Hawk Moth Caterpillar

When I was little, we lived with my grandparents and later, when my parents had a place of their own, I spent most of the summer holidays with them. If I wasn’t staying over, my nan would collect me in the morning and take me all the way back at the end of the day. Their stamp-sized front garden was bordered by a pungent, green privet hedge.

I remember one very hot, dusty summer, I must have been five or six years old. Some houses had been demolished at the end of the road a year or so previously, and the site was covered with weeds. I loved the pretty flowers, but the residents resented the intruders. We were passing the fence when I spotted it, a strange creature, much like an alien, with a plump green caterpillar body about three inches long and a strange stinger at the end. My nan picked it up and put it in a large matchbox which she’d found lying nearby, possibly thrown away by a workman on the site.

The next day, I was surprised to see the matchbox on my nan’s dining table. Granddad was getting ready for work by the time I arrived, but he wasn’t ready to leave yet. I asked him what the creature was, and he told me it was a privet hawk moth caterpillar. He put it into his pocket to show the caterpillar to his workmates. Despite searching my grandparent’s front hedge, I’ve never seen one since.

the strangest creatures
revealed in leafy sunshine
beautiful surprise

Kim M. Russell, 30th September 2019

Image result for privet hawk moth caterpillar uk Pinterest
Image found on Pinterest

This Monday I’m hosting the haibun prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub, where we are writing about an encounter with an insect: it can be a beautiful or a scary experience, an enlightening or a surprising one; it can be about an ordinary or an unusual insect.

As usual we aim to write no more than three tight paragraphs about an encounter with an insect, followed by a traditional haiku that includes reference to the season.

27 thoughts on “Hawk Moth Caterpillar

  1. Incredible tale. Unless one was an insect expert, I doubt that many of us have heard of this bug. Nice sense of time and place, rocking the prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Glenn. I remembered it as being much larger than they actually are – the eyes of a child magnify everything! They are, in fact, the UK;s largest hawk moth with a 9-12 cm wingspan, and the caterpillar grows to 8.5 cm in length. They come from the same family as the death head hawk moth.


    1. They are quite common in the south of England but it’s the only one I’ve ever seen. The privet hawk-moth is a resident species and can be seen in parks and gardens wherever the food plant occurs throughout Norfolk, the county in which I live. It overwinters as a pupa 30cm or more underground.

      Liked by 1 person

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