Elephant hawk moth and caterpillar

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

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During August 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.

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.

Find out more about fascinating British moths.

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