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Death Head Hawk Moth

acherontia Atropos


Physical characteristics: These moths have a skull-like pattern on the thorax. They are large and heavily built insects, with a wingspan of 4.4 to 4.8 inches (110 to 120 millimeters). Their long forewings are dark, while the hind wings are yellow with black lines near the edges. The hairy proboscis is short and thick. The abdomen has yellow and black bands. Mature larvae measure 4.8 to 5.2 inches (120 to 130 millimeters) long. Their bodies are yellow, green, or brown with a large horn toward the rear. The pupa is shiny, reddish brown, and measures 3.0 to 3.2 inches (75.7 to 80.0 millimeters). Geographic range: They are found throughout Africa south of the Sahara Desert but occasionally migrate north to the Mediterranean Sea as well as central and northern Europe. Behavior and reproduction: The caterpillars are sluggish and usually move only when looking for a fresh leaf to eat. When threatened they click their jaws together and will sometimes bite. Adults are active just after sundown to midnight. Their days are spent resting on tree trunks, walls, or leaves on the ground. They are attracted to lights and sometimes to flowers. These moths often invade beehives to steal honey and defend themselves by smelling like a bee, raising their wings, and running and hopping about. When attacked, they force air out of their proboscis, making a squeaking noise. They also release a moldy smell from special hairs associated with glands on their abdomen. Females lay eggs singly underneath old leaves of the caterpillar's food plant. They pupate inside a flimsy cocoon in a cavity dug deep in the soil.


Habitat: The death's head hawk moth lives in dry and sunny locations, especially open shrubby habitats with plenty of plants in the nightshade family. This includes agricultural areas where potatoes are grown.


This is a Brown Morph. Larva may adopt one of three color morphs: green, brown, or yellow.

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Mogale City Local Municipality, Gauteng, South Africa

Spotted on Jan 2, 2013
Submitted on Jun 26, 2013

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