More Hawk-Moths!

At dusk a stormy sky drew me out onto our patio… and there was something hovering. I dashed for my camera and managed to capture two more hawk-moths that I’ve never seen before:

Small Elephant Hawk-moth

(Deilephila porcellus)

The name comes from the caterpillar, which has a “trunk”-like nose… otherwise no resemblance! The German name is “Kleiner Weinschwärmer”, small vine moth, although there seems to be no connection to vines. It is only about 4cm long.

The golden-olive colours on the upper body and wings and the pink belly shimmer and glow in the evening light – it feeds on nectar-rich plants from dusk onwards.

The small elephant hawk-moth likes a chalky and dry habitat – which describes our locality very well. As is the case with many butterflies and moths, the larvae feed on Galium (bedstraw) – Labkräuter in German – which is a huge group of grass-like flowering plants. One of these is the sticky leafed plant that we used to call goose-grass. I am beginning to realise that the weeds in parts of my garden are an invaluable food source!

Bedstraw Hawk-Moth

(Hyles gallii)

This hawk-moth is the largest I’ve seen so far – about 6cm long, with a wingspan of about 8cm. It has beautiful markings on its almost transparent wings.

Unlike the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, which I see during the daytime quite frequently, this one only turns up to feed in the evenings. It loves the Red Valerian – I am so glad this plant has spread itself around my garden!

It is not common to see them in the south of Germany, or anywhere in Europe actually – they are widespread, but few and far between.

Aren’t they fascinating creatures!

42 thoughts on “More Hawk-Moths!

  1. I remember having a huge moth buzz me in the evenings in Utah (high desert country). Sadly I never managed a picture of one, much less a really good look at it in the dark. At first I thought it was a hummingbird. It sounded very much like one. Great, wonderful shots of these moths you’re managing.

  2. You lucky one! Recently I found a caterpillar of the first one. Two years ago I met the bedstraw hawk moth – adult and caterpillars.
    They always remind me on humming birds, which we don´t have in Northern Europe. Are there some in the south?

    • The nearest we get to a hummingbird is the hummingbird hawk-moth. I’ve never seen a hummingbird. I don’t think they are found on our continent at all… 😦

  3. These are so fascinating Cathy and such wonderful photographs. A few days ago I saw what I think was a Hummingbird Moth but it was so fast I couldn’t get a picture.
    The Red Valerian is so pretty.

    • Thanks pbmgarden! The hummingbird and the small elephant hawk-moths are the faster ones I’ve seen. They zig-zag from flower to flower like mad! 😀

  4. Both are really pretty. I see they are like the same flower as the other one. We seem to have only one variety, here.

    • Thanks Tj! According to German Wikipedia they only live until the end of July, but there are sometimes two generations in one year if conditions are good. Sad that something so lovely only lives a couple of months. 😦

      • it is sad, the more I learn about these beautiful insects, they all seem to have short lives, just long enough to reproduce, the master plan I suppose 🙂

  5. OMG I love New England but there seems to be a whole world of new things for me to discover. They are beautiful! I hope as I start my seeds this winter for my new English Garden type plants that I will get lots of new visitors. What kind of camera do you usually use?

  6. Well done, Cathy!!! They’re so rare. I’ve seen privet hawkmoths too and broad-boardered bee hawkmoths which you know too I’m sure. Friends of ours used to come when we lived in Ireland to set up a moth trap and before breakfast we used to identify them – quite spectactular what we found, as most of them remain unseen.

  7. Pingback: A Butterfly Diary (August) | Words and Herbs

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