Mystery Picture Answers

No. 8

   Elephant Hawk Moth caterpiller  Elephant Hawk Moth caterpiller

The head of the caterpillar of an Elephant Hawk moth Deilephila elpenor.  At around 8cm in length, this caterpillar is often found during the late summer throughout much of Britain and more locally in Scotland.  Although mostly   nocturnal, the caterpillar is so large and striking that many people find them during the day and are curious to know what they have found.  When disturbed by predators such as birds, the caterpillar defends itself by swaying from side to side, retracting its head and expanding the section immediately behind it, thus enlarging two striking "false eyes".  It gets its english name from the resemblance it has to an elephant's trunk.  There are two forms of this caterpillar, grey (picture above) and green.  They feed on plants such as Rose Bay Willow Herb Epilobium angustifolium, bedstraw (Galium) and fuchsia.

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