Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth)

Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth) Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth)
Date: 2010 July 29

I found this caterpillar on the patio one summer evening. I don't know where it came from, or what it had been feeding on (if anything in the garden). I expect it was looking for somewhere to pupate.

Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth) Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth)
Date: 2012 August 2

Two years later, I happened to have gathered a stem of Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) with the intention of rooting it to plant by my pond. A couple of days later, I spotted a caterpillar on it, which must have been there all the time. Evidently it's another Elephant Hawk-moth. I thought I might as well keep it, to watch development. I've also offered it stems of Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium) which apparently is a more common food-plant for it, but so far it has continued to ear the Purple Loosestrife. Then it didn't feed for around a day - I wondered if perhaps if was getting ready to shed its skin. See below...

Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth) Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth)
Date: 2012 August 5

Overnight, the pale-green caterpillar had shed it's skin, and emerged a dark almost-black colour. Apparently this is something they do, though it can happen at various different stages of development. As you can see, it now resembles the full-size specimen at the top of the page, except in size - it's currently about 50mm long.

Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth) Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth)
Date: 2012 August 26

There didn't appear to be any more skin-changes. It grew more, continued eating purple loosestrife. On 2012 August 19, it pupated in the leaf-litter I had supplied. It first produced some watery droppings - a contrast to the dry pellets produced before - perhaps it has to lose moisture at this stage. A week later, I took this photo. It has stuck the leaves together with silk, but they aren't attached to the pupa, which is about 50mm long. It is still capable of movement (i.e. flicking its 'tail') if disturbed. I'll keep it in a cool place until emergence in the spring.

Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth) Deilephila elpenor (Elephant Hawk-moth)
Date: 2013 July 6

This morning, I saw that the moth had emerged, presumably during the previous night. It soon became evident that it wasn't going to fly anywhere during the day (I assume they usually fly at night), so after taking the photo, I placed it in a honeysuckle plant in the garden, hopefully to fly off at night (I wasn't there to watch). So that's nearly a year (just short by 51 days) spent as a pupa.


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Author: Clarke Brunt (clarke.brunt@viridis.net)
Last modified: 21st July 2012