This is Monty the Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar. I rescued him from a hopping thrush a few weeks ago. I’ve waited until now to tell you about him because I wanted to see if he was going to make it to pupae stage before admitting that I was so worried by his close call with the thrush that, rather than leave him for nature to do it’s worse by means of a hungry bird or vole, I built him a house and dined him on willowherb.
The house I built for him was made out of a two litre lemonade bottle with the top third cut off, pierced with a hot skewer to provide air holes, and squeezed back onto the bottle so that it formed a lip. I was pretty pleased with my insect house, I hate throwing these bottles away even to be recycled and I’m working on some other interesting ways of using them including hanging tomato plant containers.
Monty seemed happy enough to live safely in his house, I cleaned him out regularly, he needed it – yet another similarity to an elephant. I fed him plenty of fresh willowherb, his favourite foodstuff and fuchsia leaves. Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars are big. Monty was a little longer than my index finger, the pupae are about half that size, and when he turns into a moth next year he’ll be about 4 centimetres long, have a 6.5 centimetre wingspan with combination olive and dusky pink markings.
This weekend he started to pupate, if you look closely at the bottom of his house you can see him pupating merrily away. We’ll have to wait until late next May or even early June to see him in all his mothy glory though and when he makes it I’ll post a picture.
Sleep tight Monty, see you in the early summer.