Elephant Hawk Moth

26th May 2010 11 Comments 3 Photos

I was looking through my photos the other night and rediscovered this picture I took three years ago in my garden, around this time of year.


elephant hawk moth taken by Rachel Lucie Johns

Just look at this beauty! It’s an elephant hawk moth Deilephila elpenor and was approx 45mm or 1 3/4in long. I believe it is a female, because the antenna are smooth and without comb/feather structures.

I was really startled when I saw it on the grass. It’s vivid pink and grassy green looked like some kind of lost child’s toy, and when I realised it was moving, and that is was in fact a moth, I couldn’t believe it.


elephant hawk moth taken by Rachel Lucie Johns

Such a fantastic find, I think it had only recently pupated as it’s wings seemed small to start with. It did a lot of wing-beating, which was a loud low humming noise. It stayed with me for a good few minutes, enough for me to get the camera and take some good shots of it.

Behind our house is a fallow field with a big colony of rosebay willowherb, which is it’s caterpillar’s food source. I am hoping I bump into another one day.


elephant hawk moth taken by Rachel Lucie Johns

I love wildlife, and spent many hours as a kid in my garden at home, finding mini-beasts and amphibians. I hope to keep my garden a suitable place for wildlife so that my kids can enjoy the same experience.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve found an unexpected and incredible creature.

UPDATE: I have since taken photos of the elephant hawk moth caterpillar here which I found in summer 2010
UPDATE: Some of these photos were used, with permission, in the Mongomeryshire Field Society report 2010

Rachel x

Rachel Lucie Johns

Hi! I'm Rachel, a jewellery designer-maker & nature photographer. My work is inspired by the gorgeous countryside around West Yorkshire & Art Deco design. This blog is where I share my creative life and inspiration. find out more ...


  1. Reply

    Anita Callahan

    2nd September 2015

    Hi Rachel

    We just found a elephant hawk moth eating fushias in our garden, thanks to you we were able to identify it. It’s amazing and we are very excited to find such a large beautiful caterpillar in our garden.

    The Callahan Family

    • Reply

      Rachel Lucie Johns

      3rd September 2015

      hi Anita,
      I’m very pleased to have helped! I am getting loads of hits on the elephant hawk moth pages at the moment, I think this must be the time that the caterpillars are on the move (and very very large), looking for somewhere to pupate.
      Thanks for letting me know :)

  2. Reply

    Rachel Lucie Johns

    20th March 2011

    thanks for popping over from Pinterest to leave a comment. I am very proud of this wildlife encounter, I immodestly admit! I couldn't believe my luck that such an amazing creature was not only in my garden, but stuck around long enough for me to take some decent pictures, too!

  3. Reply

    tea and chickadees

    20th March 2011

    Wow! There's hardly any words that can relay what an amazing sight that must have been! And to have captured it with a camera! What a blessing :)
    I saw the Pinterest pin of this & was blown away.

  4. Reply

    Rachel Lucie Johns

    25th June 2010

    Hi Pepita, thanks.

    Sounds amazing, hope there will be pics on your blog!

  5. Reply


    25th June 2010

    What an incredible insect! I just returned from walking the Camino the Santiago and thoroughly enjoyed nature. We especially liked butterflies, storks, frogs and eucalyptus trees. Quite different from city (Amsterdam) nature!

  6. Reply

    Rachel Lucie Johns

    31st May 2010

    thank you! :)

  7. Reply

    Teri and Amber

    30th May 2010

    What a stunning creature and great photography.

  8. Reply

    Rachel Lucie Johns

    27th May 2010

    yes, I think so. There's a sea of pink and green in the field behind our house later in the summer. A gorgeous sight. Might go caterpillar hunting with the kids.

  9. Reply

    sally boyle

    27th May 2010

    rosebay willowherb: may be that explains the pink camoflage… :)