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Death's-head Hawk-moth
Acherontia atropos (Linnaeus, 1758)
Sphingidae: Sphinginae
1973 / 69.005
Photo © Mike Crewe,  Weybourne, October 13th 2005

Similar Norfolk Species: None
Forewing: 52-60mm.
Flight: Aug-Oct. (pos May-Nov)
Foodplant:   Potato, Deadly Nightshade.
Nat Status: Immigrant
Verification Grade:  Adult: 3
Norfolk Status
Rare immigrant.
Adult moths have an unmistakable skull-like marking on thorax. Unable to overwinter, seldom seen except in light traps or in beehives feeding on honey.

When disturbed, the adult makes a unique squeeking sound by passing air over a reed like structure in its proboscis.

Adults arriving in the summer can sometimes produce larvae that pupates. Larvae still occasionally found in Norfolk.

Larvae and pupae were once commonly found in potato fields throughout Norfolk, especially in the year 1950, when 326 were recorded from 64 different locations (see map). Sadly, the use of pesticides on commercial crops has resulted in a major decline.

Folklore regards this moth as an omen of death. In Greek mythology one of the three daughters of Necessity, known as the Moirai (Fates), named Atropos cuts the thread of life!

Retained Specimen / Photograph will be Required.

Recorded in 41 (59%) of 69 10k Squares.
First Recorded in 1834.
Last Recorded in 2020.

Latest 5 Records
Date#VC10k Area
08/11/2020127TG14 - Sheringham
26/10/2020128TF74 - Holme/Titchwell
07/10/2015127TG42 - Hickling/Horsey
29/09/2015127TG32 - Stalham/Catfield
12/09/2015128TF74 - Holme/Titchwell
Further info: Acherontia atropos
 
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