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Privet Hawk Moth (Sphinx ligustri)

Privet Hawk Moth
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Privet hawk moth of the hawk moth family has an extensive range, spreading across the Palearctic realm, covering Eurasia and North Africa. It is majorly found in Scotland, England, and Wales. The caterpillar of this moth species primarily feeds on privets alongside other plants, hence the name.

Scientific Classification


  • Family: Sphingidae
  • Genus: Sphinx
  • Scientific Name: Sphinx ligustri

Description and Identification

Caterpillar

Privet Hawk Moth Caterpillar
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Privet Hawk Moth Larvae
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They are large, having a vibrant green body, with purple and white stripes running diagonally to their sides. They have a yellowish-black slightly curved horn on their tail end. They mainly occur from July to August, turning pinkish when ready to pupate and bury underground. 

Pupa

Privet Hawk Moth Pupae
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The pupa has a reddish-brown coloration closely similar to an adult moth.

Adult Moth

Sexual Dimorphism: Present but not prominent

The males produce a hissing sound when disturbed by rubbing together their spines and scales present near the end of their abdomen.

Color and Appearance

They have an elongated, torpedo-like body with pink and black stripes on their abdomen.

Sphinx ligustri
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Forewings

When opened, they appear brownish with patches of the same color all over. When closed, the color remains the same, with the brownish patches partially visible.

Hindwings

When opened, the hindwings have a pinkish coloration. When closed, the pinkish color of the hindwings and the pattern on the abdomen become vague.

Average Wingspan: 9 – 12 cm

Flight Pattern: Consistent

Season: June – July

Egg

Privet Hawk Moth Eggs
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The eggs are laid in privet plants and hatch from June to July.

Quick Facts

DistributionEngland, Wales, Scotland
HabitatWoodland, garden, fen, downland, hedgerow
PredatorsBirds, bats
Lifespan of Adults10 – 30 days
Host PlantsPrivet, poplar, honeysuckle, lilac, jasmine, ash tree, snowberry  
Adult DietNectar of highly scented flowers

Did You Know

  • Carl Linnaeus described this species in his 10th edition of┬áSystema Naturae in 1758.
  • Though the caterpillars have spines, they are not poisonous when touched.
Privet Hawk Moth Image
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Privet Hawk Moth Picture
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Privet Hawk Moth Photo
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