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The Elephant Hawk-moth Facts (Deilephila elpenor)

wikimedia (public domain worldwide)

wikimedia (public domain worldwide)

The elephant hawk-moth is a highly distinguished and among one of the unique insects of the world. It's a medium sized hawk-moth and its Latin name is Deilephila elpenor. The moth is an invertebrate in the class insectica, in the order Lepidoptera and in the family Sphingidae. The elephant hawk-moth has a sight which is able to see in color, even in total darkness which a human won't be able to see at all. This insect begins to fly on its wings in the summer and also active at nightfall. In that period, it spends the evenings feeding on honeysuckle, valerian and petunias. In general, they feed mainly on nectar plants and the caterpillars feed on fuchsias and bedstraws.

The eggs of the insect are laid separately on willowherbs, a plant of the genus Epilobium. The caterpillars are either green or brown with two sets of false eye spots behind the snout. The tapered front of these caterpillars is similar to an elephant's trunk, and this is why it is called an elephant hawk-moth. When it is threatened by predators, the caterpillar retracts the so-called trunk and swells the eye spots, which makes the front of the body seem more like an elephant's head. In other words, the eyespots are huge, and they swell up to frighten the predators and repel them.

Caterpillar of Elephant Hawk-moth

Main source of the image is: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/897281

Main source of the image is: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/897281

Elephant hawk-moths are harmless and they can be seen especially in the months of July and August depending on the region. They are usually feeding at night and basking on plants in daylight. In the winter months, the insect forms a chrysalis (insect pupa) just below the surface of the soil and spends its wintertime there. The chrysalis shape appears to be brown with a couple of dark spots on them. The insect will only emerge in the spring season after the winter. In Europe, the moth can be spotted between the months of May and July and the caterpillars between July to the end of September. It really depends on the location of the region.

To describe the elephant hawk-moth in general, the forewings are deeply pink with olive-green markings on them, and the body also appears pink. The hindwings are vibrantly pink and have black undersides. The antennae and the legs are white. The female moth is a lot larger than the male. Their wingspan may measure between 6-7 centimeters in length. Their habitat is widespread particularly throughout Europe and Asia. The moths can be seen around in gardens, towns, parks, open woodlands, grasslands and farmlands. Another insect similar to the elephant hawk-moth is the 'small elephant hawk-moth' with the Latin name Deilephila porcellus. This kind of insect is a bit smaller and does not have black colorings on the hindwings. The green colors on them are more yellowish and having wings are kind of pinkish.


Dianna Mendez on January 07, 2013:

I have never seen one of these moths, but I would love to some day. They are such a unique color and so beautiful. Good to know they are harmless because many are harmful to nature and can damage trees, etc. Very well done.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on January 04, 2013:

elephant hawk-moth wow how interesting.. this is very good..

I never even knew there was such a moth..I am guess they are all the same

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