The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth is very large with markings resembling a skull, hence the name, and has long been associated throughout Europe with all manner of superstitions. It squeaks, which I find fascinating, but this unique ability has doubtless contributed to its ill-deserved reputation as an announcer of death, predicting everything from plague to war.
The genus name is Acherontia, a reference to the river Acheron in the Epirus area of Greece. The Acheron flows from the mountains down into the Ionian Sea, and was prominent in Greek mythology as one of the five rivers of death in the Underworld.
Perhaps Persephone wandered its banks, weeping into the dark waters?
I’ve seen the Hawkmoth caterpillars on the property fairly frequently, feeding their way voraciously along, but have never been able to capture a good picture of the moth. Unless one happens to fly into the light, they’re not easy to spot at night but I’ve heard the strange squeak they make; one can understand why primitive peoples were so preoccupied with them.
No pesticides or poisons of any sort have ever been used on this land so we are fortunate to have quite a variety of insects which creep and crawl, flutter and fly about on their foraging missions, ducking and diving from their natural predators. Yes, of course the garden suffers to some extent, but it’s amazing how the birds by day and the bats by night sort things out somewhat.
The colourful Death’s-Head Hawkmoth caterpillars are so striking that the lowly worms inching and squinching their munching way along seem insignificant by comparison.
Whether they creep or crawl, are large or small, worms and caterpillars are highly regarded by birds, so their lives are constantly under threat whatever their colouring.
Knitting needles, a few yards of yarn and a button or two – I give you GoogliBugs.
With a lot of luck, these may become moths and butterflies!