Species Account

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Summary Data

Season (Adult / Immature):

National Status: Na

Local Status: Rare and very local resident.

Local Record: Grade 4   See here for explanation

Flight time: One generation, May-Jul.

Forewing: 18-21mm.

Foodplant: Devil's-bit Scabious, Small and Field Scabious.

IMPORTANT - Please note that the maps and accounts are provisional, subject to change and further update.  The whole dataset still needs to go through the final verification process and it is likely that a very small number of records will not satisfy the present requirements and there are other records that have not been formally submitted.  The information is for guidance only.

Record breakdown:

Year first recorded190620001906
Year last recorded201120052011
Number of records742152
Number of individuals2126436
Unique positions48198
Unique locations21144
Adult records501102
Immature records19140

For the region, we have a total of 152 records from 44 sites. Earliest record on file is in 1906.


1982 Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk 01
© Dave Foot

Species Account

For further information refer UK Moths.

Davey, P., 2009: A very local species in the British Isles, the larva feeding on devil's-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis). In Dorset, the species appears to have declined in parallel with the reduction in unimproved wetland and unimproved grassland across the country. Historically, the moth has been recorded in a wide range of localities across the county, but at the time of writing, only a handful of colonies persist. The species is rather difficult to locate in all its stages, even where the foodplant is abundant.

Damp Heathland
The moth has all but disappeared from south-east Dorset. The species was evidently well established in a number of sites where devil's-bit scabious grew in ditches, on railway embankments and along tracks fabricated with ball clay from the Kaolinite fields, between Creech and Norden, and that were worked during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The few damp scabious-bearing sites that remain, such as The Triangle at Arne, the tramway across Stoborough Heath, and certain forest tracks at Wytch Heath, may still harbour the species, but recent searches have failed to locate larvae or adults; the last occasion larvae and adults was seen was in the late 1970s. Further research is recommended to locate the species on damp heathland SSSIs and SNCIs to the south-west of Poole Harbour; species recovery programmes should be implemented with the emphasis on light grazing to create the preferred short sward containing good stocks of devil's-bit scabious plants.

Old Damp Grassland

Occasional recent sightings of 'Bee Hawks' from the Blackmore Vale suggest the species may still be resident in the area, although these examples were not positively identified. Devil's-bit scabious is abundant at Rooksmoor although growing in deep sward, situation that is ideal for Marsh Fritillary butterflies, but not for this hawkmoth. Elsewhere, historic records from the Kingcombe, Powerstock and Drakenorth area, suggest colonisation of the unimproved grassland on the ill-drained clay soils where devil's-bit scabious is locally abundant. Further research is recommended to locate the species on old damp neutral grassland SSSIs and SNCIs, and where found, species recovery programmes should be implemented with particular emphasis on grazing to create viable stocks of devil's-bit scabious within short-turf enclaves.

Dry Calcareous Grassland
Sites that host colonies of the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk comprise unimproved short-turf calcareous grassland on steep-sided scarps. Devil's-bit scabious is abundant at Hog Hill and Giant Hill, and larvae have been found feeding on the smaller rosettes growing there. The Melbury Down site supports moderate numbers of devil's-bit scabious, but larvae have so far only been found feeding on small scabious (Scabiosa columbaria). A handful of adult singleton moths have been observed on chalk downland across the central and north-east of Dorset, particularly during the warm and sunny April in 2007, but no further colonies have been discovered. A total of seven moths seen in flight around the earthworks atop Hod Hill on 26 April 2007, suggests re-colonisation of this site. Further research is recommended to locate more colonies on dry calcareous grassland SSSIs and SNCIs, and where successful, species recovery programmes should be implemented with particular emphasis on grazing to create viable stocks of devil's-bit scabious and small scabious within short-turf terrain.

The following moths were identified as Broad-bordered Bee Hawk1983 but were more likely to have been Narrow-bordered Bee Hawks, given the dry calcareous grassland habitats where they were observed. Bulbarrow Hill is now so heavily grazed that very few scabious plants remain. France Down now comprises plantation beech and intensive arable: Bulbarrow Hill, by day in 1944 (BSNHS), France Down, two by day on 22 May 1955 (H Moore).

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