Elephant Hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor

Sphingidae » Macroglossinae

Elephant Hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor

This hawkmoth always reminds me of a fond time during my boyhood when my brother and I discovered the caterpillar for this moth, and subsequently watched it pupate and turn into this magnificent adult. Hawkmoths can be quite docile creatures in the daytime, and they will let you handle them readily, and tend to be very cooperative and accommodating on a photo shoot.

Elephant Hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor

This is one of our most beautiful moths with large pink and olive-green streamlined wings. The name comes from the caterpillar which looks like an elephant’s trunk when it extends itself. Similar to the Small Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila porcellus), which is a lot smaller and has different markings. Wingspan 45 to 60mm.

Elephant Hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor

The adults fly May to August usually in one generation, but fresh adults may be seen in the late summer. Flies from dusk feeding on nectar-rich flowers, and is attracted to light, sometimes in large numbers. Found in wide-ranging habitats, from parks and gardens, hedgerows, heathland, sand dunes, and woodland clearings. Common and widespread throughout England and Wales, but more thinly in Scotland.

Elephant Hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor

The larvae feed on Fuschia and Bedstraws, but most frequently on Rosebay Willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium), and other Willowherbs. This is one of the few caterpillars that can actually swim, which it may resemble a small grass snake.

© Pete Hillman June 2017.


8 thoughts on “Elephant Hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor

  1. This is really interesting. I’ve seen precisely one hawk-moth, and I spotted it at dusk, feeding among the flowers. My not-very-good photo is good enough for identification, but I didn’t know that they could be seen during the day. I’ll look more closely the next time I’m in my friend’s garden, and perhaps will see a more obliging one to photograph. At first, I thought I was seeing a hummingbird when I saw the moth. They are fast flyers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And you can normally here them before you see them, their wings beat so fast. Yes, some hawkmoths do feed during the day and also come out at night. Talk about burning the candle at both ends, eh? Thank you for your lovely comment 🙂


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