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Caterpillar ID

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: General
Forum Name: Off-Topic Forum
Forum Description: A Forum for off-topic discussions
Printed Date: 28 May 2020 at 2:17am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 -

Topic: Caterpillar ID
Posted By: administrator
Subject: Caterpillar ID
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2005 at 11:23am

Anyone know what this is? It has to be a hawk moth from the size, my guess is an elephant hawk moth, but I would like to know for sure. Ta.

Posted By: Danial
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2005 at 11:37am
Yes Gemma that is definately an Elephant hawk moth caterpillar. And what a great markings it has too. Do you have Willowherb in your garden for it to feed on?

Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2005 at 12:01pm
Hi Danial, you answered my next question, because I wasn't sure where it had come from. I found it on the ground crossing our garden path, I guess it was on its way to pupate. (I just popped in on a potato plant for the piccy before putting it back were I found it). I'll have to try and find out where the Willowherb is and see if there are more. Thanks for confirming the ID

Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2005 at 12:12pm
Well I've just been out for a look, we have three Willowherbs in our flower border, but no sign of any more caterpillars, is it usual for them to be in low numbers?

Posted By: Alan Hyde
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2005 at 12:58pm
Hi Gemma,
They also like fuschia if you have any

O-> O+>

Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2005 at 3:18pm


With regards to numbers of these Hawk Moths, in my garden seeing one a year is about the norm and I haven't seen one for a few years. For a creature so big it's amazing how hard they are to see. I did notice a completely stripped willow herb in the garden just the other day so I am keeping my eyes open for the culprit!


Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 15 Aug 2005 at 5:51pm

Hi Gemma

Funnily enough I always do an Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar survey in my garden at this time of year. The "wilderness area" has 30 or 40 Willowherb on which I found five caterpillars - usually I only find two or three. Funnily enough I found another one on a secret Willowherb that had snuck into the (allegedly) domesticated part of the garden!

Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)

Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2005 at 5:56am
Thanks guys, I'll ensure we have a good crop of Willowherb for next  year. It might be nice to make some suggestions for 'alternative' flower borders, our main stay has been mallow, corn flowers and poppies for the bees, I'll now ensure we have Willowherb too (does anyone know if it is an annual or perennial by the way). We have a third of the garden as undisturbed grassland, but I always try to ensure the flowers I put into the more managed areas of the garden have some value to wildlife and keep the fushias etc in planters.

Posted By: Danial
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2005 at 7:38am
Glad I could be of help with id and food plants. According to Francis Rose's Wild Flower Key, Willowherb sp are perennials.
I also had no idea that the caterpillars fed on Fuschia. Your garden sounds wonderful. Any chance of some pics?


Posted By: Mike
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2005 at 12:25pm

Perennials, but I'm presuming you mean the Rosebay or Great Willowherb. See - -


Britains smallest Country Park ? -" rel="nofollow - Brickfields Country Park" rel="nofollow - Soemtron

Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2005 at 12:47pm

Hi Mike, certainly is Epilobium angustifolium, I can say this now with great confidence having checked the link to Brickfields and compared to the piccy of the flower to the ones in the garden. Should be easy to nurture for the future. 

Danial, I'll have to sort out some piccies of our garden, though it is not now at its best as most of the poppies and corn flowers are finished. They were self set from last year so though we had early flowering the garden now looks rather bare. Have to work on this for next year.

Posted By: Suzi
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2005 at 3:44pm
 I had presumed it was the willow herb that I have that you were all talking about but now realise it wasn't. Here I have the Broad-leaved Willow Herb - Epilobium Montanum as a weed and it is that which these caterpillars always feed on.


Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 16 Aug 2005 at 4:09pm
Hi Suzi, I wouldn't rely on my identification of a plant, I'm terrible, though it did look like E.angustifolium from the piccies on Brickfields it could well be Epilobium Montanum, if I post up a piccy would anyone be able to confirm the ID?

Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2005 at 9:58am

We found 3 more today,

They were feeding on a yellow flower next to the Willow Herb (yellow flowers without the red centres in piccy below)

Posted By: Iowarth
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2005 at 12:55pm

I would agree with that, David - which just led to a fruitless search of my Evening Primrose! Mind you, this grows only in my reptiliaries so the caterpillars may well get eaten when young.

I note Collins Field Guide to caterpillars lists both Willowherbs and Evening Primrose as foodplants together with Bedstraw, Bogbean and Fuschia in gardens (can't find any on that either!)

Haven't found any this year but I do think the green caterpillars of this sepcies are exceptionally gorgeous.

Chris Davis, Site Administrator

Co-ordinator, Sand Lizard Captive Breeding Programme (RETIRED)

Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2005 at 2:50pm

Well I'll make sure we have both Evening Primrose and Willowherb growing together again for next year, a fortunate if accidental combination. They can keep off me Fushias though  (only kidding )

I was amazed at the rate the one pictured above was grazing, the leaf he was pictured on is no more, and he is now half way through another.

Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 17 Aug 2005 at 2:59pm

Quick piccy for Danial, you can see my idea of a flower border above, now our wildlife pond, 

Posted By: Hobbesgang
Date Posted: 19 Sep 2019 at 3:27pm
Are the elephant hawk moth poision’s to cats please ?
Both my cats have brought two in thanks

Posted By: GemmaJF
Date Posted: 20 Sep 2019 at 7:32pm
No, despite their fearsome appearance, neither the moths or caterpillars are poisonous to people or pets.

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