on  
potatoes here.  What did they do before Sir Walter Raleigh (or whoever)  
brought potatoes and tomatos etc from the New World?  Trouble is, as has
pointed out, the summers are not really warm enough to incubate the pupae,  
and it is generally too damp, so few individuals ever  make it to maturity.
There is another interesting suggestion: we used to dig potatoes by hand, 
they are harvested by machines, and few pupae could survive the milling
the machines do.  That really makes this moth very rare in the British
more so than formerly.<
Regarding potato harvesting, an interesting quote from R.L.E. Ford in the 
'Observer's Book of Larger British Moths.', 1952:
"The moth flies some way after laying each egg and a number of larvae are 
hard to pbtain from one place.  The easiest way for a collector to obtain 
this species is to follow the potato-lifting machines and search for the
pupae before the rooks find them".
Personally I have only ever found one Deathshead Hawk in the UK.    I was 
told by a collegue at work one day that she had seen a huge moth sitting on
the side of the Town Hall in Wokingham in Berkshire.  I knew she had lived
in Indonesia for a few years so I was confident that when she said 'huge
moth' she meant 'huge moth'.  Later that afternoon I managed to get out of
the office and into town, expecting to see something like a Convolvulus
Hawk (Agrius convolvuli).  When I arrived, it was obvious from across the 
road it was a Deathshead, very fresh and resting on a wall about 3 ft up.  
The pavement was very busy but no one seemed to notice the moth.  The next
day I took one of my books into work and showed my collegue pictures of the
moth and the caterpillar.  She said her children had recently brought home
a larva, but she had told them to take it away!!!.

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