Belongs to: day-flying moths

Elephant hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor

Best time to see: May to mid Jul

Key facts

A beautiful pink hawkmoth, whose caterpillars are more often seen than the adults

Habitat: anywhere that plenty of its foodplant, willowherb, grows – woodland clearings, banks of streams or rivers

Common throughout south and central England; scattered elsewhere


Delicate pink wings, body and antennae, contrasting with white legs; wingspan 54 mm

On the wing in June, may be seen hovering to feed from flowers such as honeysuckle, bramble or valerian

The caterpillar retracts its head into its body when threatened, causing it to swell up like an elephant's head


Pale green eggs are laid singly on the leaves of willowherbs

Caterpillars are browny-grey or bright green, feeding at night but often basking during the day

The chrysalis spends the winter in a loose cocoon just below the soil surface

© Geoff Pyman

© Pat Allen