Acherontia atropos(Acherontia atropos)
Order — lepidoptera
Acherontia atropos is a large hawk moth with a wingspan of approximately 80–120 mm (about 3.5 to 5 inches), making it the largest moth in a number of the regions in which it resides. The upper set of wings are brown with hints of yellow, amber, charcoal and cream; the lower wings are yellow with two brown stripes fashioned in waves extending diagonally across the surface. At rest, the wings of the moth fold downwards, concealing the hindwings behind the forewings.
The abdomen is robust and is covered in brown, feathery down. Yellow striping that highly resembles the color patterns of a hornet extends part way across each abdominal segment. The intensity and distribution of color can vary widely in individual specimens, with some individuals occasionally found expressing an indistinguishable "skull-like" pattern on the thorax.
Like in most Lepidoptera, female moths of this species tend to be larger than males, appearing bulkier and sporting larger, more robust abdomens.
It is commonly found in the southern part of Europe and throughout much of Africa, from where it is considered to be a native species. Annually, Acherontia atropos migrates to parts of Britain, most numerously to the British Isles, where it is less commonly seen than in its native place of residency.
This species displays a number of behaviors not normally seen in Lepidoptera. Unlike most moths, which generate noise by rubbing external body parts together, all three species within the genus Acherontia are capable of producing a "squeak" from the pharynx, a response triggered by external agitation.
Acherontia atropos is nocturnal. It can fly at a speed up to 50 km/h.It flies in May and June.
The short and thick proboscis does not allow the butterfly to feed on flower nectar and serves to feed on the leaking tree juices, as well as the juices of damaged fruits.Acherontia atropos eats honey with pleasure, penetrating into the hives of bees and eating from 5 to 15 g of honey at a time.
The caterpillars feed on the leaves of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, tobacco and belladonna, cabbage, beetroot, lilac, beans, raspberries, hibiscus, apple, cherry, pear. It can also eat dill and carrots.
Acherontia atropos mates in the spring. The female lays green oval eggs on the underside of potato leaves. Most often there are lemon-yellow caterpillars with blue oblique stripes, but there are also yellow-blue, green and brown caterpillars.
The lifespan in the caterpillar stage is 8 weeks, in the imago stage it is 2-3 weeks.
On average, the development of Acherontia atropos at room temperature takes 30-35 days. Pupation takes place in the soil and lasts about 5 days. It is important that the soil remains moist throughout the entire period because the walls of the chamber that the caterpillar creates in the soil and in which pupation takes place should not crumble. Also, there should be no sharp stones or other objects in the ground that can damage the cuticle cover that has not yet hardened.