(African) Death’s-Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar

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A great find this morning in the garden, although, it was the dogs that found it, not me!

This is a Death’s-Head Hawkmoth Caterpillar, the name comes from the pattern of a skull on the back of the moth. I have never seen the actual moth, but have put a library photo at the end. There are 3 species of this moth, this one is the African Death’s-Head Hawkmoth with the scientific name of Acherontia atropos, the other 2 species (Acherontia lachesisare and Acherontia styx) are found in Asia.

This Caterpillar is one of the largest I’ve seen, even bigger than the Elephant Hawkmoth. It was around 12-14cm in length and over 2cm wide. In fact it was so long that I struggled to get it all in focus, even with a small aperture.

When approached they click their mandibles as a defense tactic, although it’s not very loud. I relocated it away from the dogs to go about its business.


📷 Nikon D850, AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 1/640sec, f/14, ISO200


📷 Nikon D850, AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 1/4000sec, f/5.6, ISO200


📷 Nikon D850, AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 1/1250sec, f/10, ISO200

Acherontia atropos bl
Public Domain image courtesy of Wikipedia

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