The Elephant hawk moth
The Elephant hawk moth - Deilephila elpenor
The Elephant hawk moth - Deilephila elpenor is a large, impressive species with an adult wingspan of between 58-70mm. It is widespread in the England and Wales, scarcer in Scotland and only found in isolated pockets in Ireland.

It is arguably one of the most attractive of our native moths with olive-green patterned pink forewings and body. The hind wings are marked pink and black.

The Elephant hawk moth
Elephant hawk moth caterpillar - Deilephila elpenor
The juvenile caterpillars are green in colour, and appear from July to September, when they pupate. As the caterpillars mature will either remain this colour turn brown and heavily marked. They also have large eye-spots on the 4th and 5th body segments. The thick body tapers to an end with a backward facing, curved 'horn'.

Like the majority of moths, it's a nocturnal species with the adults emerging in May and August. It can sometimes been seen at dusk feeding on nectar-rich blooms, and resting during the day.

The Elephant hawk-moth usually only produces one generation per year which overwinters as a pupae. The common name reflects the trunk-like front of the body, which along with the eye spot will swell up when alarmed to scare off predators. The 'trunk' is also raised up in a snake pose in order (it is believed) to protect the head of the caterpillar.

Honeysuckle is a particular favourite as well as other tubular flowered plant species such as petunias and the Fuchsia triphylla cultivars. The caterpillar feeds on Rosebay Willowherb, Great Willowherb, Bedstraw and various garden fuchsia species and hybrids.

Main image credit - nick goodrum licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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