Death Head's Moth
Found throughout tropical Africa and Europe this large hawkmoth ( ranging from 85-125mm ) Acherontia atropos has a fearsome reputation as it was traditionally seen an an omen of death.It is identified by its yellow striped abdomen and skull like marking on it’s thorax. ( Skull like markings vary from moth to moth )
Known as the prophecy of doom in Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native and tormentor of the unstable King George lll this moth developed a sinister reputation.
More recently this moth was made famous by the chilling psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs in which the serial killer leaves a pupae of this moth as a “ calling card “ in the throats of his victims.
This moth is a robber. Unlike most moths this large species is able to trick bee colonies into allowing it to enter hives in order to take honey directly from them without being stung. It has a hard outer cuticle and is said to mimic the queen bee in size and appearance and odour thus allowing it to move about inside the honeycombs. It is able to emit a loud shreik when disturbed but is generally harmless.