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Small Elephant Hawk Moth

Deilephila porcellus

Small Elephant Hawk Moth, Elephant Hawk Moth

A close up image of a small elephant hawk moth Deilephila porcellus resting on a green leaf

Deilephila porcellus-01 (xndr)

by Svdmolen. CC BY 2.5

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Deilephila porcellus is a medium-sized, bright pink moth belonging to the Hawkmoth (or Sphinx) family, Sphingidae. It's a close cousin of the Large Elephant Hawkmoth. The caterpillar demonstrates patterning which replicates the scales of a reptile. It's thought they expand when disturbed to fool predators into thinking they are dangerous. See these moths from early to mid-summer; they can be attracted to light, or sometimes you can be lucky enough to see them resting on their favourite plants during the day.
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A pretty moth that's a pollinator of garden plants.
These caterpillars have large appetites.


Adults: Mature moths possess attractive patterning and colouring, and for this reason, they're one of the easier moths to identify. The body mostly pink with some yellow-brown colouring on the sides and the thorax (below the head). The wings are mostly yellow-brown with thick pink margins towards the rear end. Wingspan is roughly 5cm. Larvae: Caterpillars are large and chunky, growing up to 5cm long. There is a green and brown morph. They possess four large eyespots on the sides of the head, which grow in size when the caterpillar is exhibiting its defence behaviour. They're covered in black-brown patterns which resemble the scales of a reptile. Pupae: The cocoons are stout, red-brown and delicate. Pupae are found beneath the food plant, in leaf litter, or sometimes they're found in the topsoil. Eggs: The eggs are glossy green; laid on the caterpillar foodplant. Tip* Tell these moths apart from their larger cousins by their yellow, bright pink colouring and smaller size. Larger hawks are more green-brown.


Chunky, brown and green caterpillars found near leaf litter or food plant. Caterpillars feed by removing irregular shaped holes from leaves. Leaves can tear and flowers may be damaged.











Widespread across Europe

Biological treatment

If there are too many caterpillars causing leaf damage, they can be picked up by hand and moved elsewhere.

Chemical treatment

These caterpillars feed on wild Bedstraw plants. It's not advised to remove these insects from the environment due to the benefits they can provide the ecosystem. Notable damage caused by this insect is unusual, so chemical control is not advised.


These moths will drink the nectar from a large selection of tubular flowers.

Lady's Bedstraw

Galium verum

Hedge bedstraw

Galium mollugo

Marsh bedstraw

Galium palustre

Viper's Bugloss

Echium vulgare

A pink flower on a plant

Red Campion

Silene dioica

A close up of some pink Centranthus ruber flowers on a plant in a garden

Red Valerian

Centranthus ruber

A close up of some pink Centranthus ruber var. coccineus flowers

Crimson Red Valerian

Centranthus ruber var. coccineus

Yellow Honeysuckle

Lonicera tragophylla

Common Honeysuckle

Lonicera periclymenum

Some pink Chamaenerion angustifolium flowers on a plant

Rosebay Willowherb

Epilobium angustifolium

Purple Loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria


These moths are predated by bats, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
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