Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Elephant Hawk Moth!

 I glanced out of the studio today and watched a pair of juvenile Blackbirds pecking at a Blackberry on the lawn, when I noticed their attention was disturbed by a dark beast trundling between them.  At first I thought it was a young Grass Snake as I've seen them in the garden before, but on going out to see, I was delighted to see that it was the caterpillar of an Elephant Hawk Moth.  You can plainly see why it is so named - the larva resembles the trunk of an Elephant with its segments and deeply mottled skin, and when the larva stretches out its head, it is uncanny how it looks so trunk-like!
 Here in this close-up you can see the false eyes that often put off predators.  This chap was on his way to find a suitable spot amongst leaf litter and loose soil to pupate.  There it will overwinter, to emerge next Summer, under the extraordinary metamorphosis, transformed into one of our most beautiful moths:
The larva feed on all types of Willowherb and often on Fuchsia, which my next door neighbour has in her garden.  So, I assume this guy had clambered over the dividing stone wall to search for his hibernation spot.

2 comments:

  1. So fascinating to see such a creature. They are beautiful monsters of the insect world. And you find grass snakes too. That has been my all time wish ...to see a wild grass snake. My son in law discovered one this summer whilst carrying out his landscape work. I was so envious that he had seen one.

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    1. They are indeed beautiful Trevor - common, but we hardly ever see them, being entirely nocturnal and hidden during our waking hours. Yes, I saw a grass snake two years ago in my 'wild patch' of meadow in the garden. They love compost heaps and frogs from next door's pond! I remember seeing a big one in our garden when I was a kid, too.

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