Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Edward elephant

This time of year is the best time to spot the wonderful caterpillars of the Elephant Hawkmoth, as they start to wander looking for somewhere to pupate. They feed on rosebay willowherb, but can also often be found on fuchsia in your back garden. When they've eaten their fill, they head off to find the perfect place to pupate and you might be lucky enough to come across one on your lawn or on a path.

My parents found this one wandering across the lawn in their back garden and scooped it up for Bug Mad Girl to take a look at. Apparently it's called Edward!

They're called Elephant Hawkmoths because the front of their body is supposed to look like an elephants trunk. When they're alarmed they inflate the first couple of segments of their body by pulling their heads in. This enlarges the eye spots on the top of their body, which is used to startle predators and hopefully protect them.

Edward spent the night in a pot with some fresh fuchsia leaves and a selection of dried leaves to pupate in. Overnight he ate a few of the leaves, wandered around the pot and eventually wrapped himself up in some dried leaves, held together with a little bit of silk, where he'll pupate.

It'll take a couple of days, but eventually he'll shed his skin and a smooth, dark brown pupae will be left in the leaves. We'll put it outside somewhere safe over the winter (it's too dry and warm indoors for them) and hopefully an Elephant Hawkmoth will emerge next spring.

The adults are one of our most colourful moths, with their olive green and pink markings and we regularly catch them in our moth trap.

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