Elephant Hawk-moth

©Margaret Holland

Elephant Hawk-moth

©Amy Lewis

Elephant hawk-moth

Scientific name: Deilephila elpenor
The elephant hawk-moth is a pretty, gold-and-pink moth that can be seen at dusk in gardens, parks, woods and grassy habitats. The caterpillars look like elephant's trunks and have eyespots to scare off predators.

Species information

Statistics

Wingspan: 4.5-6.0cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

May to August

About

The elephant hawk-moth is a medium-sized hawk-moth, on the wing from May to early August and active at dusk. It is commonly found in parks and gardens, as well as woodland edges, rough grassland and sand dunes. The caterpillars are seen from July to September and are very characteristic: greyish-green or brown, with two enormous, black eyespots towards the head. When disturbed, they swell up to show these spots and scare off predators. The caterpillars feed on willowherbs, fuchsia and bedstraw, and the adults feed on nectar. The caterpillars overwinter as chrysalides, hidden among low vegetation or in the soil.

How to identify

The striking elephant hawk-moth is mainly golden-olive with bright pink bars on the wings and body. The similar small elephant hawk-moth is smaller, yellower and less common; it is found in short grassland.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The elephant hawk-moth is so-called because the caterpillar looks a little like an elephant's trunk. As protection from predators, it can make itself seem larger and emphasise its eyespots.

How people can help

To attract butterflies and moths into your garden, plant nectar-rich borders for them to feed along and climbing Ivy and shrubs for overwintering insects. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started, at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk.