Aurm Hawk Moth

Deilephila elpenor

Aurm Hawk Moth, Varkoorpylstert (Afr.), Varkblompylstert (Afr.)

profile icon69.016 BF1991 Elephant Hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor (3123099728)
by Patrick Clement (CC BY 2.0)
1 of 11
A Deilephila elpenor elephant hawkmoth at rest
profile icon69.016 BF1991 Elephant Hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor (3123099728)
by Patrick Clement (CC BY 2.0)
1 of 11
An Elephant Hawk Moth is a large, pretty pink insect belonging to the Hawkmoth (or Sphinx) family, Sphingidae. Adults are most active during the night but sometimes can be seen resting on tree trunks or near foodplants in the day. They feed on the nectar of flowers while in flight, showing a particular preference for honeysuckle. Caterpillars are frequent garden visitors, often found near the Fuschias, where they will feed until satisfied! Many think the caterpillar closely resembles that of an elephants trunk, which is where this moth gets its name. The moths are called hawks due to their ability to hover mid-air, just like the bird. A defence mechanism used by caterpillars involves them sucking in the head and inflating the neck. In doing so, their eyespots expand, and the necks turn bulbous. Together with their scaley patterning, these insects fool birds into thinking they're snakes.
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Traits

A large and pretty moth that's a pollinator of garden plants.
These caterpillars have large appetites, but they'll never kill an established plant.

Appearance

Adults: Mature moths possess attractive patterning and colouring, and for this reason, they're one of the easier moths to identify. The body is a khaki green-brown, with a pink W shape on the thorax (below the head) and a strip of pink which runs down the rest of the body's length. The tip of the tail is pink. The wings are mainly khaki green with pink margins, possessing 3 pink diagonal strips per wing. Larvae: Caterpillars are large and chunky, growing up to 7cm long! There is a green and brown morph. They possess four large eyespots on the sides of the head, which grow in size when the caterpillar is exhibiting its defence behaviour. They're covered in black-brown patterns which resemble the scales of a reptile. Pupae: The cocoons are stout, red-brown and shiny. Pupae are often dug up by gardeners in the autumn. Sometimes they're found hiding beneath leaf litter. Eggs: The eggs are glossy white-green; laid on Rosebay Willowherb, Himalayan balsam and Bedstraw. Tip* The small elephant hawkmoth (Deilephila porcellus) is smaller, brighter pink, and lacks the pink vertical strip down the body, as seen in the Large Elephant Hawkmoth.

Symptoms

Chunky, brown and green caterpillars found near leaf litter or food plant. Caterpillars feed by removing irregular shaped holes from leaves. Leaves can tear and flowers may be damaged.

Activity

Crepuscular

Personality

Order

Lepidoptera

Family

Sphingidae

Metamorphosis

Complete

Distribution

Widespread across Europe

Biological treatment

If there are too many caterpillars causing leaf damage, they can be picked up by hand and moved elsewhere.

Chemical treatment

These caterpillars feed on wild plants such as Himalayan Balsam and Bedstraw. It's not advised to remove these insects from the environment due to the benefits they can provide the ecosystem. Notable damage caused by this insect is unusual, so chemical control is not advised.

Attracts this pest

They feed on the nectar of night-scented flowers such as honeysuckle and lay their eggs on rosebay willowherb, bedstraws and fuchsias.

Repels this pest

These moths are predated by bats, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
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Knowledge and advice

Search our ever-growing knowledge base to find plants and information. Find out about pests and diseases you should be keeping an eye out for. Watch How to videos or follow step by step guides for tasks in the garden. Free download for your phone or tablet.
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