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Suffolk Natural History, Vol. 46

SPURGE HAWK-MOTH HYLES EUPHORBIAE (L.) CATERPILLARS AT LANDGUARD , SUFFOLK On 15 August 2010, whilst undertaking routine census counts of migrant birds at Landguard, Eric Patrick pointed out to me a caterpillar (Plate 13 L) on Sea Spurge Euphorbia paralias L. which was unfamiliar to us both. Due to the food plant we guessed its identity and contacted Sarah Wynne who was nearby with a camera. All three of us conducted a search of the immediate area which resulted in a total of three caterpillars being located. Before I had returned to reference literature at Landguard Bird Observatory, Sarah had confirmed our suspicions by checking the identification via the world wide web. The three caterpillars were seen daily by a number of interested Suffolk naturalists from 15–19 August after which they could not be found and they had, presumably, buried themselves to pupate. Spurge Hawk-moth is widespread throughout central and southern Europe but is a very rare immigrant to the United Kingdom. Suffolk records of adult moths (Plate 13 R) are confined to three individuals trapped at Landguard Bird Observatory on 25 and 26 June 2003 (same), 24 and 27 June 2006, plus a single taken at Rendham by Matthew Deans on 16 August 2006. The only record of a caterpillar in Suffolk is back in the 1800s. The Rev. E. N. Bloomfield, in his Catalogue of the Lepidoptera of Suffolk, mentions a moth bred from a larva found near Landguard Fort about 1865. He adds that the food plant was then abundant there. Caterpillars were also found in a locality near Harwich in 1873 (South, 1943). The caterpillars feed in August and September. Very few records of caterpillars exist in the United Kingdom and those that do are mostly from the 19th century. 20th century records are very rare with one was found at Hastings, East Sussex on 22 August 1994 (Waring & Townsend, 2003) the only readily traceable one. Sanford (2010) in the Flora of Suffolk notes the occurrence of Sea Spurge in just ten tetrads and comments that it was first recorded at Landguard under the name of ‘Langtree Point’ in Gerade’s Herball in 1633. Today Sea Spurge occurs only in an area of approximately 1·2 hectares at the southern end of Landguard Point with the bulk of it occurring on land owned by Harwich Haven Authority (Fig. 1). It is described as ‘frequent’ within this area on the ‘DAFOR’ rating. Although no accurate previous data exists it has declined from an estimated ‘Abundant’ rating over the previous twenty years although the area it occupies is very similar to what it has always been over this period (pers. obs.). Acknowledgements Thanks to Jeff Higgott for the accompanying photograph & Sarah Wynne for the map of Sea Spurge. References Sanford, M. & Fisk, R. (2010). A Flora of Suffolk. D. K. & M. N. Sanford, Ipswich. South, R. (1943). The Moths of the British Isles, Frederick Warne, London. Waring, P. & Townsend, M. (2003). Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain & Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing, London.

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 46 (2010)



Figure 1. Distribution of Sea Spurge (Euphorbia paralias L.) at Landguard Point, Felixstowe in 2010. Nigel Odin Landguard Bird Observatory View Point Road, Felixstowe Suffolk IP11 3TW

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 46 (2010)

J. Higgott Plate 13: Spurge Hawk-moth, Hyles euphorbiae (L.). Larva found on Sea Spurge (Euphorbia paralias) at Landguard Common, Felixstowe, 15 August 2010 (p. 46).


Nigel Odin

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