69.014 Bedstraw Hawk-moth Hyles galii – First confirmed breeding record for Ireland

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Sep 152019
 

Irish 69.014 Bedstraw Hawk-moth, Hyles galii Caterpillar

On Tuesday 20th August 2019, not having had a decent walk all week, I decided to go to Killenthomas Woods in the Bog of Allen, Co. Kildare (grid ref N668222) with my rescue dog George. I like going there in the evening as you are much more likely to spot wildlife when it is quiet. There are Foxes, Red Squirrels and Badgers as well as Cuckoos and Buzzards. On one occasion I rounded a corner and met a family of Badgers, two adults and half a dozen or so cubs. The woods are a wonderful place.

When I got there I set out on the Ballydermot loop past the wild gooseberry bush, which I checked in the hope I had missed one earlier in the year (I hadn’t). The walk was uneventful. It was too early in the evening for the mammals to be out. I noticed that there were a few early blackberries out and tasted a couple but they were a little bitter. I decided to go up onto the bog to see if there were any there.

I got to the place where there is a cut through the woods and climbed down onto the bog, stopping to pick and eat a few bilberries. Unfortunately the wild strawberries are finished or I would have picked some of those too. I walked to the bank where the blackberries grow – the ones that grow in that particular spot are sublime – large, juicy and as sweet as can be. To my dismay there were no blackberries ripe or otherwise. As I was looking I spotted a large, unfamiliar caterpillar on some willowherb. I took a number of pictures with various settings on the camera and went home.

The next day I posted a couple of pictures of the caterpillar to the Insects/Invertebrates of Ireland Facebook page for identification. It was identified very quickly by Owen Beckett as a Bedstraw Hawk-moth Hyles galii caterpillar and this was confirmed by others.

Bedstraw Hawk-moth H. galii is a very rare immigrant to Ireland with c.15 records scattered along the coast from Dublin to Kerry. It is resident in much of Europe, north to Scandinavia and east to Russia. All the records to date in Ireland have been of adults so this is the first confirmed breeding of the species in Ireland.

Julian Currie.