It's a Privet Hawmoth, and it's the biggest moth that you're going to come across this side of the English Channel! Here it is alongside a 'normal' Buff Ermine moth:
That's one seriously large critter! They are not uncommon, and this one turned up in the moth trap this morning....I always get a frisson of excitement when I turn an egg box over to reveal one of these beauties! Admittedly, they can look a bit sinister and not to be messed with.
Thankfully, it's pretty harmless in reality. Although it 'eats for England' as a caterpillar, munching through the leaves of our Privet hedges and wild Privet bushes, it cannot feed, let alone bite, as an adult, and spends several weeks looking for a mate to make sure it passes its genes onto the next generation of
It does have a few nifty tricks up its wings, though. When threatened by a predator, it will suddenly flick its wings wide open, just like the wings of the Buzz Lightyear's toy in the loft:
a black, grey and pink evening dress of satin' as one person puts it, but any inquisitive birds are going to get a bit of a shock and head for the hills! It does have another impressive defence mechanism, too, which I witnessed a few days ago: a male like this can make a surprising hissing noise, the result of rubbing together some scales at the tip of the abdomen.
What's more, the males of another Privet Hawkmoth species have been found to go ultrasound crazy in the presence of females...so it looks like it's as much to attract mates as to repel Bats!
It's all pretty amazing stuff, and I'm sure that researchers nearer to home will discover some pretty cool things about our own Privet Hawkmoths in time!
After taking a few photos, this Hawkmoth decided that it was time to move on. Here's a bit of video of him warming up his wing muscles before taking a short flight across the garden to hole up in the shade for the day: