Acherontia atropos L Deaths head hawk moth

This African species is a regular migrant to more northerly areas but is usually uncommon in the British Isles and other parts of northern Europe. The larvae are minor pests of potato; they feed on the leaves but damage caused is usually of little or no importance.


Adults occur from May onwards but are usually most numerous in August and September. Eggs are then laid singly on the leaves of potato and on other Solanaceae. Larvae feed voraciously and, in the British Isles are most often found in September and October. Pupation takes place in the soil in fragile silken cocoons formed a few centimetres below the surface. This species is usually unable to survive the winter in northern Europe.


Adult 100-130 mm wingspan, with an ochreous-yellow skull-like mark on the thorax; forewings blackish-brown, variably marked with whitish and blackish; hindwings yellow with blackish-brown veins and cross-bands. Larva up to 130 mm long; body usually yellowish-green, marked with purplish-black and with seven oblique, purple to purplish-brown stripes along each side; posterior horn yellow and S-shaped; head yellow with two broad black stripes.

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