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.

Related

  • Five-spot Burnet

    British moths - on a wing and a prayer

    British moths are unfairly billed as nature’s Cinderellas, overshadowed by their flamboyant butterfly cousins

    Read on

  • Buff tip moth

    The buff-tip moth

    David Chapman introduces a master of disguise

    Read on

  • Broad bodied chaser larva

    Dragonfly: the broad-bodied chaser

    Writer and photographer, David Chapman, introduces us to a species of dragonfly often found near garden ponds

    Read on

  • Ladybird

    The ladybird

    No healthy and vibrant garden should be without a ladybird; preferably lots of them, advises writer and photographer, David Chapman

    Read on

  • Glow worm

    The glow worm

    Glow worms really are intriguing creatures and it is well worth having a look in your garden at night to see if you have any as garden guests.

    Read on

  • Ladybird

    Creature comforts - encouraging biodiversity in your garden

    Fed up with aphids clobbering your roses, caterpillars munching your cabbages and slugs turning your hostas into lace doilies? If the answer is yes, yes and yes, don't despair - all you need to do is ensure your garden supports a thriving community of wildlife.

    Read on

  • Fuchsia

    Are fuchsias difficult to grow?

    Are fuchsias difficult to grow, and which ones do you recommend, asks a reader. Val Bourne has this expert advice

    Read on

  • Home thumbnail

    Home insurance

    Cover of up to £50,000 for contents and up to £500,000 for buildings as standard.

    MORE DETAILS

  • Motor thumbnail

    Car insurance

    Superb cover and excellent customer service, that's why over one million drivers insure with us.

    MORE DETAILS

  • Saga Health Insurance

    Health insurance

    A comprehensive range of competitively priced HealthPlans. 3 months free when you pay by monthly Direct Debit.

    MORE DETAILS


  • 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.

  • LILLIAN lLYNN

    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

  • 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

  • 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 !

  • stephanie

    Posted: Tuesday 13 August 2013

    the last couple of evenings we have watched a elephant hawkmoth caterpillar strolling across our patio looking for food.

  • Alan

    Posted: Sunday 11 August 2013

    Just found an elephant hawk moth caterpillar wandering around our garden this afternoon. Never seen one before so checked on Internet to find out what it was. We have had fuchsias for years but this is the firs t time of seeing this caterpillar. Will keep an eye out for more in future.

  • < 1 2  >

COMMENTS

Thank you for your comment. It has been sent to our editors who will post it as soon as possible.

Type your comment here


 characters remaining.

Saga Magazine

For more fascinating stories and insightful articles, why not try Saga Magazine for just £1 for 3 issues.

Saga Magazine e-newsletter

Sign up to our free newsletter today

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for all the latest recipes, gardening tips, prize draws, interviews and more delivered to your inbox every Friday.

GARDENS HOLIDAYS

Discover the natural world

Experience some of the world’s most magnificent horticultural locations, including South Africa, Madeira, Canary Islands, Greece and the UK.

Saga Dating

Join Saga Dating today and create a FREE profile

  • Set up a free profile
  • Search for people by age and area
  • Browse other member’s profiles and photos

Use it or lose it

Subscribe to Saga Magazine now

Exercise your brain cells with Saga Magazine's challenging crossword, sudoku, word wheel and more every month.

WILDLIFE HOLIDAYS

Getting you closer

Designed to appeal to the more adventurous traveller, our wildlife holidays allow you to observe the natural world in its purest form.

Saga Platinum credit card

The ideal travel companion for the over 50s, offering great benefits whether you spend at home or abroad

Representative 11.9% APR (Variable)