Species Account

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Summary Data

Season (Adult / Immature):

National Status: Local

Local Status: Scarce and local resident.

Local Record: Grade 2   See here for explanation

Flight time: One generation, May-Aug.

Forewing: 35-41mm

Foodplant: Scots Pine, Corsican Pine, Norway Spruce

Regional breakdown:

Year first recorded19921900199719982012
Year last recorded20142014201420112012
Number of records911161111
Number of individuals961091101
Unique positions3342391
Unique locations32425101
Adult records911158111
Immature records00300

For the county, we have a total of 175 records from 72 sites. First recorded in 1900.


69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 2020 abundance
© C H Fletcher
69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 2020 map
© C H Fletcher
69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 06
© Terry Box, Aug 2019
69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 05
© Andy Nunn
69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 04
© David Ashton, 28 Jul 2014
69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 03
© Nick Lawman
69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 01
© Ian Andrews
69.007 Pine Hawk-moth 02
© Ian Andrews

Species Account

Sutton & Beaumont, 1989: Not recorded since Porritt (1904). A single specimen was taken in a garden at Linthorpe, Middlesbrough (VC62) in 1900. It may well have come in by ship from the south of the country or the continent.

Beaumont, 2002: The regularity of records since the mid-1990s suggests that this moth is now resident in the County.
VC61. Spurn, 30.6.1992, 29.7.1995, 8 & 9.8.1996, 12.7.2000 (BRS); Allerthorpe Common, 14.8.1996, 15.7.2000 (ASE); Kilnsea, 7.7.1999 (DPB). NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.
VC63. Rossington, 29.7.1997, 8.8.1997, three 12-24.7.1999, 14.7 & 23.8.2000 (RIH). NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.
VC64. Hillam, 21.7.1998; near Selby, 27.7.1998 (PGT). NEW VICE-COUNTY RECORD.

2012 (CHF): This species has been gradually moving north-west and numbers have been building up in the last ten years. A wave of expansion took the moth as far as the Ripon area in 2005 then it seemed to contract back, with a further expansion in 2010. 2011 was a poor year with only five reported.

2020 (CHF): Pine Hawk-moth can’t quite decide what to do. It’s not sure whether it’s invading us or not. It’s a bit of a ditherer. It’s prone to make U-turns. It seems to wait and see what other moths are doing before it makes its mind up. Does it remind you of anyone?

Early records of this species, once known by the rather splendid name of the Fir-tree Arrow-tailed-moth are controversial to say the least. Our new Atlas has a single old dot in Scotland, but there are in fact several unconfirmed old Scottish 19th century records. Old writers considered these to be errors or fraud. Many thought they were deliberate introductions or accidental on imported trees or aboard ships. Whether it was ever resident is a very debatable point and Stainton said in 1857 that it was “by many doubted as a British species”. Records kept on coming however, often on the east coast of England. We even had one in Yorkshire – Porritt writes ”Mr T Ashton Lofthouse informs me that a specimen was taken in a garden at Linthorpe, Middlesbrough in the summer of 1900. He has seen the specimen”. Sutton and Beaumont comment on this record that “it may well have come in by ship from the south of the country or the continent”. In the late 19th century for a while, it was resident and locally common in Suffolk. Argument again raged as to whether it had been present all along or locally reared and released. Numbers however dwindled after 1907 and it virtually disappeared from Suffolk. There were also sightings in Dorset, mostly in the Poole area, and in the 1920s it became more common here. In the 1930s it finally decided it was time to seek pastures new, and the Dorset moths spread gradually north and east, so that by 1960, there were records in many areas to the south and east of a line drawn from Dorset to the Wash. So, it seems likely that all the current moths stem from Dorset stock. I wonder if this was genetic mutation enabling easier colonisation or whether climatic change was the reason. Curiously it has not managed to spread much further west, and some say the current maps reflect lower rainfall where the moth now occurs.

Progress was slow. Our first record was unsurprisingly at Spurn in 1992. There were no more until 1995 but since then we have had records every year. In 2005 there was a major push forward and there were three records in my area near Ripon. I looked forward to seeing it regularly but it contracted back. It moved forward again in 2010 but again contracted back to the south east of the county. Dithering yet again. Since another trough in 2017, records have increased substantially. In 2020 we had 63 records of 96 moths from 37 sites, 12 of them new locations. There is just the hint of some movement at the borders of the range. What will happen next? Is this a false dawn or the start of some further proper “Dorset style” movement Will we see a further U-turn or will we get a proper “road map” to enable proper colonisation of the county? What is the mothing equivalent of the 1922 committee urging it to do?

The food plant is of course Scots Pine, though it will occasionally use other conifers. It doesn’t need old gnarly ones, as it will also use younger trees. My own 30-year-old Scots Pines are ready and waiting but so far have had no visitors.

For those wanting to know more about the past history of this enigmatic species, there is a fabulous article by Colin Pratt written in 2002. Ent. Rec 114: 235-268.

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