Deilephila elpenor (Linnaeus, 1758)
Elephant Hawk Moth
Austria : Vienna
June 10, 1932, Emil Werner.
Specimen courtesy of WSU
Photograph copyright: Merrill A. Peterson
Deilephila elpenor is an attractive olive green, pink, and black large (FW length 26 mm (n=1)) Eurasian sphinx moth that has recently become established in lowlands near Vancouver, British Columbia. The forewing is typical in shape for the family. It is greenish, with pale to bright pink costa, terminal area and fringe, and oblique straight post medial and subterminal lines. The hindwing is bright pink with a black basal area and white fringe. The head, thorax, and abdomen are olive variably tinted with pink, with white lines on the lateral tegulae. The pale antenna is clublike.
This moth is easily identified by its green and pink color and large size. Since its original detection it has spread throughout the Lower Fraser Valley of British Columbia and NW Washington. It could conceivably continue to expand its range to other parts of British Columbia and Washington since its food plants are widespread and common.
Larvae can be bright green, olive brown, or brownish-black with a pair of large eyespots on each side, toward the front of the body. The eyespots may be shown more prominently in response to a threat.
This exotic Eurasian species prefers open sunny wetland habitats near creeks and marshes.
The first Pacific Northwest observation of this species was at Pitt Meadows east of Vancouver in southwestern British Columbia. It is unclear how the species was introduced, but it is now established and has started to spread. It now occurs at low elevations throughout the Fraser Valley, British Columbia and adjacent Whatcom County, Washington. It has been suggested that this moth was released deliberately by an amateur entomologist, but this has not been substantiated.
This is an introduced Palaearctic species.
Larvae feed on plants of Onagraceae, with fireweed (Chamerion spp.) and willow herb (Epilobium spp.) being the most likely candidate in our region. Feeding occurs either diurnally or nocturnally with the larvae retreating to the middle of the plant when not feeding. Pupation occurs in a cocoon of loose silk and debris at the surface of the ground.
It appears that is a single generation per year in North America with a flight period that extends from early June through September. Adults are active well after dark when they feed on nectar at flowers and copulate. Females begin oviposition as soon as copulation is finished.
This species is of no economic importance.