Species Account

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Summary Data

Season (Adult / Immature):

National Status: Migrant

Local Status: Rare migrant.

Local Record: Grade 4   See here for explanation

Flight time: Aug-Oct, (pos May-Nov).

Forewing: 52-60mm.

Foodplant: Potato, Deadly Nightshade.

IMPORTANT - Please note that the maps and accounts are provisional, subject to change and further update.  The whole dataset still needs to go through the final verification process and it is likely that a very small number of records will not satisfy the present requirements and there are other records that have not been formally submitted.  The information is for guidance only.

Record breakdown:

Year first recorded19001900
Year last recorded20112011
Number of records3060
Number of individuals3672
Unique positions2448
Unique locations2244
Adult records2142
Immature records816

For the region, we have a total of 60 records from 44 sites. Earliest record on file is in 1900.


1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth 04
© Jack Oughton
1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth 03
© Les Hill
1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth 02
© Paul Harris, 11 Nov 2011
1973 Death's-head Hawk-moth 01 larva
© Terry Box

Species Account

For further information refer UK Moths.

Davey, P., 2009: A strongly migratory species with a similar distribution to that of the Convolvulus Hawk1972 that ranges from an occasional in southern England to a relative rarity in northern Scotland, the larva feeds on the leaves of potato (Solanum tuberosum). The species does not appear to be able to survive the UK winter in any stage. In Dorset, the moth is rare, and has been recorded on twenty occasions in the past twenty years, mainly as adults. Historically, observations of larvae and pupae tended to outweigh adult records in a given year. This was probably due to the greater availability of food sources untainted by insecticides and herbicides, both within commercial and home-grown potato crops. A huge caterpillar eating a gardener's potato leaves was not something that went unnoticed, and such finds were readily communicated to the entomologists of the day. Overall, the species has probably declined, at least in Dorset, and possibly across much of Europe given the widespread changes in agricultural practice and fewer gardens supporting vegetable produce. Like the Convolvulous Hawk1972, first brood immigrant adults very occasionally make it to the UK between mid-May and early-July; however these represent roughly one in ten of all historical adult records.

An account of the larva feeding on an alternative food source in 1893 follows: "A splendid variety of a nearly full-fed larva was brought to me today which had been found feeding on Duke of Argyll's Teaplant (Lycium barbarum) growing in Corfe street. Searched the 'tea tree' in Corfe where the above was found and the one or two at the next cottages, and found two nearly full fed larvae. On showing one, found close to her door, to old Mrs Battrick she told me that last Sunday she had seen one there and feeling sure that it must be a 'locust', she put it on the ground and dropped a brick on the top of it! Poor beast!" (Reverend E Bankes).

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