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

However 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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  • Joanne hooton

    Posted: Thursday 10 July 2014

    My cat was playing with a elephant hawk moth ,I took it off her and put it in my honeysuckle because they feed on the flowers,I live in Gainsborough , Lincolnshire

  • Katherine

    Posted: Wednesday 02 July 2014

    Large Elephant Hawkmoth resting on door of my greenhouse. Beautiful colours.

  • Milly Stokes

    Posted: Friday 20 June 2014

    I live in wolverhampton and we found an elephant hawk-moth in our conservatory tonight. We was so impressed with the colours of it and also the size. Also couldnt believe the size of it & also how quickly it fluttered around

  • Gareth Williams

    Posted: Friday 20 June 2014

    Found a Elephant Hawk Moth while at work In Oldham last week, The nicest Moth i have seen, got a great picture of it then i held out a piece if paper which it held onto do i could put it out of the window!

  • Mrs Gillian Carr

    Posted: Wednesday 16 October 2013

    I found elephant hawk moth caterpillar in garden(don't have any Fuchias )I have never seen anything like it! It was about 3ins long, big eyes with huge green face.Its body was dark in colour. It actually reared up! I almost found it scary,enough to call my neighbour to come and look at it. I only found out today what it was when describing it to a lady whom I was phoning about the Ash disease.

  • Yvonne Williams

    Posted: Sunday 29 September 2013

    Found an Elephant hawk moth in my garden on the isle of Wight
    Amazing never seen one before..

  • Sandra mccloy

    Posted: Saturday 28 September 2013

    I have lived in this village in Monmouthshire all my life 68 years. I have always been intrigued by anything living and been kind to them. Yesterday I was walking through a local lane and a giant caterpillar crossed the road. I have never seen anything like it before. Not for it to get squished I put it in the bushes at the roadside, but I now feel that I did the wrong thing - will it survive without fuscias?

  • john ray

    Posted: Friday 06 September 2013

    hartlepool found two elephant hawk moths 4sep

  • angie

    Posted: Sunday 01 September 2013

    are the elephant hawk moth catapiilers poisonous, I have 4 huge ones in my fushia

  • mandy and gerald laity

    Posted: Saturday 31 August 2013

    we were in our garden today just looking around and in our rockery garden we spotted an elephant hawkmoth caterpillar lovely looking this is the first time we have ever seen one we live in the forest of dean

  • Sue Grant

    Posted: Saturday 31 August 2013

    We found an enormous caterpillar on our path this morning,we are on The Isle of Wight.My husband moved it to our Fuscia bush so I hope it enjoys a hearty meal.

  • Mia Chatterton

    Posted: Saturday 31 August 2013

    My Springer Spaniel found an Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar on our garden path today. It's the first time I've seen one, other than in a picture. Quite a size!

  • phil

    Posted: Friday 30 August 2013

    Have just discovered what I have now found out to be an elephant hawk caterpillar on my dining room carpet. The cat was tapping it so can only assume she had brought it in from our fushias outside in our garden in Shanklin, Isle of Wight. I'd never seen anything like it, thought it was a kind of a slug but it had that snouty nose. After some research found the pics on here and that is exactly what it is. It's now back in the garden and I won't mind if I never see it again specially not indoors!

  • Mariegurr

    Posted: Monday 26 August 2013

    The dog next door was barking at a elephant Hal-moth caterpillar and the girl give it to me I have a fuchsia I put it on and took it in doors is this ok for it ? Please text me back as what to do thanks

  • paula

    Posted: Friday 23 August 2013

    I found an elephant hawk moth caterpillar last week on a fuschia plant,have plenty of fuschias so hope he calls his friends around,didn't know what he was ,have some very good pics.

  • Nod

    Posted: Friday 23 August 2013

    We have 8 elephant hawkmoth larvae munching on my fuchsias in my garden in Suffolk. Can anyone tell me how long they stay at this stage and where will they go to transform.


    Posted: Thursday 22 August 2013

    just after seeing an elephant hawk moth caterpillar for the first time among the very invasive hymalian balsam, on the shore road near Dunoon, Argyll on the west coast of Scotland

  • Lesley Hastings

    Posted: Tuesday 20 August 2013

    This evening I found an elephant hawk moth on my fuschia munching away quite happily. Didn't know what it was as I've never seen a larva as big as this before. It is very cute. I managed to take a few photos of it. Hope to see more.

  • Carole

    Posted: Monday 19 August 2013

    Can anybody let me know what plant I can transfer the 3 elephant hawk moths to that are eating my prize fuchsia please? My husband is worried about moving them in case they die as we don't know what else they eat, but I am also concerned at watching my plant disappearing before my eyes!

  • Norma Jean

    Posted: Wednesday 14 August 2013

    Just found the larva of an Elephant Hawk Moth in my back garden , very impressive little creature, moves quite quickly especially when you are trying to take a photo of it !Had never seen one before and had to google to find this page to tell me what I was looking at.Have lots of fuchsias so guess he is in heaven currently

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