The Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor), is this week’s species. I’ll forgive you if you first thought it was a butterfly. Hawk-moths get their name from their rapid flying ability. This hawk-moth gets its name from the larval stage, as the front end resembles an elephant's trunk. Withdrawing its ‘trunk’ into its body makes the caterpillar look like a big scary snake, scaring off any fooled predator. The caterpillar can be up to 3 inches long and weigh 7.5 grams. This baby can be found throughout the palaearctic realm, being well distributed in England, Wales and Ireland *insert amazingly shocked face here*!
Like many months, the Elephant Hawk-moth is nocturnal, feeding on nectar from flowering plants during the darkest hours of the night. However, it does have sensitive eyes which can pick up colour at night - the first species ever recorded to do so. They retain photoreceptors for ultraviolet, blue, and green light, which are also the same photoreceptors we humans lose in dim light. They are important pollinators, with a wingspan of 60 - 70 mm and a northward expanding range. Bats are a known predator of the elephant hawk-moth, which makes sense knowing they are most active during the months of June to September.
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