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moth Privet Hawk-moths

Identify It >   Moth Section >   Privet Hawk-moths >

Scientific name:  Sphinx ligustri

Size:  Wingspan up to 120mm

Distribution:  Mostly found in the southern half of the UK.

Months seen:  June and July

Life span:  Adult moths can live for up to 5 weeks

Habitat:  Woodlands and gardens

Food:  The larvae feed on privet (hence the name), lilac and ash

Special features:  Privet hawkmoths are the largest resident moths found in the UK.  Despite their large size they are well camouflaged and can be easily missed.  The hind wings and abdomen feature attractive pink and black stripes. The forewings are pale brown with black lines running through them. The thorax is slate grey or black.

The caterpillars, which grow to 85mm, are bright green with oblique purple and white stripes down their sides.  The dorsal area frequently develops a purple blush when the caterpillar is fully grown, but not always.  The face is pale green with a black and white border, and there is a black horn on the back end.  A simple way to find the caterpillars is to look for the 6mm long hand grenade-shaped droppings which fall below the shrubs and trees they feed on.

When the caterpillars are ready to pupate they move down the foodplant and bury themselves in leaf litter.  The privet hawk-moth chrysalis is dark brown and has a sharp point at the end of the abdomen and a small loop at the head end.  They overwinter in this stage and emerge the following summer.


2015 - Bath, Somerset - Wesley Samways (photo)
2015 - Seaford, East Sussex - Ron Robinson
2015 - Harlow, Essex - Barry Lamb (photo)
2015 - Walpole St. Andrew, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire - Bridgette Stevens (photo)
2015 - Ramsgate, Kent - Andy Collins (photo)
2015 - Bath, Somerset - Taelor Newport (photo)
2015 - Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire - John Gunn (photo)
2015 - Wisbech, Cambridgeshire - Kirsty Dixon (photo)
2015 - Guildford, Surrey - Anne Whitley (photo)
2015 - Lenham, Kent - Allison Quinn (photo)

2016 - Odiham, Hampshire - Colette Harvey (photo)
2016 - Little Canfield, Dunmow, Essex - Brian Wilkins (photo mating pair)
2016 - Welton, Lincoln - Fred Sweeting (photo)
2016 - Essex - Chris Carrington (photo)
2016 - Bude Cornwall - Suzanne and Nelson Hargreaves (photo)
2016 - Cardigan, West Wales - Jasmin Thomas (photo)
2016 - Desborough, Northamptonshire - Hazel and Jon Taylor (photo)
2016 - Boston, Lincolnshire - Sam Pinner (photo)
2016 - Paignton, Devon - Sharon Nott (photo)
2016 - Falkham, Kent - Brian Riches (photo)
2016 - Bristol - Katrina Blake (photo)
2016 - Trelawn, Looe, Cornwall - David Watton (photo)

2017 - Grafton Primary School, Dagenham, Essex - Amanda Armbruster (photo)
2017 - Chilwell, Nottingham - Marion Spray (photo)
2017 - Ormiston South Parade Academy, Grimsby - found by the children (photo)
2017 - St. David's, Pembrokeshire - Pauline Shaw (photo)
2017 - Bletchley Milton Keynes - Dean Patmore (photo)

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