Photo by Melody

Death's Head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos)

Order: Lepidoptera (le-pid-OP-ter-a) (Info)
Family: Sphingidae (SFIN-gi-dee) (Info)
Genus: Acherontia
Species: atropos (AT-roh-pos) (Info)


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By veronmiller
Thumbnail #1 of Death's Head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos) by veronmiller

Member Notes:

Neutral Magpye On Oct 2, 2006, Magpye from NW Qtr, AR
(Zone 6a) wrote:

- Distribution -
Found throughout Africa, Madagascar and most of Europe. A slightly different form, regarded by some as a separate species, is found throughout Asia.

- Derivation of Name -
The Death's head hawk moth is so called because of the skull-like pattern on the thorax. As far as the latin name is concerned, according to Pinhey (1975): "Atropos, one of the Fates, was a daughter of Nox and Erebus and was illustrated... with veiled face and a pair of scissors to cut the thread of life. This is the thoracic pattern of a mask with scissors below it. A sinister but undeserved portrait."

- Life Cycle -

o Adult: When handled the moth emits a loud squeaking sound made using the curled up proboscis. The adult moth raids bee hives for honey.

o Egg: Eggs are laid singly on leaves of a wide variety of plant species but especially on those in the potato family (Solonaceae).

o There is much varying appearance between the 1st instar and 4th instar larval (caterpillar) stages.

o Final (5th) instar larva. When disturbed, the caterpillar is able to make a clicking sound by clashing its mandibles together. The sound is evidently similar to that made by clicking the finger-nail under the thumb nail or to the sound made by an electric spark.

o Pupa: The larva buries itself in soft soil about 15 cm below the soil surface and makes an earthen cell around itself by pressing back the soil with its head. Over a period of about two weeks it forms the pupal skin and pupates. The pupal stage lasts 2-3 weeks in summer, or if it is at the end of summer, it might overwinter in this state and emerge once temperatures warm up.

- Host plants in southern Africa -
Eggs are laid on, and larvae feed on, a wide variety of plants including:
o Tecoma capensis (Cape Honeysuckle)
o Spathodea campanulata
o Euonymus
o Gossypium sp. (cotton)
o Clerodendron
o Salvia
o Hoslundia opposita
o Cannabis sativa (Hemp, Dagga)
o Schrebera alata
o Jasminum spp. (Jasmine)
o Solanum (Potato and others)
o Lycopersicum esculentum (Tomato)
o Datura
o Physalis peruviana (Cape Gooseberry)
o Withania
o Lycium
o Lantana (Tick berry)
o Verbena

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