Elephant hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor

Found throughout the UK in urban gardens, woodlands, sand dunes and countryside, the elephant hawk-moth is easily recognised by its large size and unusual colouring. The adult moth’s body and wings are mostly olive green and decorated by deep pink stripes. This species has some of the most easily identifiable caterpillars due to their similarity to elephant’s trunk. These caterpillars are usually green-grey or brown and have large eye-like markings on the back of the head. When threatened, caterpillars use these markings as a defence mechanism by swelling and recoiling to give the impression of a larger animal.


Elephant hawk-moths are nocturnal and fly from dusk to dawn. They are commonly found feeding on night scented tubular flowers such as honeysuckle. During winter, the caterpillars pupate either underground or at the base of vegetation.


Wingspan: 45 – 60mm




Throughout the UK in urban gardens, woodlands, sand dunes and countryside.

When to see

June – September


  • The elephant hawk-moth looks very similar to the small elephant hawk-moth, but the smaller species can be distinguished by their obvious size difference and the more yellow-green colouration.
  • Only one generation of moths is pupated in a year, usually from June – September.

Common name

Elephant hawk-moth

Species name

Deilephila elpenor

IUCN Red List status


When to see in Scotland

June – September

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as the Isle of Eigg or Hadfast Valley.

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