Monday, 4 August 2014

Sphinx of the Privet - a hawkmoth caterpillar

This fat green caterpillar is the larva of the privet hawkmoth.

The red and white oblique stripes along the body distinguish it from other caterpillars.  And like most hawkmoth caterpillars it has a horn on the tail end.  The horn is not a sting and the caterpillar is totally harmless although this one did wriggle very vigorously and alarmingly from side to side when I picked it up.  I suppose that is a strategy for scaring off predators like blackbirds.
 The caterpillars feed on privet and ash which we have plenty of at Filnore. They also like to eat lilac and this particular individual fell out of a lilac bush on to my lawn.  So I had to move it before mowing. 

As it was so big I should think it was ready to spin a cocoon and pupate.  They bury themselves up to 30cm down in the soil to do this and emerge in the spring.  I found this picture of the adult moth on, which has a great page about hawkmoths.
The scientific name is Sphinx ligustri, which means 'Sphinx of the Privets'.

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