After discovering this rather large beastie on our travels in Cornwall last summer, we took to social media to try and identify it:
We saw this caterpillar on the ground in Bodmin, Cornwall in August. We've had a few people say it's a Privet Hawk Moth or a Hornworm... can anybody help? @savebutterflies @ukbutterflies #caterpillar #butterfly #cornwall #garden #gardening #kids #gardeningforkids pic.twitter.com/DB66ew19Oj — Gardening For Kids (@gardeninforkids) January 25, 2019
We had some brilliant suggestions from our followers, like privet hawk-moth and hornworm. (After some googling, we found that hornworms are native American moths, so we thought it was unlikely that this would be on its holidays from America!) But, to be sure, we asked the experts at UK Butterflies and Butterfly Conservation for their opinion:
Yes, it’s a Privet Hawk-moth, and the brownish colour indicates that it’s nearing the time to pupate (in the ground), which is why it was found where it was!— UK Butterflies (@ukbutterflies) January 26, 2019
Sure enough, this beautiful creature is soon to be a Privet Hawk-moth!
The Privet hawk-moth (Sphinx ligustri) is the biggest of our nation's resident hawk-moths. It's wingspan is between 9 and 12 cm!!
This magnificent moth can be found can be found across the mainland UK, although most commonly in southern England, Midlands and coastal parts of Wales.
This caterpillar's favourite tasty treats are Privet, Spirea, Lilac, Honeysuckle and Forsythia, and as adults, they enjoy the nectar from butterfly-attracting flowers such as those in the Butterfly Mix Seedballs.
Like most moths though, they fly at night throughout the early summer months and are attracted to light, so you can observe them here in your very own solar powered Illuminated Minibeast Centre!
Here at GFK, we are dedicated to spreading the joy of our nation's wonderful animals and plants. See our butterfly collection, which contains hand-picked products designed to provide the perfect butterfly habitat in your garden.