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Elephant hawk moth

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The large, beautiful caterpillar larvae of the elephant hawk moth has two pairs of eye markings, which are made even more prominent when it withdraws its head into its body. They are, typically, a blackish-brown colour but are sometimes green, and though their ‘eyes’ make them look quite dramatic, they are completely harmless. However, they can strip a fuchsia of its leaves at night. Active from mid- to late-summer, they can be found hiding during the day on the undersides of leaves.

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Symptoms

Thick, 8cm-long, nocturnal caterpillars strip the leaves off fuchsias during the second half of summer. They hide under the leaves during the day.

Find it on

fuchsias, wildflowers including rosebay willowherb

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Organic

Keep a constant lookout, particularly at dusk, for the caterpillars and pick them off, moving them to a clump of wildflowers such as rosebay willowherb or marsh bedstraw. Do not kill them because they go on to form one of the UK’s most beautiful moth residents. If leaf damage is minimal, action isn’t necessary.