Western Morning News (Saturday)

ELEPHANT HAWK-MOTH CATERPILLA­R

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IN late summer and early autumn, gardeners quite often stumble across the large caterpilla­rs of this attractive moth and would be forgiven for wondering what on earth they are.

The nocturnal pink, olive and gold adult is one of our most stunning insects and is fairly widespread and common in gardens, parks and grasslands during the warmer months – being attracted to nectar-rich flowers such as honeysuckl­e and areas with willow-herbs and bed-straws, which the caterpilla­rs feed on.

It is the large caterpilla­r which gives this gaudy moth its name. The grey-brown caterpilla­r resembles an elephant’s trunk, with large ‘eye’ markings at one end and tapering at the other end to a thin tail. Its elongated appearance and eye spots are designed to deter predators, perhaps suggesting it is a small snake, and it will show off these ‘eyes’ when disturbed. Whatever is it supposed to be, it is certainly an odd looking.

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