Lepidoptera The Privet Hawk Moth – Sphinx Ligustri

This is another fine moth, measuring nearly four and a half inches from tip to tip. It is represented in the centre of Moth PhotoPlate IX in its natural colours, so that it need not be described.

The perfect insect flies in June and July, and, although common, is not frequently seen at large. The larva, however, are to be met with in abundance in privet hedges. Even in the centres of large towns we may see them resting on the topmost twigs of a privet hedge, their beautiful green tint closely resembling that of the surrounding leaves. After a little experience they may be readily discerned by a careful observer, but there are certain signs by which their presence may be proved before they have been actually seen. Sometimes a number of the twigs are completely stripped of their leaves, even the midribs and the leaf stalks being almost or entirely devoured; and beneath the bushes are the large black masses of excrement that tell of the marauders above. When found, these larva should always be removed on a piece of the twig to which they are attached, for they hold on so firmly by their claspers that it is sometimes almost impossible to remove them from their hold without injury.

These caterpillars may easily be distinguished from those of the other ‘hawks’ by the seven oblique stripes which adorn the sides. These are each composed of two colours, white and lilac, and form a pretty contrast with the bright green of the rest of the body. The horn is smooth and curved, and is black with the exception of part of the under side, which is yellow.

They are fully grown in August, and from the end of this month till the following June the chrysalides may be dug out from under privet and lilac bushes, both of which are attacked by the larva.