Scientific name: Acherontia atropos
The largest moth found in the UK, with a wing-span of 8-12cms. It has a skull-like marking on its thorax and a yellow-banded abdomen and hind-wing. This immigrant from southern Europe can be seen in the UK from early May to late November, though most commonly from late August to late October.
The adults emit a squeak when alarmed, made by expelling air through its proboscis (tongue), which has a structure that vibrates like the reed of a wind instrument. The species is nocturnal, only usually seen in light traps and sometimes in bee hives in search of honey.
The caterpillars are also very large; in a good immigration year it can be seen in potato fields, pupating underground from August to October (although the moth is unable to survive winters in the UK).
Size and Family
- Family: Hawk-moths (Sphingidae)
- Large Sized
- Wingspan Range - 80-120mm
- UK BAP: Not listed
Caterpillar Food Plants
Potato (Solanum tuberosum), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and other Solanacea.
Most commonly found in allotments, gardens and (organic) potato fields.
- Countries: Southern Europe
- Immigrant. Most years in south and east England, although has been spotted as far north as the Shetlands and as far west as the east of Ireland.