Elephant Hawk-moth Sphingidae

Deilephila elpenor (Linnaeus, 1758)

Description: Wingspan 62-72mm. Adults are an olive-brown colour flushed with pink at the sides of the abdomen. There is also a pink dorsal stripe and small black lateral patches on the abdomen. The forewings are olive-brown flushed with pink and there is a pink stripe running along the outer margin. The hindwings are pink with a dark basal patch.

Similar Species: Similar species, Small Elephant Hawk-moth D. porcellus.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside

Flight Period: From late May until early August, although some individuals are occasionally found a little later.

Status: Common and widespread in southern counties. Apparently scarcer further north with records mainly from mid-Antrim and Rathlin Island.

Ecology: A handsome moth that occurs in a variety of habitats especially damp woodland, clearings, and suburban areas, where the foodplant is commonly found. Adults become active around dusk and visit various flowers especially Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum. They appear frequently at light in small numbers and are occasionally found in early morning at rest on Honeysuckle. Despite the nocturnal habits of the larvae, the public frequently finds them during the day often in late summer, curious by its strange shape and size. When threatened they dilate their thoracic segments and display the pair of large eyespots as a defence response. The larvae are generally nocturnal and can be found in July and August on willowherb Epilobium spp, bedstraw Galium spp and fuchsia Fuchsia spp. Some individuals are occasionally seen during the day basking on the foodplant. It overwinters as a pupa

World Distribution: Throughout the Palaearctic region.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1991 Agassiz number: 69.016

Additional information:

UK Moths account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland