Moths of Britain and Europe
Lime Hawkmoth
Mimas tiliae  LINNAEUS, 1758
Superfamily - BOMBYCOIDEA
subfamily - SPHINGINAE
Lime Hawkmoth Mimas tiliae, Havant, Hampshire  Adrian Hoskins
The family Sphingidae comprises of over 1050 species worldwide. The family name is derived from the appearance of the caterpillars, which adopt a posture reminiscent of the Egyptian Sphinxes.
Sphingidae is divided into 2 subfamilies - the Macroglossinae, which are incredibly adept fliers, and the more cumbersome Sphinginae, which includes the Lime, Poplar and Eyed hawks.
Almost all hawkmoths, from both subfamilies, have cryptically patterned forewings that break up their outline, making it difficult for insectivorous birds to develop a "search image". Many of the hawks are patterned to resemble the bark of the trees on which they habitually rest during the daytime. Others including the Lime Hawkmoth are marked with blotches of green, and have ragged wing edges which in combination with the resting posture give them the appearance of a bunch of crumpled leaves. The pattern of the Lime Hawkmoth provides an extremely effective camouflage when it rests amongst foliage in dappled sunlight.
The Lime hawkmoth produces several beautiful colour forms. Some are patterned entirely in shades of green; others have green markings on a buff ground colour; and others such as that illustrated above, have a brick red ground colour and red forelegs.
Mimas tiliae is a widely distributed species, found across Europe and most of temperate Asia. There is only one other species in the genus - M. cristophi, which is found in China, Siberia and Japan, and is similar in pattern to tiliae, but much darker and more sombre in colour. 
The Lime hawkmoth is primarily a forest species, but is most commonly met with in suburban areas where it's foodplants are grown as ornamental trees.
The eggs are oval, pale green and shiny. They are usually laid singly or in pairs, and are attached to the underside of leaves of the foodplants, which include lime Tilia vulgaris ( Malvaceae ) and various elms Ulmus ( Ulmaceae ).
The larvae, like those of most hawkmoths have a prominent curved "horn" on the anal segment. When in the first instar this horn is almost as long as the body, but becomes progressively shorter and thicker with each successive moult. When fully grown the larva is pale green, and covered with tiny yellowish tubercles, giving it a very rough texture. The horn is blue, and there are a series of diagonal whitish stripes along each side of the body. The larva is very well disguised, with the stripes perfectly simulating the veins of the leaves among which it rests.
When ready to pupate the larva changes colour to a dull earthy brown, and wanders down the trunk of it's lime or elm tree, whereupon it burrows a centimetre or two into the soil and excavates a cell which it lines with a few strands of silk. Sometimes the pupa is formed on the surface of the ground, among mosses. It can occasionally be found in crevices in the bark of the trees. It is a dull reddish-brown colour, with a rough texture.
Adult behaviour

The adult emerges from the pupa in May or June, usually at about midday, and climbs up a nearby stem or tree trunk, where it hangs for about an hour as it inflates and dries it's wings. Males take flight at dusk the same evening to search for females, which do not themselves make any attempt to fly until mated. During the daytime the moths rest on the stems of bushes, or on the branches of trees. Both sexes will enter buildings, attracted by house lights, although this is far less frequent now that generalised "light pollution" from street lights and houses has become ubiquitous.

Lime Hawkmoth Mimas tiliae, female  Adrian Hoskins


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