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

Conservation Status

  • UK BAP: Not listed
  • Immigrant

Caterpillar Food Plants

Potato (Solanum tuberosum), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and other Solanacea.

Habitat

Most commonly found in allotments, gardens and (organic) potato fields.

Distribution

  • 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.
Death’s-head Hawk-moth - Adam Gor

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth - Adam Gor

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth - Adam Gor

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth (caterpillar) - Sam Whitfield

Death’s-head Hawk-moth (caterpillar)

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth

Death’s-head Hawk-moth (pupa) - Peter Withers

Death’s-head Hawk-moth (pupa)