Sphingidae: Sphinginae

1973 (ABH69.005) Death's-head Hawk-moth Acherontia atropos, (Linnaeus, 1758)


 Photo © Val Perrin
Death's-head Hawk-moth
 Photo © Val Perrin

General Information

This species has an unmistakable skull-like marking on its thorax. When disturbed it can make a squeaking sound by passing air over a reed like structure in its proboscis. Larvae are occasionally found in organic potato crops.


Pupates underground.


Folklore regards this moth as an omen of death. In Greek mythology, Atropos, one of the three daughters of Necessity, cuts the thread of life.

Overwinters as Doesn't overwinter in the UK.
Both sexes come to light.

Forewing length: 52-60mm.
Foodplant(s): Potato (Solanum tuberosum), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
Flying: One generation, late August-late October (sometimes May-late November)
UK Presence: Immigrant
National status: Uncommon/Rare


Gardens and allotments amongst potato crops.

Regional Information

Recorded in 17 (6.3%) of the 270 2km squares of Huntingdonshire.

Last recorded in August 2022

Recorded date range (Adult): 18 September to 21 October

Recorded date range (Larva/Leafmine): 12 September to 24 September

Recorded date range (Pupa): 25 August to 14 November

Larva Type:
With lumps, bumps or horn(s)
Yellow, green, brown, purple, grey, white
No. of Proleg Pairs: