Elephant hawk-moth caterpillar by Dick Wingate 1/2
Elephant hawk-moth, by Alan Prior 2/2

Elephant hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor

One of 9 hawk-moth species resident in the UK, it is an unmistakeable moth because of its pink and olive green colouring. It is found in a range of habitats including rough grassland, hedgerows, heathland, gardens and rides and clearings in woodland. It will often be found in recently burnt areas which have been colonised by rosebay willowherb. Its common name is derived from the supposed likeness of the caterpillar to an elephant’s trunk.  A similar species, the small elephant hawk-moth, is smaller and has yellow rather than green markings.

Conservation status

A resident hawk-moth species that is common and widely distributed in England and Wales but less so in Scotland although it is now increasing in range there.

Related questions & advice

What is the difference between moths and butterflies?


Did you know? The eggs are laid on the larval foodplant which is rosebay and other willowherbs, Lady’s bedstraw and other bedstraws and garden fuchsias. The larva feed at night but on fine days can be seen at rest in the open on a plant stem. In the final larval stages the caterpillar can be mistaken for a young snake because of its size and weird appearance as it can dilate its tail and display large ‘eyes’ if disturbed. Larvae wander away from the foodplant and spin a frail cocoon of silk in the leaf litter where they will overwinter as pupae.
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