Elephant hawk moth and caterpillar

By David Chapman

August is a good time to spot the caterpillar of the fuchsia and olive-coloured elephant hawkmoth, says writer and photographer David Chapman
Elephant hawkmothElephant hawkmoth

Over the next few weeks you might notice an unusual caterpillar munching its way through the foliage in your garden, particularly if you have a fuchsia.

The caterpillar that I am thinking of should technically be referred to as a larva since it is the offspring of a moth rather than a butterfly and this is a big one!

The moth in question is called an 'elephant hawkmoth'.  Hawkmoths are large moths with a fast and strong flight; there are nine species resident in Britain and probably a further eight which occur as migrants.

The elephant hawkmoth gets its name from the appearance of its larva, not because it is big but because it has a long, trunk-like nose.

Elephant hawkmoth caterpillar larva by David ChapmanHowever when the larva senses danger it can withdraw its trunk creating a slightly more bulbous head shape; this is when the large eye-like markings on either side of its head can give the impression of a much more imposing creature to scare off potential predators.

During August we are probably more likely to see the larva than the adult form of the elephant hawkmoth but it is worth looking around any outside lights for one of these colourful insects.  The adult is about 4 cm long and its markings are a combination of olive green and pink!

Keep up to date with David Chapman's Wildlife Watch by subscribing to the weekly Saga Magazine e-newsletter.

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  • Derek Minor

    Posted: Thursday 28 August 2014

    Just found a Elephant hawk moth caterpillar, Happily munching away at my fuchsias in my garden in Stoke-on-Trent."Did not realise they were so large"

  • Peter

    Posted: Thursday 28 August 2014

    Found one crossing my paved area next to my back door today. First time I've ever sern one
    and I have loads of fuscias. I took it to Leeds butterfly house and they told me what it was. Massive creature about 5 inches long and ugly but cute in a way. Will look out for more now.

  • Tim in Somerset

    Posted: Thursday 28 August 2014

    Found 4 of them on one of our fuchsias this afternoon and it was almost stripped! Relocated them to a nearby hedge where maybe they can strip some other plant.

  • john

    Posted: Wednesday 27 August 2014

    found one this morning ,put him on fuchsia

  • margie

    Posted: Tuesday 26 August 2014

    is the weather still warm enough for the elephant hawk moth caterpillar to change to the beautiful moth? found one today on the wasteland.

  • Paul Turner

    Posted: Tuesday 26 August 2014

    Spotted an elephant hawk moth larvae outside our garage 26/08/2014 it was approx 3 inch long after being disturbed, it was crossing a damp patch of concrete. Fuschia plant about 50 metres away!!
    Left it to make its own way, no sign of any more yet.

  • Michelle

    Posted: Monday 25 August 2014

    Gardening yesterday with my children and we found an enormous black caterpillar. It was about 6 cms long with 4 eye markings and a spike on its bottom. Then we found a smaller green one with the same markings. My kids took a couple of photos and we looked on the internet. Turned out to be Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars, never seen one before and I didn't realised such large beasties lived in my garden!

  • Troy Green

    Posted: Monday 25 August 2014

    Found a large hawk moth larvae down our local canal on the path heading towards the water while me and my girlfriend was looking for plants for the garden.I haven't seen one of these since I was about 10 years of age at edgbaston reservoir Birmingham when thousands of them was marching across the path towards the water. Was a strange sight to see. I picked it up and took it home with us to show the kids,and my girlfriend being from Portugal had never seen one before.it's now in my greenhouse.

  • ANDREW WARD

    Posted: Monday 25 August 2014

    WE HAD A CATERPILLAR MOVING ACROSS OUR LAWN , MUCH QUICKER THAN USUAL . I TOOK A PHOTO OF IT AND THEN TRIED TO FOUND OUT WHAT IT WAS . 2 WEEKS LATER OUR NEIGHBOUR HAD JUST WATCHED GARDENER'S WORLD AND SAW THAT IT WAS AN ELEPHANT HAWK MOTH .

  • eleanor mcalpine

    Posted: Sunday 24 August 2014

    When visiting family in Norway recently found an elephant hawk moth in the garden.Had never seen or heard of it before my 9yr.old g/son and I were fascinated by it.Put it into a jar for a short while then decided to put it back in garden looked for it 15mins.later but it had gone.There are no fuschias in this garden it was in amongst general weeds.

  • Doris Barnatt

    Posted: Sunday 24 August 2014

    Found one on the Fuscia yesterday about 3inches long. He seems quite at home and still munching away. Can anyone tell me when they pupate and when they actually turn into a moth

  • Helen Thomas

    Posted: Saturday 23 August 2014

    I found 4 of them today. Didn't know what they were, so googled them. On my fuchsia too. Think they are the culprits who have stripped two other different plants...

  • amanda

    Posted: Friday 22 August 2014

    My daughters cat found and bought in a little gift for me today, two elephant hawkmoth caterpillars and was wondering if anyone knows how long does it take for them to turn into moths

  • Pat

    Posted: Tuesday 19 August 2014

    How do i get rid of, or at least keep them away from my Fuchsias. The Blighters ruin my fuchsias every year.I can't find them but I know the signs of where they've been.

  • Steven spring

    Posted: Tuesday 19 August 2014

    We have lots of fushia's in our garden, but one in a tub so far we have found a elephant hawk moth caterpillar (lava) and a swallow tail butterfly caterpillar both very big and enjoying a good feed

  • Mick

    Posted: Tuesday 19 August 2014

    There are lots of hawk-moth caterpillars crawling around at the moment. They are searching for suitable soil into which they can burrow and pupate. They don't need food and they certainly shouldn't be put in jars etc.

  • jane chapman

    Posted: Tuesday 19 August 2014

    I have 6 this year all on the fuschia, I would like to know to know where they go to turn to a chrysalis and when then moths hatch out.

  • Joe

    Posted: Tuesday 19 August 2014

    I was just watching our tortoise crosing the garden when I spotted this large caterpillar leaving my Strawberry plants and heading for towards the bay tree, I took a few pics with the mobile and checked on google and sure enough it was a Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar about 3 inches and a spike at the back.

    A few months ago i removed about 6 young ones from my cauliflower plants, Iam glad i didnt squash them then..

    Joe on the Wirral

  • katie

    Posted: Monday 18 August 2014

    Found what we now know after internet research is an elephant hawk moth . Took pics and put with the fuchsia. What an ugly beastie. In all my advanced years had never seen one before but it seems they are quite common. will be on the look out for more.

  • Jane

    Posted: Monday 18 August 2014

    My aubergine plant has been decimated by this fella, in preference to my fuchsia plants!

  • < 1 2 3 4 5 6  >

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