An interesting early reference to the Privet Hawk-moth Sphinx ligustri L., 1758 in Worcestershire

P.F. Whitehead

Moor Leys, Little Comberton, Pershore, Worcestershire, WR10 3EH. Email:

My attention was held recently by sight of the following publication:

Mitchell, T.A. 1889. Sphinx ligustri on Laurestinus. The Entomologist 22:73.

The account reads as follows:

Sphinx ligustri on Laurestinus. — I paid a short visit to Great Malvern late in October [1888]. Very few insects were observed upon the wing, but among them were several specimens of Vanessa c-album, which appeared quite fresh. The larvae of Sphinx ligustri had been very plentiful upon laurestinus, a shrub upon which I have never taken it before. At this late date they were still found commonly, and one specimen did not pupate till the first week of November. The larvae of Odontopera bidentata were found in abundance chiefly upon the same food-plant. — Alfred T. Mitchell; 5, Clayton Terrace, Gunnersbury, W., January 12, 1889.”

Whatever botanical family Laurustinus Viburnum tinus L. is accommodated within it is not closely related to privet, ash or lilac on which Privet Hawk-moth larvae more routinely feed. This moth seems always to have been rare in Worcestershire (Whitehead, 2003) so that its appearance at Malvern following an extended sequence of cold winters is of special interest. The utilisation of Laurustinus by it cited by Stokoe (1948) may stem in part from this observation at Malvern.


Stokoe, W.J., 1948. The caterpillars of British moths, pp. 1-408. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd, London & New York.

Whitehead, P.F., 2003. Observations on some Worcestershire macrolepidoptera. Worcestershire Record 14:16-17.